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Blacktail’s dark bar, surrounded by two plants and a golden stained glass ceiling Nick Solares

13 Theme Bars Worth Visiting in NYC

These bars have found a way to make kitsch feel cool

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New York City has more than its fair share of themed bars. Between the terribly tacky and the oft overpriced, it’s hard to find the diamonds in the rough. From old-school speakeasies to cocktails resembling a scene from JAWS, these 13 themed bars capture themes at their finest.

Note: Bars are listed based on geography, starting south to north in Manhattan, then north to south in Brooklyn

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BlackTail

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Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry (co-founders of The Dead Rabbit) modeled BlackTail after the Prohibition-era bars that sprouted in Havana, Cuba. The bar is in the Pier A Harbor House, offering updated takes on classic mixed drinks like the old-fashioned, sours, daiquiris, and more. Kitsch and class go hand-in-hand here.

Forgtmenot

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Specializing in American diner fare, Forgtmenot is a surf shack-style bar on the Lower East side. Graffiti strewn walls bear old-timey advertisements, picture frames, and other assorted tchotchkes. For a hint of the team’s updated tastes, order the seasonal margarita.

A post shared by A L E C (@alecfuller) on

Employees Only

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Opened in 2004, this retro bar doles out high-end cocktails without the pretense. While the bar isn’t so secret anymore, it still captures speakeasy vibes. Order one of the Employees Only classics like the Manhattan (Rittenhouse Rye Stirred with Italian Vermouth, Grand Marnier & Dashes of Angostura Bitters), or dabble in the “Fancy Cocktails” portion of its menu.

Mother of Pearl

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Nightlife maven Ravi Derossi serves a slew of rum, cachaca, and tequila drinks at Mother of Pearl, which went vegan in 2016. The crowd favorite from the tropical-themed bar is the “shark eye,” a mixture of passion fruit, lemon, maraschino, curaçao, bourbon, and tiki bitters mixed to resemble a shark attack.

Otto's Shrunken Head

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Otto’s Shrunken Head mixes Hawaiian prints, bamboo decor, live bands and djs, and rum-based cocktails. The eclectic combination has made Otto’s an East Village must-visit since its opening in 2002.

A post shared by @zofiafatale on

e's BAR

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After months of renovations following the fire that ravaged the flagship location, E’s Bar reopened in May. The neighborhood bar with clear knack for game night vibes is known for craft beers, board games, trivia nights, tacos, and nostalgic rock playlists from the ‘60s through the ‘90s.

The Drift

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The Drift is a Southern-themed dive in Greenpoint from the team behind The Commodore and El Cortez. It’s more relaxed than its siblings, with taxidermy arranged throughout the space for a campy vibe. To drink, try the “Orange Julio,” which tastes like a creamsicle, and to eat, order one of the menu’s straightforward dishes like a smoked chicken sandwich.

Surf Bar

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Some tiki bars settle for Hawaiian-print wallpaper haphazardly strewn across a wall as decor, but Surf Bar is not one of them. With its straw-thatched roof, indoor sandbar, and surf shop-style decorations, Surf Bar goes hard on the beachy theme. Choose from a list with beers, cocktails, and tiki drinks.

A post shared by ✈️Wanderer (@nika802) on

Skinny Dennis

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Named for late country musician Skinny Dennis Sanchez, Skinny Dennis is a honky tonk bar that offers live music seven nights a week. Grab an order of the boiled peanuts while soaking in the ambiance of country and roots-style crooning in the city.

Full Circle Bar

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Full Circle Bar is a Skeeball-themed dive bar — complete with a bar made from Skeeball machine parts — that features its own machines to play. Head over on Thursdays and Sundays for free skeeball (typically $1 per game). Sunday also has a happy hour, when everything costs $4 from 11 p.m. to close.

Barcade

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Originally a Williamsburg gem, Barcade now has multiple locations in throughout the city. It attracts a loyal fanbase with an array of vintage arcade games and a robust drink selection. The bar in a former metal shop fuses craft beers and cocktails with a healthy helping of childhood nostalgia.

A post shared by Chelsea Rice (@cricee_) on

King Tai

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King Tai, a ‘40s Miami-themed bar, offers stylish tropical cocktails in a cozy Crown Heights location. Its mostly white interior is dotted with metal bar stools. The cocktail menu is kept tight, but King Tai delivers in both quality and strength. The bar also hosts weekly summer cookouts on Sundays.

A post shared by King Tai (@kingtaibar) on

Super Power

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This Crown Heights tiki bar offers tropical drinks in a relaxed environment, boosted by a backyard space. Go during happy hour for one dollar oysters, and order one of the crowd favorites like the rum and amaro-filled “Slow Reveal.”

A post shared by Melissa Hom (@melissa_hom) on

BlackTail

Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry (co-founders of The Dead Rabbit) modeled BlackTail after the Prohibition-era bars that sprouted in Havana, Cuba. The bar is in the Pier A Harbor House, offering updated takes on classic mixed drinks like the old-fashioned, sours, daiquiris, and more. Kitsch and class go hand-in-hand here.

Forgtmenot

Specializing in American diner fare, Forgtmenot is a surf shack-style bar on the Lower East side. Graffiti strewn walls bear old-timey advertisements, picture frames, and other assorted tchotchkes. For a hint of the team’s updated tastes, order the seasonal margarita.

A post shared by A L E C (@alecfuller) on

Employees Only

Opened in 2004, this retro bar doles out high-end cocktails without the pretense. While the bar isn’t so secret anymore, it still captures speakeasy vibes. Order one of the Employees Only classics like the Manhattan (Rittenhouse Rye Stirred with Italian Vermouth, Grand Marnier & Dashes of Angostura Bitters), or dabble in the “Fancy Cocktails” portion of its menu.

Mother of Pearl

Nightlife maven Ravi Derossi serves a slew of rum, cachaca, and tequila drinks at Mother of Pearl, which went vegan in 2016. The crowd favorite from the tropical-themed bar is the “shark eye,” a mixture of passion fruit, lemon, maraschino, curaçao, bourbon, and tiki bitters mixed to resemble a shark attack.

Otto's Shrunken Head

Otto’s Shrunken Head mixes Hawaiian prints, bamboo decor, live bands and djs, and rum-based cocktails. The eclectic combination has made Otto’s an East Village must-visit since its opening in 2002.

A post shared by @zofiafatale on

e's BAR

After months of renovations following the fire that ravaged the flagship location, E’s Bar reopened in May. The neighborhood bar with clear knack for game night vibes is known for craft beers, board games, trivia nights, tacos, and nostalgic rock playlists from the ‘60s through the ‘90s.

The Drift

The Drift is a Southern-themed dive in Greenpoint from the team behind The Commodore and El Cortez. It’s more relaxed than its siblings, with taxidermy arranged throughout the space for a campy vibe. To drink, try the “Orange Julio,” which tastes like a creamsicle, and to eat, order one of the menu’s straightforward dishes like a smoked chicken sandwich.

Surf Bar

Some tiki bars settle for Hawaiian-print wallpaper haphazardly strewn across a wall as decor, but Surf Bar is not one of them. With its straw-thatched roof, indoor sandbar, and surf shop-style decorations, Surf Bar goes hard on the beachy theme. Choose from a list with beers, cocktails, and tiki drinks.

A post shared by ✈️Wanderer (@nika802) on

Skinny Dennis

Named for late country musician Skinny Dennis Sanchez, Skinny Dennis is a honky tonk bar that offers live music seven nights a week. Grab an order of the boiled peanuts while soaking in the ambiance of country and roots-style crooning in the city.

Full Circle Bar

Full Circle Bar is a Skeeball-themed dive bar — complete with a bar made from Skeeball machine parts — that features its own machines to play. Head over on Thursdays and Sundays for free skeeball (typically $1 per game). Sunday also has a happy hour, when everything costs $4 from 11 p.m. to close.

Barcade

Originally a Williamsburg gem, Barcade now has multiple locations in throughout the city. It attracts a loyal fanbase with an array of vintage arcade games and a robust drink selection. The bar in a former metal shop fuses craft beers and cocktails with a healthy helping of childhood nostalgia.

A post shared by Chelsea Rice (@cricee_) on

King Tai

King Tai, a ‘40s Miami-themed bar, offers stylish tropical cocktails in a cozy Crown Heights location. Its mostly white interior is dotted with metal bar stools. The cocktail menu is kept tight, but King Tai delivers in both quality and strength. The bar also hosts weekly summer cookouts on Sundays.

A post shared by King Tai (@kingtaibar) on

Super Power

This Crown Heights tiki bar offers tropical drinks in a relaxed environment, boosted by a backyard space. Go during happy hour for one dollar oysters, and order one of the crowd favorites like the rum and amaro-filled “Slow Reveal.”

A post shared by Melissa Hom (@melissa_hom) on

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