Themed bars are perfect for when you want to “drink somewhere different,” but if you’re not careful, you might wind up at a touristy place that looks like it was vomited on by a Halloween store. The next time you want to have weird night out, try one of these spots. From a place where you can dance under stalactites to a heavy-metal dive with a life-size replica of Frankenstein's monster, all of these bars are perfect for either a fun birthday or a random Tuesday night.
photo credit: David Dyte
Sunken Harbor Club
Sunken Harbor Club sits a staircase above the latest iteration of Gage and Tollner, and while its pirate ship theme doesn't really mesh with what's going on downstairs, it sure feels nice drinking a single-malt old fashioned in a dark, wood-paneled room with ropes and buoys hanging from the ceiling. Try this place for casual $20 cocktails with housemade banana liquor and names that lean heavily into the pirate theme.
Wonderville’s arcade game enthusiasm is so nerdy that it comes back around to cool again. This is a barcade with a rotating display of independently created games, and it hosts live music, video game tournaments, and other events every night. The creativity on display here is cool as sh*t, with games inspired by Japanese psychedelic rock and cocktails named after beloved game characters.
True to name, Trailer Park is a trailer park-themed bar, which is actually better than it sounds. The space is jam-packed with a dizzying amount of Christmas lights, random trinkets, and other paraphernalia, so you might feel like you're on an episode of Hoarders, but you'll have a great time. This is probably not the place to plan a meeting of any professional nature, but it’s a great spot to kick back with a few friends over some beers and tater tots.
photo credit: Art Gray
The first Apotheke opened in Chinatown in 2008, and that original location is part of the reason why there are speakeasies in every New York City zip code. At this Nomad branch, the subterranean interior is lit mostly by candlelight, and there are several huge booths along with a central seating area that consists of what is essentially a large, partitioned ottoman surrounded by stools. The theme is here old-school apothecary, and the cocktails are divided into categories like Pain Killers, Aphrodiasiacs, and Euphorics.
La Caverna is a restaurant and dance club on the Lower East Side where a door with a simple cave painting leads you to a basement with stalactites on the ceiling and walls the texture of rock. At night, it turns into a party with music blasting out of speakers embedded in the walls and big groups ordering hookah at the bar. If that’s not your thing, come before 8pm for a fun, lowkey spot when you want to do Taco Tuesday somewhere a little different.
Zombie Hut in Cobble Hill takes its theme very seriously, which means you’ll find a bamboo bar, masks, and a thatched roof. Come here for an ironically gimmicky or sincerely gimmicky experience and a few (very strong) frozen cocktails. There’s also a backyard with bench seating, cornhole, and string lights.
Oscar Wilde is very much not like other bars. And that’s mostly due to the theme. This place was inspired by the life of, you guessed it, Oscar Wilde, and it feels like a wing of an old Irish castle that was converted into a drinking space for young professionals. The space is huge, the ceilings are high, and you'll see stained glass windows, a marble fireplace, and about 40 different kinds of lighting fixtures. Weekends get busy here, so swing by and mingle while you admire the elaborate decor.
Despite the small caveat that no actual roller skating is done at All Night Skate, this Bed-Stuy spot—heavily themed around the late-night roller rink parties you may have attended as a child—is a fun hang for anyone particularly into nostalgia, neon, and strong frozen Painkillers. There’s a jukebox, an entire room dedicated to retro arcade games, and a second-floor balcony for people who are presumably very cool.
KGB is a vaguely Soviet-themed dive bar attached to the Kraine Theater, and it’s home to its own active literary scene. There are free readings most nights in the cramped but undeniably charming space, which is littered with art and propaganda posters from the fallen Soviet empire. An homage to the historically Ukrainian neighborhood and hidden social clubs for Ukrainian socialists, this is a fun place to talk to literary types about the last book you read.
Sure you can stick a couple surfboards on the wall when you’re California dreamin’ in the middle of Brooklyn, but Williamsburg’s Surf Bar offers a little more of an escape. It has a few beach shacks in the back, lots of trees, and wall-to-wall sand floors. That’s really all it takes to make this bar and restaurant feel fun, but to round out the experience, they also serve tropical drinks and sizable fish tacos that arrive on a wood surfboard platter.
If you want to experience the Alphabet City of Rent (Original Broadway Cast), go to the Double Down Saloon. Here, you can really imagine yourself angrily burning your life’s work to heat the loft you’re squatting in while you sip a glass of “ass juice” and play punk songs on the jukebox. They also put Slim Jims in their Bloody Marys, which results in what is essentially a chef’s salad in a glass.
When you hear about a bar named “The Library” that has shelves filled with books, you might think it’s the type of place where you sit in a tufted red leather chair and take sips from a snifter of brandy. In this case, you would be dead wrong. This East Village spot is a dive bar in every sense. Pretty much every inch of wall space here is covered in scribbles, and there’s a jukebox and a projector in the back showing B movies on a constant loop.
This Williamsburg bar is heavy-metal themed with decor that includes an electric chair, a bench shaped like a coffin, a human-sized cage, and exactly one stool featuring an image of Justin Bieber. The space is dark, divey, and drenched in memorabilia from bands like Danzig and Slayer, and it’s a wonderful place to drink something cheap while you listen to Alice Cooper. If you’re a metal fan, you’ll love it here. And if you aren’t a metal fan, you’ll also love it here, as long as the weapons hanging from the ceiling don’t freak you out.