The Best Bars for Gothic Lit Nerds (NYC Edition)

Some of you may know that I recently moved to New York City to begin my career in publishing. NYC is a great place to be a book nerd. Aside from the career prospects, it’s got amazing libraries, innumerable bookstores–including book-buyer’s heaven: Strand Bookstore, and constant opportunities to meet your favorite authors at book signings and events. The city is also a great place to be a goth, what with its diverse nightlife and themed bars and events. Since moving here, I’ve been looking for places where I can combine these two loves, and I discovered a surprising number of dark, literature-themed bars! Whether you’re specifically obsessed with gothic lit like me, or just a general literature nerd with a bit of a dark side, these bars provide the perfect atmosphere for indulging in languid literary musings over a decadent cocktail. I haven’t made it out to all of them yet, but I’m making my way down the list. If you’ve been to any of these before, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

1. Lovecraft Bar

This place has got some pretty amazing artwork hanging on the walls. Isn't this little Cthulhu adorable?
This place has got some pretty amazing artwork hanging on the walls. Isn’t this little Cthulhu adorable?

I’d been hearing about this awesome East Village eldritch bar for a while, and finally made it out there a couple times. I fell in love the moment I saw their appropriately-themed, tentacle-heavy menu. They’ve got a decent variety of cleverly named food, but what really caught my eye was the cocktail menu. Over half a dozen absinthe cocktails comprise a significant portion of their featured drinks. On my first visit, I ordered “The Green God” and had my absinthe served to me in flames. Another time, I sipped on some delicious Nameless Mist while my companion got a flaming Cupcake from Hell shooter. The bar often hosts a variety of gothic events, from readings by members of the Horror Writers Association to performances by local artists and masquerade balls, and I definitely plan on attending some of these in the future.

2. The Dead Poet

This is my drinking an Edgar Allan Poe.
A delicious glass of Edgar Allan Poe

This bar became one of my first evening haunts while I was attending a program in the city this past summer. Located on the Upper West Side, The Dead Poet is an Irish pub with a literary theme. The walls are adorned with bookshelves, along with portraits of and quotes from various literary figures. Each of their signature cocktails is named after a famous poet, my favorite of course being the Edgar Allan Poe. The Dead Poet is the perfect place to stop in for a drink if you’re in the area visiting the Museum of Natural History or roaming through Central Park.

3. The Headless Horseman

Appropriately located in Irving Plaza by Union Square, The Headless Horseman doubles as a brunch venue and a bar. Its stone facade and darkly lit wooden interior transport you to another era, and you can almost imagine Ichabod Crane is about to round the corner. The cocktail menu ranges from the spooky “Midnight Sky” to the literary gin drink “Writer’s Block.” I haven’t made it out here yet, but it’s definitely next on my list.

4. Dorian Gray Tap and Grill

Dorian Gray Bar
Happened to spot this while walking to Lovecraft. Next time!

I’ve made the argument before that, while not always thought of as such, Oscar Wilde is certainly a gothic writer. And nowhere is this more apparent than in one of his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The bar themed after this novel is a cozy Irish pub in the East Village, not too far from Lovecraft. The walls are decorated with framed photos of famous literary figures and the cocktail menu features a few of these writers as well. So far I’ve only walked by the place, but I definitely intend to stop in one day.

5. Death & Company

This speakeasy cocktail lounge is located in the East Village near Tompkins Square Park. Though not gothic lit themed, per se, the name is quite dark and the menu features famous literary quotes. They serve appetizers and drinks, including original craft cocktails that change several times a year. Apparently the bar is quite popular, though, as all the Yelp reviews complain of long lines. It may be a while before I make it out to this one.

I also want to give a bonus shout-out to the Jekyll & Hyde Club in Times Square, which is now closed (although the second location, in Greenwich Village, still exists). My parents took me to this restaurant/bar a couple times as a kid, but I never got to go back and appreciate the bar element. It was rather over-the-top and touristy, but that was part of the appeal. The decor featured flashy animatronic pieces that popped out of the walls to talk to you, which kept the atmosphere lively and greatly amused me when I was younger. I was disappointed to learn that the one in Times Square closed just last year, but maybe I’ll have to check the other one out.

The old Times Square location
The old Times Square location

Have you been to any of these? What did you think? Are there any other gothic and literary bars in NYC you would recommend? If you’re not in NYC, what are the darkly bookish hangouts in your city? Let me know in the comments!


One thought on “The Best Bars for Gothic Lit Nerds (NYC Edition)”

  1. There’s something about the way you write about them, that makes me want to go to ALL of these beverage establishments with you!

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