Bowling alley burger dive named after a cult film upends expectations in Austin

"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Helen Alder, owner of Lebowski's Grill, poses with her son Andrew Alger and another employee, Tim White. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
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One of the most popular orders at Lebowski’s Grill is its hand-breaded chicken tenders, owner Helen Alger said. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Lebowski's Grill had a South Austin location inside the Westgate Lanes bowling alley. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Lebowski's Grill has a North Austin location inside the Highland Lanes bowling alley. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
At first glance, Lebowski’s Grill looks just like any other bowling alley concessions spot: an order window, a small kitchen and a menu featuring burgers, chicken tenders and fries. Owner Helen Alger knows there is more to Lebowski’s than meets the eye, but says she does not mind having the element of surprise.

“It’s better than what most people expect when they go to a bowling alley. I think that people are expecting just kind of a flattened, greasy burger with a bun that’s falling apart,” Alger said. “But I’m pretty particular about burgers, and this is almost the only place that I’ll eat one.”

The restaurant has one at Highland Lanes on Burnet Road. A second location at Westgate Lanes on West William Cannon Drive, closed on Oct. 25, according to Westgate Lanes.

The eatery is named for “The Big Lebowski,” a cult classic film from 1998 starring Jeff Bridges, set partially in a bowling alley.

Alger opened the first location at Highland Lanes 12 years ago with her friend Gabriel King, who frequented the business and noticed when the alley’s grill was vacant. Alger had young kids at the time, and was hesitant to make a move; she had owned restaurants before and knew how difficult it could be, but she also said she grew up in a family that owned restaurants and has a passion for the business.


Alger has a career as a human resources executive at a bank in Georgetown but makes time for Lebowski’s, her long-running passion project.

She credits a hard-working staff—which now includes her high school-aged children—with maintaining high quality and keeping Lebowski’s reputation as a hidden gem going.

“We’ve been so fortunate, but I can honestly say it’s not only luck. It’s the fact that we have great people working for us that really care,” she said. “I will keep this place open as long as I possibly can.”

Get to know The Dude, Lebowski’s signature burger

The Dude ($7.25) is named after the lead character of the Coen brothers-directed film “The Big Lebowski.”

  • Bun: Lebowski’s sources its bread from local bakery Lil' Mama’s.

  • Sauce: All Lebowski’s sauces, including jalapeno ranch, are made in-house.

  • Patty: The Dude features a third-pound Angus beef patty.

  • Produce: Lettuce, tomato and other produce are sourced locally.


Lebowski’s Grill

Inside Highland Lanes, 8909 Burnet Road, Austin

512-419-7166 | www.highlandlanes.com

Hours: Tue.-Wed. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Thu. & Sat. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sat. noon-11 p.m., closed Mon.

Editor's note: This story was updated Oct. 26 to reflect the correct name for local bakery Lil' Mama's. It was updated to reflect that the Westgate Lane location is now closed.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.