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The Early Word on East 7th Newcomer The Hightower

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Photo: Meghan McCarron/EATX

The Hightower unleashed their 'affordable New American cuisine' on East 7th a month ago, and they've been generating a quiet but consistent buzz since. Partners Chad Dolezal and Victor Farnsworth are the former executive chef and GM of El Arbol respectively, and their menu of entrees from $10-$18 features unique options like a roast pork jowl and smoked tofu. Early worders are generally excited about the food, though some argue the atmosphere in the former Karibu space is lacking. Read on for more early thoughts.

The Critic's News: Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam is optimistic. He tweets: "Rarely comment on place early, but Hightower is very promising: bold flavors, excellent service, great prices. Bet they smooth the wrinkles." [Twitter]

The Acid News: Yelper Clay says "sadly everything was so acidic it felt like I had sworn like a sailor to my mom and she forced me to take spoonfuls of vinegar without a chaser." Bad childhood memories aside, he did say the tofu, "was epic. Smoked through enough so you could blindfold a Lockhart native and tell them it's BBQ meat - they'd believe it. The edamame purée and cauliflower bites had that same overly acidic taste. Again an off balance entree that could have been amazing." [Yelp]

The Meat News: Yelper Lilli enjoyed her steak but wants to see less pork on the menu: "we both got the hangar steak and it was so delicious, by the time I finished mine I wished I had more! The only downside for me was the already super limited menu, especially since I don't eat pork, and many dishes on their menu are pork dishes. However, I really enjoyed my meal and definitely recommend the steak." [Yelp]

The Value Report: Chowhounder lixlix enjoyed the green beans, smelt, and pork jowl, and found the large portion sizes added to the restaurant's claims of being a value-driven operation. "I feel that before The Hightower opened, I have not found such a great mix of value and expert cooking since Lenoir. I am truly excited for this restaurant and look forward to trying the other items on the menu very soon." [Chowhound]

The (Lack of) Atmosphere News: Yelper Mark calls the food "impressive" and the atmosphere "intentionally lackluster." On the ambiance: "My partner was very unhappy with the bathrooms being located at the front of the building, which assures patrons that they will always be aware of the coming and going staff and clientele. It doesn't make for the best dining environment, but again it appears that the owner is going for a low-key-bar-and-we-do-not-care-about-style vibe." [Yelp]

The Carefully Rated News: Yelper Brent rated every single dish he tried on a 10/10 scale and gave the restaurant four stars:

Scallops: 8/10 (sauce/potatoes 10/10)
Hangar Steak: 8.5/10
Carnitas: 7.5/10
Salmon: 6/10 (tamale it came with 10/10)
Chicka peas: 8/10
Boudin: 6/10
Smelt: 8/10
Drinks: 8/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Service: 10/10[Yelp]

The Disappointing News: Urban Spoon reviewer 78703 foodie enjoyed a few dishes but was overall very disappointed: "The service here is really pretty awful. It's a bar with occasional table service. Some of the food items are tasty - green beans, chick peas, both pork dishes. The scallops are awful. Go here if you're in the area and just want to hang out and eat. Don't go for a real dining experience." [Urban Spoon]

The Service Good News: Yelper Aaron had an overall positive experience and was especially a fan of the service: "Fantastic, both times. Our waitstaff on both visits were attentive, friendly, very well-informed, and could vocalize actual opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of various dishes and beer or wine pairings. Both the General Manager and the Executive Chef wander the restaurant occasionally, greeting patrons and taking feedback. Overall, I got the impression that everybody in the house was happy to be there and very proud of what they're serving, which makes me feel very very good about the future success of The Hightower." [Yelp]

The Pork Jowl News: The Hightower's roast pork jowl is by far the most popular dish with early reviewers, in addition to the chickpeas and the green beans. Foursquare user Aaron T. says: "please, please, please try the pork jowl. It's changed my perspective on pig cheeks forever." [Foursquare]

The Hightower

1209 East 7th St. Austin, Texas