Been a while, whoever reads this page. Many things have happened, not the least of which is the good George Arun Chirayil being safely married off to Ashly Harrell. It was a beautiful wedding, I cried, shut up. Thoughts on that later, but for now, I thought I would follow up on my last post regarding the newly refurbished Midnight Cowboy Modeling, a former brothel-in-plain-sight that has been reopened as a speakeasy style mixology bar.
For those of you unfamiliar with these kinds of setups, the speakeasy style bar is designed to make everybody feel extra special and glamorous, and to also maximize the pleasure of the fine drinking experience. To that end, there’s a lot about Midnight Cowboy Modeling that will enrage your typical Austinite.
Reservations are required. 2-8 seats can be reserved at one time, depending on availability. This is partly to discourage drunks from wandering in off the street and ruining the “oasis on dirty sixth” vibe of the place, and partly because the joint is frigging SMALL.
I won’t give away the exact location of Midnight Cowboy (even though you can probably find it through a quick google search), but it is smack in the middle of the riff raff of dirty sixth. I have to say, I was endlessly amused when I spied the tell-tale red light that marks the front entrance (there is no signage). It’s a simple doorway, with a series of call buttons alongside it. Some drunk was standing there, looking at the buttons, trying to figure out exactly what they were for, and quickly scuttled away when I pushed by and pressed the appropriate button. Makes a man feel important and in the know.
To repeat, this place is small. Small and dark, the way a bar should be, in my not-so-humble opinion. The door opened and a very pleasant hostess took my name and offered us a few chairs to wait in while they prepared our room for us, giving me a chance to take in the layout. It very much brings to mind a…seedy joint, which is appropriate given the building’s history. 2 person booths line one wall, with four persons lining another, and a narrow pathway in between. The bar lies beyond the booths, where two impeccably dressed barmen mix it up. Beyond that are the rooms, for parties of 5 or more. The rooms are carved out from areas that presumably used to be “massage rooms”, cordoned off by black curtains that can be drawn or opened based on preference. Once we were seated, we realized, once again, that the place is tiny: we couldn’t have fit a 7th person in there if we tried. This might sound uncomfortable, but in practice it forces conversation, which is very nice. No TVS, jukeboxes, or other distractions here (although they do pipe jazz and ragtime into the rooms). House rules even forbid cell phone conversations, but texting/email, etc is allowed though seemingly discouraged. Other rules include: no loud conversations, no guns(!), no public displays of affection, and no untoward interaction with members of other parties. In short, it’s a bar that expects its clientele to compose themselves as gentlemen and ladies. Frankly, in this day and age and especially in this city, where a shirt with a collar is deemed “semi-formal”, it’s a refreshing policy.
On to the drinks themselves. Midnight Cowboy requires a 2 drink minimum from every guest in attendance, and these drinks are not to be trifled with. I can’t remember the name of every cocktail I tried, but most of the original specialties were great, with only a few wandering off the mark (the expected fallout of a bar that takes chances). The talented barstaff can handle any classic cocktail you throw at them. My first drink, a Manhattan, was perhaps the best I had ever had in my life: exquisitely mixed, with sweetness that was present but did not overwhelm the bite of the bourbon. Certain drinks, marked on the menu, are mixed tableside, which adds to the overall pampered, jazz-age atmosphere. A nice touch: rather than interrupt your conversation every five minutes to see if you need anything, the staff at Midnight Cowboy pointed out that there is a switch inside each room that, when thrown, activates a red light on the exterior of each room, signaling that you’re ready for another round.
The service is impeccable, though expect to wait a little bit for your drinks. These are high quality concoctions, not rum and cokes, and it takes time to get everything just right. That said, the waitress and bartenders couldn’t have been more pleasant and helpful throughout the evening. When one person in our party asked about food, he was informed that they had no kitchen, but did offer sausage runs to the nearby bestwurst stand for a nominal fee. Now, THAT’S service.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love fancy drinkin’ holes, and in my view, any opportunity to get a little dressed up in Austin should be celebrated. I only regret that I time and circumstance prevented me from wearing my suit, which surely would have blown that one guy’s off-the-rack job out of the water. If you’re in the mood for a great time with some close friends and riveting conversation over some good music and great cocktails, make a reservation, throw on a tie, and ignore the tides of Tyler’s t-shirt wearing morons who are calling you pretentious for wanting quality.
NOTE: Sorry for lack of pictures, but it is really dark in there.