Fun Themed Bars in NYC: The Cost of Atmosphere
I hope you all had a spectacular holiday season. This year was my first one away from home ever, and it was emotional, to say the least. Though I did spend most of it either working or drinking, thoroughly embracing a New York-style Christmas. We’re kindred spirits, New Yorkers and I.
This week, we’re talking bars, but these aren’t just any old ordinary establishments. I dug up some of the weirdest and wildest themed bars in NYC and found out just how much a signature drink there will cost you.
In a city this big, there’s no reason to stick to the mundane all the time. There’s ample opportunity to branch out and try something new, it just might cost ya. They’re in no particular order, though I will definitely tell you which ones are my favorites. I’m biased. What can I say?
231 E 14th St
Stop by the Beauty Bar for $10 martinis and manicures. Yes, you read that right. Get your nails done on one hand while sipping a classy drink from the other in the East Village.
The interior is a mix of retro salon and dive bar with chrome-dome hair dryers and the plush seats to match lining one wall and the bar spanning the other. It’s narrow but fabulous. On top of this, it has a serious roster of events each night of the week in a staged area in the back. You can’t go wrong!
Trailer Park Lounge
271 W 23rd St
Once upon a time, when I worked in The Frying Pan on the Hudson River, I passed this bar each and every day on 23rd Street. With a toilet growing flowers as a window display, the Trailer Park Lounge is certainly eye-catching, to say the least.
Inside, you’ll find an honest-to-God trailer front taking up space as a wall in the bar, as well as hundreds of kitschy knick-knacks adorning the walls.
And the price? One of the lounge’s novelty cocktails, “Jim Bob’s I.Q.” — which promises to erase any intelligence you may have had — will set you back $16.95. It takes a lot of money to drink in a place this cheap, darling.
The Oscar Wilde
45 W 27th St
“A public place for private affairs.”
I can’t contain my excitement about this bar. Typical literature student that I am, having a bar devoted to my favorite author fills me with unadulterated glee. But I still haven’t been! It upsets me so much.
Regardless, the Victorian decor, as well as multiple effigies of the man himself, guarantees that you will have an extravagant time. You can get a “50 Shades of Dorian Gray” cocktail for $14. Not too bad to pay homage to the best writer of all time.
2nd Floor, Pier A Harbor House, 22 Battery Place
The same two Irish lads that are behind the infamous Dead Rabbit bar have done it again with this Cuban-style Prohibition-era joint. Step in the door and back in time to when liquor was as strong as it was illegal.
BlackTail somehow manages to be both kitschy and classy. The Irish really know how to marry the two, but I digress. Their fancy cocktails like “Class Act,” “Bookworm,” and “Fighting Talk” will cost you a cool $18. But then, they’re technically “illegal” if you keep the era of Prohibition and speakeasies in mind, so you can’t complain. Or at least, not too loudly.
Otto’s Shrunken Head
538 E 14th St
Tiki? Bamboo? Rock n’ Roll? Live DJ’s? What?! Yep, you get all of the above at this East Village staple, which blends traditional tiki rum-based drinks with live music ranging from tropical beats to rock.
Otto’s Shrunken Head provides the locale and the novelty glasses, but for a price — a tiki drink like “Naughty Nellie” is $14, with a $6 deposit for the mug. Not too bad if you plan on nabbing it anyway! The bar’s signature “Shrunken Head” cocktail costs a nice $50 but you get to keep the cup. It’s a Hawaiian dive-bar experience, for sure.
152 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
This is a personal favorite of mine, I must admit. Named for the late country musician Skinny Dennis Sanchez, this Williamsburg spot has live music seven nights a week.
It also sells the wonderfully named and highly addictive frozen drink “That Coffee Thing,” which is $8 and worth every cent, even in the winter.
The rest of the drinks are typical dive-bar prices ranging from $4 to $6 for a beer. The atmosphere alone is enough to enjoy it, but the live music really brings it home.
Full Circle Bar
318 Grand St, Brooklyn
Do you like Skee-Ball? Do you like alcohol? Then you’ve come to the right place, my friend. There are multiple Skee-Ball machines scattered around, and the bar counter is made from old Skee-Ball machine parts. It literally could not be any more immersive.
And it’s not just Skee-Ball themed — the Full Circle Bar has southern undertones, too. It has a skeeball league, over 40 types of canned beer, and deal in average dive-bar prices.
A bonus? A game of Skee-Ball is $1, and on Sundays and Thursdays, it’s free!
388 Union Avenue, Brooklyn and 148 W 24th St
Step back into the 1980s and with arcade games galore at these two Barcade locations in New York. There are dozens of games to choose from, mixed with a varied selection of craft beer and cocktails, you can get your game and buzz on. Games usually run at 25 cents a turn, and drinks are fairly reasonably priced, depending on how crafty you want to go with your beer.
273 Smith St, Brooklyn
A couple of drinks from this tiki bar, and you’ll feel like you’ve just washed up on the shore of some desert island. Yes, nestled in the mostly residential area of Carroll Gardens lies this hidden gem, complete with an array of insanely strong cocktails, board games, and cute tiki decor. “The Scorpion Bowl,” meant for four people but often attempted by many a hero, is a mere $32 and may kill a small man or woman. Tread with caution.
308 Bleeker St, Brooklyn
This may be my favorite one on this list. The bar is every bit as whimsical as it sounds, with the weirdest display imaginable.
And Boobie Trap isn’t just a name — there are literal boobs on the ceiling, doll legs adorning the lights, bodices on the bar counter.
It’s cheap, cheerful, and full of fun, with some of the tables doubling as chess boards, as well as an array of board games to choose from. Beers and shots are their specialties, ranging from $5 to $8. The bathroom is my favorite. You’ll see.
308 E 6th St
If you’re like me and October 31st is your favorite holiday, Beetle House is the place for you. Yep, every day is Halloween at this Tim Burton-inspired haven. With gravestones, surgical equipment, and background music to match, this place is more like something from a movie than the real world.
This bar encourages you to be as freaky as you want, and its signature cocktails like “Alice’s Cup of Tea” and “The Beetle’s Juice” will set you back $14 a piece.
The Factory 380
380 Third Ave
At the time of writing, this place literally just opened its doors. An Andy Warhol-themed bar has just opened its doors, and you’re sure to get a blast from the past when enter and start to sip away.
The Factory 380 offers ’60s decor with modern craft beers and cocktails. Beers cost $8 and above, while cocktails go for around $15. Not too bad to be transported back to a better time, aye?
Please Don’t Tell
113 Saint Mark’s Place
This speakeasy has one of the greatest entrances to a bar that’s truly meant to be hidden. In the corner of an unassuming Crif Dogs hot dog store lies the phone booth that will transport you to another world (or through another door to the speakeasy — same thing).
It’s usually a good idea to book ahead to get easy access into this taxidermy-decorated hidden gem. House cocktails such as “Good Thyme” and “Paddington” usually run at $16 each, so not the cheapest on the list, but the novelty is what you’re really paying for.
The Way Station
683 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn
I’m a massive Doctor Who nerd, so imagine my surprise when I entered this bar only to see a giant, almost life-sized TARDIS — the Doctor’s spaceship disguised as a blue phone booth — in the corner? You have no idea the nerdy happiness it brought me.
Self-described as “the nerd bar,” The Way Station hosts themed events like “Nerdeoke” throughout the week and often has live music. The Doctor Who-themed beer and shot specials called “Companions” are a sweet $6. So go get your nerd on and for cheap!
41 E 7th St
This bar is something else. Renaissance themed with murals on the walls, an ever-changing beer-tap list, and a general monastery of worship to the craft of beer, Burp Castle is not to be missed. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the bartenders in monk robes, encouraging patrons to speak at a whisper as Gregorian chants hum in the background. The extensive beer list runs from $7 to $12.
House of Wax
445 Albee Square West, Brooklyn
An assortment of wax sculptures and alcohol to boot. What’s not to love? This quirky cocktail bar combines the two for an unforgettable experience.
Death masks of celebrities can be found among the wax figures of anatomy and pathology, and specialty cocktails run at around $13 to $14, depending on whether you want “Anatomicals,” “Pathologicals,” or “Geographicals.”
The House of Wax is also next to my favorite dining cinema, the Alamo Drafthouse. Win-win!
1237 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn
Finally, the sci-fi themed bar we’ve all been waiting for. Jupiter Disco is decked out in ’80s and ’90s sci-fi nostalgia which is sure to satisfy any Alien fans out there. Its sound system is easily a big draw, and the lights are always kept dim so the old tv screens can shine. Cocktails like “Chain Reaction,” “Slow Burn,” and “Gingerbread House” go for about $13, and a beer will cost you $8.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner
If you can stomach the noxious Times Square (I can’t — it’s my least favorite place in the city) and you love Broadway, then Ellen’s Stardust Diner might be the perfect place for you. Singing wait staff seek to make your experience as showtime-y as possible, and the diner decor adds to the old-school vibes they try to convey.
It’s less a bar than it is an eatery, but I thought it had to be included on this list. Cocktails here will set you back $15, so be warned — it ain’t cheap, just like everything else.
93 1st Ave, #2
This one is an anomaly. Not so much a theme as it is just bizarre, this Indian restaurant brings you fairy lights galore. Every inch of its ceiling and its tiny interior is decked out with more lights than you can possibly imagine.
I wanted to include Panna II because, like most of these themed bars, it’s an experience. And the best part? It’s BYOB! No flashy, overpriced cocktails here. Bring along your own bottle of wine and take as many Instagram-worthy pics as your iPhone can handle.
281 3rd Ave
I know the holiday season is over, but Rolf’s just keeps on going with its famous Christmas decorations on display until May. The restaurant is known for beautiful — if slightly over-the-top — Christmas cheer. That said, its German-style entrees are pricey at around $30 a dish. Seasonal cocktails will cost you quite a bit, too. The decorations are so worth it, though.
BONUS: Nutella Café
116 University Place
This isn’t a bar, but I just had to mention it. Nutella, the happiest sandwich spread of my childhood, has opened up an entire café on Union Square. I still haven’t been, but it’s on my to-do list, okay? New York is hectic. This place is a must for any Nutella enthusiasts like me. God damn it. Now I’m hungry.
The Bottom Line on Themed Bars in NYC
So now you know exactly where to go when a particular alcohol-y mood strikes you. Even if the prices seem too rich for your blood, you can look for deals online.
I’m working my way through this list, too. I vow to have drunk in every worthwhile establishment in this city before I leave. Don’t look at me like that. It’s very doable and completely in my nature. Lol!
If you do happen to visit any of these bars because of my list, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you got on.