From the bright neon lights of Times Square to iconic buildings that touch the sky, New York City is anything but ordinary. Yet, with so much personality thriving in one place, getting noticed is easier said than done. These 11 themed bars, while perhaps not as well known as Jekyll and Hyde or Ninja, are some of New York’s most decadent.
Beauty Bar: best manicure bar
Choosing between a manicure and a cocktail is a tough decision for a pampered New Yorker, but at Beauty Bar you can get both for $10 during their 'martinis and manicures' happy hour. Slurp down one of their creative cocktails like the Platinum Blonde, the Red Head or the Bright Pink while sitting underneath an eccentric chrome-domed hair dryer. This joint was actually a hair salon at one time, which adds another layer of authenticity.
Cloister Cafe: best medieval bar
It’s hard to believe that a bar based on the medieval period could attract so many hipsters but that’s exactly what you can expect at this East Village institution (www.cloistercafe.com). There are three different dining areas: the outdoor garden, the dining room and the hookah lounge. Gargoyles and swords help create the mood, and the stained-glass windows were acquired after a nearby church underwent renovations.
Lillie’s: best Victoriana bar
At first glance one might assume that Lillie’s is a classic Irish pub but this bar and restaurant actually coins itself a ‘Victorian Establishment’. Plush red sofas, a long elegant bar, feminine statues and framed photographs take you straight back to the days of Queen Victoria’s peaceful rule. There are two locations and both are quite similar in ambiance and popularity.
675: best billiards and library bar
Located within steps of Meatpacking’s most exclusive nightclubs, 675 couldn’t be more different to its glamorous neighbors. This underground hotspot feels as comfortable as your basement but far more decadent. If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the vintage-themed cubbyholes, make use of your private nook. You might end up in a library, or maybe a billiards room stacked with board games.
Apotheke: best apothecary bar
Doyers St by day is hardly noteworthy, but come nightfall, everything changes. Still a secret bar but quickly gaining global recognition, Apotheke serves 'prescriptions' rather than drinks and has bartenders dressed like apothecaries from 19th-century Paris. Choose among aphrodisiacs, stress relievers, euphoric enhancers and other alcoholic remedies.
Réunion: best surf bar
Manhattan may be an island, but it’s not exactly known for its white sandy beaches and surf-worthy waves. If you can’t hop on the next flight to Hawaii, a few drinks at Réunion Bar (www.reunionbar.com) is the next best thing. Surf boards, colored light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, vibrant ocean-blue painted walls, and arrows pointing to Malibu, Montauk and Réunion create a friendly atmosphere.
Rodeo: best rodeo bar
New York can often feel like a rodeo of its own, but this Mexican and Southwestern bar takes things to a whole new level. Despite having a classy Gramercy address, Rodeo Bar is the ultimate honky-tonk experience. Live country and bluegrass music, cheap margaritas, fried bar food and peanuts you can shell and toss on the ground make this place one of a kind.
Gotham City Lounge: best comic book bar
Bushwick may not be Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhood, but it definitely has plenty of points of interest. Look for Gotham City Lounge under the elevated M-train tracks and ring the buzzer for entrance. The lounge often feels cramped but is covered in superhero posters, figurines and other comic memorabilia. Drink a beer and sift through comic books from your youth.
Gallery Bar: best gallery bar
As its name suggests, this Lower East Side venue is both a gallery and a bar. In a neighborhood mainly comprised of indie music venues and underground speakeasies, Gallery Bar (gallerybarnyc.com) is a breath of fresh air. The upstairs feels like an art oasis, with a long, sleek bar and leather seating, while downstairs is more of a party spot. Exhibits change about every two weeks, with opening receptions scheduled for Fridays.
Slaughtered Lamb Pub: best villain's bar
Vampires might be everywhere in pop culture these days, but at the Slaughtered Lamb Pub (slaughteredlambpub.com) werewolves take center stage. This is certainly a tourist hangout, especially during Halloween, but with the dark decor, eerie lounge and dungeon complete with a dart board – plus an extensive list of bottled beers and seasonal drafts – it’s not hard to see the appeal.
Trailer Park Lounge: best campfire bar
If you happened to grow up near a trailer park, this joint (trailerparklounge.com) may feel like a walk down memory lane, especially with the absurd amount of white-trash memorabilia staring you in the face. There is even a fake trailer built into the wall and a bathtub filled with beer. Besides the quirky decorations, the reason most patrons stop by is for the hot dogs and hamburgers.
This article was updated in October 2017.