Set beneath the McCarren Hotel and Pool, this 85-seat gastrobar from owners Joe Carroll (Fette Sau, St. Anselm) and Francesco Panella (Antica Pesa) boldly engages in the risky business of rejuvenating one of the most passé archetypes in bar history: the fern bar. A hallmark of yuppiedom, the fern bar was just that—a genre of greenery-filled taverns sloshed with too-sweet spritzers and lemon-drop martinis. And Oleanders surely looks the part: Multicolored Tiffany lamps dangle from high ceilings alongside glass-encased displays of faux foliage, and speedy servers sport floral button-downs as they whisk neon-hued drinks from the copper-topped bar.
ORDER THIS: A tweaked rendition of the era’s cloyingly sweet concoctions, from James Beard Award–winning mixology maestro Dale DeGroff. The heavy-cream-laden piña colada ($13) and minty grasshopper ($12), which blends Giffard crème de menthe and crème de cacao over crushed ice for a peppermint-patty effect offset by boozy punches of rum and absinthe, respectively, with rich milk fat and dessertlike sweetness. For an ’80s throwback sans the sugar rush, sip on the unironic Tawny Wine Cooler ($11), with Sandeman port rounded out by lemon sour and soda water.
GOOD FOR: A lively retro date, thanks to a rock-heavy soundtrack (Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin) and a whimsical game room stocked with a selfie-ready photobooth, foosball table and Pac-Man console. Sidle up side-by-side at the bar for shareable apps and playful shooters (two for $12) like the lemon drop shot with vodka and house-made citrus shrub.
THE CLINCHER: McCarren chef Kevin Chojnowski reboots fern-bar classics like Lobster Thermidor ($32) with hunks of bouncy crustacean accented by a zesty cognac cream and a hefty, dripping dry-aged burger ($16) upgraded with crunchy fried onion rings on an English muffin. With these alterations to the fern-bar form, Oleanders prompts patrons to don rose-tinted glasses and reminisce fondly on a boozy past once scorned.