Looking for themed bars in NYC that are wonderfully weird (instead of just plain weird)? In a city where cocktail bars are a common setting, finding a scene that suits your taste and stirs up a unique vibe can be spiriting. So take in a bar with a twist. From special-access speakeasy bars to bars with games to dives doing their own thing, here are some wondrous and wacky places to patronize.
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Best themed bars in NYC
At this Bushwick corner tavern, you’ll find an edgy vibe, a sociable staff and quirky yet noticeably well-suited decor (let’s just say it’s titillating). Drink prices are wallet-friendly, and long weekday happy hours extend to wine and drafts. Your inner child will happily break out here, as this dive bar has toys and classic board games that will attract patrons and friends. Chutes and Ladders or Connect Four, anyone?
Don’t get shaken up by this pairing of mixology with macabre. Based within the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, this full-service, downtown Brooklyn bar holds pieces salvaged from a 19th century wax sculpture museum in Berlin. This panopticon, a form of entertainment from that era, presents life-size realistic displays of curiosities such as anatomic figures and death masks. You’ll also find Victorian decor and themed cocktails along with a fine modern selection of wines and draft, bottled and canned beers.
The Mexican deli exterior in Williamsburg offers a hidden specialty behind its freezer door: a mezcal tasting and listening room. This speakeasy offers mezcal and tequila-based cocktails and agave spirits and a carefully curated music menu coming through a specialty Hi-Fi sound system. The selection is quite vast: blues, disco, reggae or just about any genre. A changing menu offers specialties from its Cerveceria Havemeyer, and required phone reservations are taken after 6pm daily.
The exterior façade of this Astoria speakeasy will make you think that you’re arrived at a hardware store. But step past the replica of the now-defunct Square Hardware—originally found a few blocks away—by ringing the doorbell. Upon entry, you’ll be ushered past a velvet curtain to this swanky and dimly lit cocktail bar and lounge with lush seating. The rotating cocktail menu gets stirred up by what’s seasonably available, trending and on staffers’ minds. Perhaps pick an aged spirit or a drink falling under the Feeling Adventurous selection. Various craft beers and wines complete the list.
Along Chinatown’s Doyers Street, this popular back-alley speakeasy is shaking up alchemy and mixology within its European apothecary and 19th century Parisian absinthe den setting. Bartenders in white lab coats mix up cocktails with ingredients made in-house with an experimental style. The menu lists drinks as remedies, with subcategories including Health and Beauty, Pain Killers, Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Stress Relievers. Prohibition-themed Wednesdays feature a password posted on their Instagram account, and the entertainment is rounded out with live music on Sunday through Thursday and a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays.
The initial location for this nightclub chain, this Gramercy salon turned vintage bar offers the perfect special for a girls’ night out: martinis and manicures. For $10, get your nails done while holding a cocktail in the other hand. Chrome-dome hair dryers are visual remnants of the venue’s past, and its current scene is buzzing with a heavily rotating event calendar. Spend your evenings dancing along to spinning DJs, getting laughs from comedians or being entertained by burlesque shows.
This East Village tiki bar has a Polynesian-esque ambiance and an eclectic mix of event bookings. The dive bar’s calendar extends to live music, movie nights, spoken word and comedy and variety shows. Of course, classic drinks like mai tais and house specialties come in funky mugs. One note: There is a $6 mug deposit. So while you sip, decide whether you’ll remember to return it or want to keep it as a souvenir.
Getting into this speakeasy on St. Marks Place involves a unique gateway – entering through a vintage phone booth. As an annex to Crif Dogs, go inside the hot dog joint to come across this golden access area. Then pick up the phone and press a button. Upon admittance, discover a small and dimly lit space with taxidermy decor. Classic cocktails get some twists and innovative drinks also have their place, and for bites, order from the PDT menu or put in a special dog request from next door. Tip: Get a handle on waiting by calling ahead for a reservation.
Located below The Happiest Hour, this sophisticated West Village speakeasy relives Hollywood’s golden age with an art deco theme and an old-school soundtrack. The cocktail menu is divided between classic and contemporary selections: Traditional choices offer old and familiar picks, with a selection of The Three Families featuring old-fashioneds, Sours and Fizzes, Manhattans and martinis. House favorites have their respective place as well, comprised of Aperitifs, Spice Rack, Shaken and Stirred and with dual spirits, balanced mixes and esoteric ingredients. Food options are provided from its upstairs neighbor’s kitchen.
For those who appreciate live piano music or remain in search of the perfect karaoke bars, this Chelsea venue is for you. As a modern uptake on the classic piano bar, your listening ears will pick up selections from a Baldwin Baby Grand that extend beyond standard songs, with rock, pop and even punk coming from the ivory keys. Divided into two sections, find an audience gathered around the piano in the backroom, partaking in a group sing-along or taking individual turns at the mic. This house party is complemented by marbled cocktail bar upfront serving wines, beers, bubbly and specialties such as a scotch-based Penicillin.