The 20 Most Unique Restaurants and Bars in New York City
New York City is full of unique experiences, and the dining scene is no exception. The offerings range from whimsical to historic to quirky to international to modern.
When in NYC, be sure to make the most of your culinary experience. Visit any of these restaurants for an unforgettable memory. I’ve divided the restaurant and bar suggestions into subcategories to give you a better sense of direction (Quirky, Cozy (and Cluttered), Back in Time, Kinda Spooky Kinda Dark Akademia, American Movie IRL, For Sweet Tooth, International, With A View and Experimental).
And as always, there is a map at the end of this article with all the places mentioned. Have fun expanding your taste buds and diving into new worlds.
Unique NYC Restaurants & Bars
Quirky, Cozy (and Cluttered)
1. Trailer Park Lounge
The Trailer Park Lounge is an eclectic mix of vintage furniture and decor. A (working) jukebox, Elvis, street signs, twinkling lights and more embellish the lounge. They describe themselves as “…a good-natured parody with questionable taste!”
And the menu consists mainly of American classics like burgers and sandwiches and creative, delicious cocktails.
2. Surf Bar
Another creatively designed place is the Surf Bar.
As the name suggests, the theme here is surfing. On the menu you’ll find clam chowder, crab tacos, steak frits and other surf-and-turf classics, as well as a selection of Mexican dishes. And, of course, frozen and rum cocktails.
Back in Time
3. The Cauldron NYC Magical Pub
Ready for some magic? In this pub you can try magic drinks and even make your own potions! (You need to book these classes in advance on the website).
They also serve afternoon tea – what more could you want as a magical creature?
4. Lillie's Victorian Establishment
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment has two locations in NYC that will transport you to another time. It’s the perfect place for a weekend brunch or a swanky dinner in a beautiful historic atmosphere.
5. Beauty & Essex
An innovative design with a magnificent exterior facade. Enter a pawnshop and make your way to the dining room, bar, or lounge. Innovative small share dining with exquisite dishes.
6. Burp Castle
Coming from historic bougie to historic… traditional. The Burp Castle offers beer specialties from around the world in a rustic setting.
Kinda Spooky Kinda Dark Akademia
7. Jekyll and Hyde Club
The Jekyll and Hyde Club is a themed restaurant based on the 1886 English Gothic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Spooky ambiance with American (albeit quite expensive) cuisine. Accompanied by constant live entertainment and special effects. If you are a horror fan, this might be the place for you.
8. House of Wax
If you haven’t had enough spookiness, head to House of Wax for a drink. The bar with the macabre flavor. It features a selection of wax figures, such as life-size, realistic depictions of anatomy, pathology, anthropology, and even celebrity death masks, all in a late 19th century setting.
American Movie IRL
9. Ellen's Stardust Diner
Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a retro themed restaurant from the 1950s. An exaggerated vision of what you would have expected from America based on old movies. With lots of retro decor and live shows to keep you entertained while you enjoy some American Diner classics.
10. Tom's Restaurant
A more classic American diner known mostly for its exterior, it stood in for Jerry’s regular spot, Monk’s Cafe, in Seinfeld. It’s also said to have been the inspiration for the song “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega. (If you don’t know the song, Google it, chances are you actually do.)
But even without its pop culture fame, the restaurant is definitely worth a visit.
It’s a charming family restaurant that has been proudly serving guests since the 1940s. If you’ve ever wanted to go out for a “typical” American meal, this is the place for you!
For Sweet Tooth
11. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain is housed in a 1920s Brooklyn pharmacy. The only drug you can get here now is sugar. Being popular for their ice cream creations, people flock here to get their sugar fix in a charming vintage setting.
12. Max Brenner New York
If your choice of drug is chocolate, Max Brenner is the spot to go. Here you can buy chocolate, eat chocolate and drink chocolate. All your chocolate dreams will be fulfilled.
13. Serendipity 3
This might actually be my favorite candy heaven. Bright, colorful and whimsical design with desserts so creative that you can’t help but think you’re in Alice in Wonderland.
14. Thai Villa
I’m not going to lie, I chose this restaurant because of the amazing interior design. I mean, the Thai food served there is amazing too, but have you seen the leaf chandelier?
15.Tokyo Record Bar
Another place with exquisite decor is Tokyo Record Bar. Especially the floral ceilings give this place a special flair. Here you can enjoy freshly prepared, high-quality Japanese food and listen to good music in the underground listening room.
My love for pierogies is big, so this Ukrainian restaurant can’t be missing from this list. It serves traditional Ukrainian food in a hip atmosphere.
With A View
17. The River Café
Located on a boat, The River Café is an upscale American restaurant with French-inspired furnishings. It is located on the Brooklyn Bridge and offers you a fantastic view of the New York skyline.
Speaking of beautiful views, Manhatta in Manhattan offers a spectacular view of the city. It also serves gourmet dishes and drinks.
19. Syndicated Bar Theater Kitchen
The Syndicated Bar Theater Kitchen offers everything: a bar, a cinema and a restaurant. Serving seasonal American cuisine, snacks, beer and cocktails. In addition to the indoor cinema, there is an outdoor cinema where free nightly screenings are held. No tickets are required for this, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
This is probably the only place on this list that doesn’t serve food, but the fantastic cocktails in this nostalgic speakeasy design are definitely worth a visit.
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