Wouldn’t ya love to go back to the Mad Men
-era ’60s, all beehive hairdos and the Bunny Hop? How about the fabulous ‘40s, with its pin-up girls, Humphrey Bogart flicks and all that jazz, or the totally rad ‘80s, a time when you could wear stirrup pants, shoulder pads and
a scrunchied ponytail all at the same time and get away with it? Unfortunately time travel’s still impossible, but luckily for New Yorkers, you don’t need a tricked-out DeLorean to go back decades. Have your own Marty McFly moment at these throwback bars, dives that will transport you to bygone days from the not-so-distant ‘90s all the way to the flapper-tastic ‘20s. After kickin’ it old school at these retro spots, you'll never want to return to this century!
From The Artist
and Midnight in Paris
in theaters to flapper fashions on the runways, ‘20s nostalgia is roaring all over the city, but no where do you feel the flapper fever more than at slick ‘n’ sneaky LES speakeasy, Back Room. Throw on some Gatsby garb and follow in the footsteps of past prohibition rebels: through a gate trickily touting “Lower East Side Toy Co,” down a sketchy alley and past a peephole-outfitted door lies a down-low den that looks straight out of Boardwalk Empire
. Boasting antique furniture, candlestick telephones and tin ceilings, the dapper digs are as period-perfect as the potables they’re slyly plying, like ‘tails hidden in teacups and brown-bagged beer bottles. Settle into a plush couch and hoist a spirit-filled espresso cup to all the stealthy sippers who came before you!
Back Room 102 Norfolk St. Bt. Delancey & Rivington Sts. (Lower East Side) 212.228.5098
Got a grumpy grandpa always grumbling, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”? He’ll be eating more than his words when you take him to Minetta Tavern, a ’37-vintage Village relic lovingly restored by restaurateur Keith “Balthazar
” McNally. Aside from the addition of McNally’s trademark red banquettes, the sepia-toned, time-capsule interior remains intact, from the buffed oak bar where white-aproned ‘tenders shake up dry martinis ($15) to the smoke-stained fresco featuring portraits of famous past patrons, like lit legends e.e. cummings and Ernest Hemingway. Park your keister in a booth and get blotto off giggle water (that’s booze, for you not hip-to-the-jive folks) and grub like the infamous $26 “Black Label Burger.” Sure, prices may not be Depression-worthy, but with fab old-fashioned fare like this, you’ll be saying “crisis, schmisis! Pass the ketchup.”
Minetta Tavern 113 MacDougal St. Bt. W. 3rd & Bleecker Sts. (Greenwich Village) 212.475.3850
Let’s just forget about that whole WWII/nuclear destruction/double-digit unemployment rate thing for a second and instead think of the 1940s as a golden age of swing jazz, film noir and Rita Hayworth-style glamour
, shall we? That’s the M.O. of Winston’s Champagne Bar, taking the best memories of the era and shaking ‘em up into a swank concoction of old-timey opulence, Art Deco décor, Lena Horne classics and flutes brimming with bubbly. Bow-tied bartenders dole out Dom, Diebolt and over 100 other vintage champagnes in crystal chillers to well-heeled swillers, while someone tickles a tune on the canary-yellow baby grand by the door. After grabbing yourself some caviar and a signature champagne cocktail ($22), ascend the spiral staircase to the overlooking balcony and take in the ‘40s feel in all its champagne-soaked glory.
Winston’s Champagne Bar @ The Gansevoort Park Ave. 420 Park Ave. S. @ 29th St. (Flatiron) 212.929.9070
Always wanted to be a Pink Lady? Get your Grease
on at pompadours-n-pink slips downtown dive, Motor City. Amidst ‘50s biker signs, a Mustang wall mural, license-plate-lined walls and car-seat couches that’ll take you back to simpler times of backseat bingo at Lover’s Lane, you’ll find rockabilly babes, greaser gearheads and the requisite rebels without a cause spewing about their souped-up set of wheels over cheap beers at the cash-only bar. Grab a stool amongst the leather-clad crowd and tap your motorcycle boot to some of that rock and roll music (any old way you choose it!) courtesy of a dude spinning records in the corner. After some ‘50s fun at this Motown-themed den, take flight home in your Thunderbird convertible à la Danny and Sandy…oh fine, the F will have
Motor City 127 Ludlow St. Bt. Delancey & Rivington Sts. (Lower East Side) 212.358.1595
Hey mama, welcome to the ‘60s! Okay, so you won’t find Tracy Turnblad & co. at Beauty Bar, but you will find a whole lot of hairspray at the swingin’ '60s-inspired salon-turned-saloon, from the kitschy Aqua Net décor to the aerosol wafting from the old-school, chrome-domed dryers that have seen many a blue-rinsed bouffant. Alas, you can’t get a beehive there anymore, but you can get a good buzz, thanks to the bar’s $10 “Martinis & Manicures” happy hour (7-11pm), with parlor-themed potables like a “Platinum Blonde” (Malibu rum, OJ, cherries and hot pepper) to go along with your mod mani. Between the glittery Pepto-pink walls, vintage salon gear, pumping retro tracks and cocktails strong enough to get even Don Draper goin,’ you’ll want to pop by as often as your grandma used to for her weekly groom-and-gossip session.
Beauty Bar 231 E. 14th St. Bt. 2nd & 3rd Aves. (East Village) 212.539.1389
They should really rename LES spot Welcome to the Johnsons “That ‘70s Bar.” After all, Kelso, Fez and that merry band of smokers, jokers and midnight tokers would feel right at home at the dingy dive, whose retro rec-room digs will transport you back to days of high-school house parties in your buddy’s basement. Adding to the late ‘70s suburban vibe are faux wood-paneled walls, plastic-covered furniture, a crappy old TV complete with stacks of VHS tapes, and tattered tchotchkes like awkward family photos and old trophies that look like they were just unearthed from boxes in your attic. Party like your parents aren’t home with dirt-cheap beer, well-worn pool tables, free Doritos, and a jukebox blaring Sabbath—the only thing missing is a little somethin’ somethin’
wafting in the air, if you know what we mean.
Welcome to the Johnsons 123 Rivington St. Bt. Essex & Norfolk Sts. (Lower East Side) 212.420.9911
Relive the decade when Madonna was a “virgin” (ha!), Molly Ringwald was the reigning screen queen, and everything was just a little bit bigger, louder and brighter with four floors of 80s-tastic fun (spandex optional!) at Culture Club. The Rainbow Brite club boasts Pac Man paintings, Madonna and Michael Jackson wall decals, oversized Rubik’s Cubes, posters of The Breakfast Club
and Risky Business
, and a twentysomething crowd doing the Cabbage Patch to songs even older than they are. Impress with your moonwalk, then grab your Brat Pack for some some tasty themed ‘tails at the bar. Feel the need for speed? You’ll have to settle for the “Top Gun" (vodka and energy drink, $14). After some “Slippery When Wet” shots, it’s best to take cab home—crimped hair and legwarmers on the subway wasn’t a cute look then and it definitely
Culture Club 20 W. 39th St. Bt. 5th & 6th Aves. (Midtown West) 212.921.1999
The early ‘90s were 20 years ago (jeez, we’re getting old!) but you better dust off those Docs and fish that Angela Chase-style flannel from the back of your closet because we’re diving deep into the decade at Brooklyn bar Commonwealth. Past the outdoor chalkboard boasting Kafka quotes you moodily memorized in high school, the Slope spot features exposed brick, framed concert flyers, a wall of “Brutally Honest Personal Ads,” and, best of all, a sublime jukebox stocked with handmade mixes of ‘90s alt, indie rock and emo. Drown your sorrow over the divorce of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore with fellow indie-lovers at the bar, or throw a quad in the juke and play that Pavement song that reminds you of nights spent listening to the radio in your Jared Leto-lite boyfriend’s crappy car. Good times, good times.
Commonwealth 497 5th Ave. @ 12th St. (Park Slope) 718.768.2040