Bars already have the best theme: you show up and you get drunk with your bros. Can’t beat that. But occasionally, it’s fun to mix it up a little bit and head to a true theme bar. That way, you can pretend for a few hours that you’re not just a degenerate alcoholic. And let’s face it, you’re not going to meet too many hot, single women in the hidden shadows of Moe’s Tavern.
And so whether you’re a functional alcoholic in search of a slightly less depressing environment, or just a casual pub crawler looking for something a little more extravagant, you can’t do any better than one of the following theme bars. Whether you’re a man of mystery, possibly undead, or just a huge dork, there’s something out there for you.
Apotheke – New York City
The Apotheke isn’t some flashy Times Square tourist trap. No, it’s located on a hard to find street in Chinatown, and is a weird mixture of a medieval apothecary and an old school European Absinthe den. That’s pretty cool, right? Once inside, the drinks are presented as potions and remedies, and as the menu says, “Our ingredients are house-made daily, using organic and local produce, herbs and botanicals.” I mean, if you’re going to go full hipster, this is how you do it.
Each drink – or potion – is labeled according to the malady it’s meant to treat – Health and Beauty, Stress Relievers, Pain Killers, Aphrodisiacs, etc. – and, of course, they also have Absinthe. It’s not cheap – cocktail pitchers run around $150 – but can you really put a price on your health and well-being?
Thomas Foolery – Washington D.C.
Let’s face it, kids of the 80’s and 90’s will never, ever grow up. We’re all going to be teenagers forever. Just blame your parents. It’s what teenagers do. And so it makes sense that one of the most beloved theme bars out there these days is Thomas Foolery (Get it? Tomfoolery?) in Washington D.C.
Its theme is officially the 80’s, but it’s really about childhood nostalgia from anytime in the last 30 years. I mean, they have Mario Kart Wii, which I don’t remember from 1989. But they also have skee-ball, mini-basketball and all sorts of games that you played when you were a kid, along with food like grilled-cheese sandwiches, and, uh, all the booze you remember from childhood. Okay, so maybe not everything is childhood-themed.
Of course, since the whole thing is basically heaven for giant man-babies, they have specials like “Angry Hour,” during which you can get $1 off of any drink if you order in your best angry voice. Pretty ridiculous, right? But let’s not bullshit here, okay? Anyplace that lets you get shitfaced and play skee-ball with your bros is gonna end up on this list. That’s just a rule I have.
The Edison – Los Angeles
The Edison is basically the yin to Thomas Foolery’s yang in that while the ol’ Foolery is all about childhood nostalgia, The Edison is all about nostalgia for a time when grownups were actual grownups and not forever trapped in tennis shoes and baseball caps. Its theme is basically a 1920’s speakeasy, but not just any old speakeasy. No, The Edison is all about capturing that old school Hollywood glamor.
That means that if you’re gonna roll at The Edison, you’re gonna have to roll in style. The club officially “encourages” a little dress up by giving higher preference to customers who embrace the theme with their dress, and if you still can’t take a hint, The Edison demands that at a minimum all bros get themselves a little classed up and roll in a collared shirt and dress shoes. Leave the jerseys and hoodies at home, fellas.
Above all, The Edison’s theme is old school style and class, and in a world where those two things seem to be in short supply, you can see the appeal.
The Lovecraft – Portland, Oregon
Look, if you’re a horror fan, the name alone should tell you that you’re in the right place. Named after iconic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft – the man who brought the world Cthulhu – The Lovecraft celebrates all things horror, which creates an appropriately weird and cool setting for their bar/dance club.
There are a lot of bars and clubs out there that celebrate the upbeat and all the shiny, happy people that need that sort of thing, but there’s only one bar with an “Unhappy Hour” and that’s The Lovecraft. It’s a bar for everyone else, for those not afraid to dance with the dark side and have a good time while doing it. I mean, come on, are you gonna argue with Cthulhu? I didn’t think so.
Noir Lounge – San Francisco
The name says it all. If you’re into 40’s era noir, then this is the place for you. Craft beers and local wine is on the menu, but the real attraction is the cool ambience provided by a piano bar, jazz music and a set-up designed to invoke a real film-noir feel.
This is another bar in which it’s okay to behave like an actual adult for a night. Or at least pretend for a few hours anyway. Come to the Noir Lounge and embrace your inner Humphrey Bogart. Who knows? You might even get the girl. Well, before she betrays you anyway and leaves you tangled in a vicious web of lies and regret. But it wouldn’t be noir otherwise, now would it?
Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den – Minneapolis
Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den has a real Vegas lounge vibe – if everyone in Vegas had suddenly developed a craving for brains and madness, that is.
Yes, if you’re a zombie lover – and who isn’t, these days? – then this is your bar. I mean, come on, what is a bar if not a place to scramble your brain and leave you lurching down the street, moaning at strangers? You might as well go all the way with it.
But aside from the décor, the Zombie Den is also renowned for its excellent cocktails and for having a friendly staff that both gets into the theme and makes you feel welcome. Sure, they probably just want to gnaw on your brains, but that’s what the alcohol is for. Don’t be a prude.
Frost Ice Bar – Boston
No theme bar is cooler than this – literally. That’s because it’s kept at a constant 21 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m sorry for the bad pun, but it was right there, okay? You would have thought less of me if I didn’t take it.
Anyway, it’s hard to find a bar that’s not just literally this cool, but figuratively as well. It’s basically like getting drunk inside of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. That’s because everything from the walls to the furniture to the bar itself is made of ice. You’re not going to have to worry about your beer getting warm here.
Of course, since you’re a human being and not the Man of Steel, you’re going to need to dress warm. Thankfully, the bar provides an insulated parka and gloves for each costumer, so they’ve got you covered. Again, literally. I just can’t stop.
This is really a bar where you can chill (can’t stop, won’t stop, nuh uh, nuh uh) with your friends for a while, but really, it’s more about the experience itself. I mean, who doesn’t want to say that they got drunk in an actual ice bar? And that, more than anything – the experience – is what a theme bar is all about.