What’s worse: actively seeking a fern bar, or failing to find one? This was the existential question I faced as I walked into Highlander Bar and Grill and wondered, where did all the ferns go? (Evidently, fern bars vanished after Bennigans and similar chains appropriated their 1970s love of plants, oak paneling, and fake Tiffany lamps.)
I went on a tip thinking Highlander was a med-student hangout, but it’s much more. The ferns may have disappeared but the bar was filled with customers. Highlander gets a great happy-hour rush, and with its location on Fredericksburg road near the med center, they’re able to pull in a wide variety of people — 9-to-5ers on the way home, sleep-deprived medical students celebrating after a test, and if you’re lucky, the cast and crew of KENS 5 news from just down the block sharing anecdotes about the latest Eyewitness Newsreel.
Highlander is like many a neighborhood saloon, with its chain-smoking old-timers, but instead of the usual Johnny Cash-esque dread hanging over the place, the vibe is charged and upbeat. I sat at the bar and considered my options. Still under the illusion that I was at a fern bar, I ordered a Harvey Wallbanger, the ferniest of fern-bar drinks. The bartender had no idea what I was talking about. I quickly considered other options from my informal list and decided on the simple but elegant French Connection — equal parts cognac and Grand Marnier.
A Highlander regular sat down next to me and gave me a quick history of the bar. Before ownership changed a few years ago, Highlander was known as Lyndy’s. He pointed to where there used to be a stuffed moose head on the wall, a model train track on the ceiling, and a skylight where, yes, ferns used to grow. He then told me stories from the 1980s, when, after a few drinks at Lyndy’s, people would wander down the street to the mythical Midget Mansion, which, shockingly, is not just a local urban legend.
Minutes later another patron sat next to me, chuckling over an image on his iPhone. A quick peek showed that it was an image of one of the female bartenders performing a body shot on another. “That was from a few nights ago,” he told me, rather excitedly.
I quickly realized the female bartenders had stuffed themselves into cleavage-enhancing medieval-era bodices. Had there been a show called Pimp My Bar: Coyote Ugly Style, it’s possible Highlander might have seen an episode or two. Yes, things had changed at Highlander, but I couldn’t find anyone who was complaining.
The Bar Tab
Highlander Bar and Grill
Coyote Ugly takes over the Regal Beagle, but nobody’s complaining
Study a Northwest SA microcosm of med students, TV eyewitnesses, and old-timers