The Good Knight
If ever an Austinite sent up a prayer for a civilized place to get both a decent cocktail and a decent meal, the Good Knight is the answer to that prayer
Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, Fri., April 24, 2009
Daily, 5pm-2am; food until midnight
The Good Knight1300 E. Sixth, 628-1250
Tuesday-Sunday, 5pm-2am, food until 12mid; Mondays, closed
The Good Knight is easy to miss as you drive down East Sixth; the sign is not particularly well-lit, and the restaurant is on the ground floor of a two-story brick building with a forbidding, Prohibition-era blind front. Part of the Good Knight's allure is its hidden-gem ambiance; it feels like an anachronistic neighborhood bar, kept secret by the locals. Parking is a breeze. The decor is Fifties dive-on-a-budget: stained plywood partitions, good quality chairs and tables, and very dim lighting. It reminds me of the nightclub where Dorothy Vallens performs in the movie Blue Velvet, a theatrical version of the 1950s, not unlike a movie set.
It's also a perfect place to wear your vintage cocktail dress. The Good Knight specializes in cocktails and boasts a comprehensive and absolutely fun list of house specialties including Pimm's Cup and Grasshopper, along with the more mainstream Harvey Wallbanger, Sidecar, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned. The cocktails are $6, $7, and $8, making this a very popular watering place, as the quality of the mixology is superb, and the price is right! Six rotating, select draft beers are also available, as is wine; there's a strong sense, however, that the wine is intended to be enjoyed with the food.
The food here is anachronistic, as well: It is extremely good, even though you are in a bar. The focus is tight: The menu is a mere 14 items, and substitutions are not encouraged. Though the menu has been described as "rustic Continental," it's actually a mixture of classic American dishes, such as chicken potpie and meat loaf, and Gallic ones such as pâté and mushroom caviar. But everything is prepared with such skill and with such superfresh, locally sourced ingredients, that it seems Continental. It is the opposite of "bar food"; it is cuisine.
There is but one salad ($6.50): an airy pile of achingly fresh, tender local greens, tossed with house-made butter croutons, cashews, and pickled mushrooms, dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. I knew once I tasted it that everything I was going to eat that night was going to be wonderful; it is a perfect salad. There is only one soup, as well ($7), a soup of the day that changes with the seasons; this evening it was a hearty lentil and vegetable. The fried tomatoes ($7.50), a large appetizer featuring thick slices of breaded red and green tomatoes, crisply fried and reposing in a small pool of garlic aioli, is the best version of this Southern favorite I have yet experienced. The popular chicken potpie ($10.50), a sturdy bowl of thyme-seasoned chicken, Yukon Gold potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots suspended in thick gravy, is topped with whisper-light, golden puff pastry. The meat loaf ($12), made of pure Angus beef and topped with whiskey gravy, is accompanied by rich, dense mashed potatoes and the perfectly cooked vegetable of the day, a carrot and kale mixture that was just as good as, well, everything else on the menu. There are two desserts: an Earl Grey-infused chocolate pots de crème ($6) and a crustless buttermilk coconut pie with blueberry compote ($5). I chose the pots de crème, and it was dense and creamy, with deep chocolate flavor and just a dab of fluffy white hard sauce on top.
There is a definite sense that the kitchen purposefully limits itself to what chefs Christopher Concannon and Lisa Newmeyer know can be done consistently to perfection, even on a busy night. If ever an Austinite sent up a prayer that there might be a civilized place to get both a decent cocktail and a decent meal, the Good Knight is the answer to that prayer.