Bars can blend together in this city, with a sports bar on every corner, a moody speakeasy for every neighborhood, and a crowded rooftop spot for every day of summer. But some bars go out of their way to stand out.
In NYC, there really is something for everyone. No matter your interest, there’s a bar out there seemingly tailor-made for you. Here are some of the fun, quirky, elaborately themed bars in NYC.
A taste of country in the midst of NYC, Trailer Park proudly declares that they have the “kitschiest decor” in the city. Filled with Americana mementos like old movie posters, and an actual trailer displayed against one wall, it’s a perfectly laid back space with endless entertainment to be found just by looking around the space. Great spot for frozen margaritas and tater tots (be warned: the rest of the food is very mediocre).
2. House of WaxIf you’ve ever walked into a wax museum and thought “I could really go for a drink right now”, this is the place for you. You won’t stumble across this place by accident – it’s located on the top floor of a mall, behind the Alamo movie theatre. Wax works of lifeless heads, highly detailed depictions of disease, and anatomical curiosities decorate the space in glass cabinets flanking every wall. Despite this unusual decor, the moody lighting, plush red curtains, and elegant high tables are typical of a more standard cocktail bar. The space is a bit morbid, but certainly unique!
You’re in the mood to stay home and play games, but your friend wants to go out? Barcade is the perfect compromise. Or maybe you just like a dose of nostalgia with your beer. With multiple locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, these low-key bars are stocked with classic video games.
A self-declared “nerd bar”, The Way Station is the best spot in the city for Dr Who fans. The iconic blue Police Box sets the scene, and a tv silently plays Dr Who episodes in the background. The space is homey and welcoming, and they have a great happy hour deal. The bar is also a music venue, and hosts events like their “Geeks Who Drink” trivia night. I would definitely want this as my neighborhood bar, if it wasn’t in a neighborhood so far away from mine.
5. Beetle House
The motto of Beetle House is “Everyday is Halloween”, and that pretty much sums it up. Gothic, theatrical, and a bit spooky, the name and much of the decor is in tribute to the film ‘Beetlejuice’. The east village restaurant and bar also celebrates other Tim Burton classics, including ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
A popular tiki bar and music venue, Otto’s has somehow avoided becoming tacky or a tourist hotspot. With a South Pacific theme, brightly colored puffer fish lanterns hang above the bar and tropical drinks are served in a wide variety of Tiki mugs (that can be kept or returned for your deposit). Fun, boozy tiki drinks – both traditional and speciality – are only part of the fun here, as Otto’s also houses shows from music to comedy to poetry readings.
Covered in wood panels from walls to ceiling, Camp has a country cabin vibe, and a relaxing energy. Sparsely decorated with a red kayak in one corner, next to a game of Buckhunter, their menu include a camp classic: s’mores. This bar tries to re-create summer camp in the middle of NYC, and certainly feels like a little escape from city life. 2-for-1 drinks every day until 8pm, and karaoke on Tuesdays.
One of the objectively worst bars in the city, it’s also one of my favorites. Jekyll and Hyde completely embraces their haunted horror theme, and while many may find that unbearable cheesy, I absolutely love it. The restaurant space is surrounded by animatronics like Dreadmina the Vampire and Tobias the Werewolf that take turns “performing” by singing or delivering bad puns for the diners. They do events and tours of their collection of oddities, and you’ll probably be the only patron in the place who isn’t there for an 11 year old’s birthday party. Despite that, and the truly horrible drinks, I still stop by a few times a year.
9. The Ship
10. Oscar Wilde
I’ve written about these two before, and they are both wonderful bars that thoroughly embrace a theme, without relying on that to draw customers.