It’s surprising, to say the least: a Tao Group (Lavo, Marquee) property that is entirely devoid of block-long lines behind a velvet rope or smoke machines blasting hot fog amid flashing strobe lights. At Fishbowl, you’ll find a welcoming bouncer, vintage pinball-game decor and a two-story aquarium in the middle of the retrofitted games lounge. But sadly, the whimsical paraphernalia just isn’t enough to scrub away that Tao tarnish of douchery: Bartenders routinely ignore calls for drinks or rush guests through an order after finally being flagged down for help; nonreserved tables, and there are few, are cluttered with used drinks and crumpled napkins; and you’ll have to shout to be heard over thumping music that no one is dancing to. Fishbowl is a bar that’s all splash, little substance.
ORDER THIS: The drinks menu may look promising, with chefly ingredients—prickly pear, turmeric-salt rim—but the cocktails arrive watered-down and bland. The most drinkable that we tried is the Thai Tea ($13), which spikes brewed black tea with Belvedere vodka, ginger syrup and orange bitters, offering candy-sweet, slightly floral notes. The Dark and Stormy ($13) is reminiscent of the unbalanced elixir your freshman roommate used to make, with muted hints of Gosling’s Black Seal rum and ginger beer. The tequila-based Mystic Marvel ($13) is akin to the lazy margaritas served at sloppy spring break bars, even with its prickly pear and agave add-ins.
GOOD FOR: Throwing a large party for a hodgepodge mix of friends. The venue is spacious, the decor is good conversation fodder (“The backbar is made from 1960s pinball machines”), and dishes like kale-artichoke dip with warm pita ($16) and chicken pibil sliders with avocado and queso fresco ($14) are large enough to be shared.
THE CLINCHER: The big draws are the two ever-crowded, mini bowling lanes in the back and Skee-Ball machines in the front, along with arcade games (Pac-Man, Frogger) doubling as tables and a millennial-friendly photo booth. (Note: You have to wait your turn to play.) But if you’re looking for a game-friendly lounge that also peddles good drinks, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.