I love themed or immersive environments, and literary eats and drinks are the best. They’re like 4D novels you move thru while eating pizza – or maybe even Chinese food. I don’t know what more you could say about it than that. Here are a few from around the world, in no particular order…
The Way Station, Brooklyn – This “Music venue and Nerdvana” has a Dr. Who thing. They’ve got a big Tardis, which is actually a restroom, a scattered array of nerdonic easter eggs, a burlesque show, music, film and TV screenings, karaoke, and – whatever else there is, they prob have it, cuz like I said, there’s a Tardis, so there’s plenty of room. THIS IS WHAT REALLY MAKES THIS PLACE AMAZING: they have a Teacher Happy Hour, with not only cheap drinks for educators, but snack packs, teacher supply gift boxes and an emergency fund for teachers which is funded by their Douche Jar (“fines charged to bar patrons for poor public behavior”). Oh my lord – what a brilliant establishment. There are also community programs of some sort. Go, give them your money; they will give you beer and support a teacher.
The Museum HR Giger Bar, Gruyeres, and HR Giger Bar, Chur (both in Switzerland – and supposedly, they’re working on building one of these stateside) – Not exactly literature, so I’m cheating with this one a bit, but The Last Bookstore is all about art, so why not? These places are phenomenal. I can’t imagine a more fully realized Giger theme without actual face-huggers and chest-bursters. The one in Chu is slightly more human-sized than the Museum one, but still rich with detail. The Museum version has that cavernous feel of the crashed ship in the first movie, with those weird vertebrate/rib veins arched as the ceiling. I don’t think I could go here and feel comfortable. Square dancing every other Friday.
Gotham City Lounge, Brooklyn – Cheap, divey, covered in comic bookish finery, nerdy, perfect – not the place to take a date unless your date is totally rad.
Jurassic Restaurant, City of Industry – This Chinese restaurant is located in charming City of Industry. It is not in the slightest related to anything officially Michael Crichton. It’s not “Jurassic Park”, just “Jurassic”, and that graphic of the silhouetted Tyrannosaurus? What a coincidence! The website is dominated by exploding volcanos. There are some pretty sizable dinosaurs, with a smattering of traditional Chinese decorations, maybe some Christmas lights, and servers dressed like Pocahontas. IT’S PERFECT.
Jekyll & Hyde Club, NYC – This is a mixture of dinner theater, Magic Castle and Chuck E Cheese for literary horror fans. It’s a loose extension of the Stevenson novel, where Jekyll/Hyde has fled to NY from London. He and his dangerous pals set up a little club/lab/den of vice where they can do what they wilt. The club has tons of props and animatronics and cool atmospheric bits. There is a regular parade of show pieces and funky weirdery happening. I can’t tell how steep the cheeze factor is, but if you’re there to have fun, I say don’t be a snob – just get into it. It beats the hell out of Olive Garden. And it’s not cheap, but at least they’re giving you more than an air of snobbery for your dollar. There have been several of these, and all but one have closed. They are pretty elaborate, so perhaps expensive to maintain Get to this one on 7th Ave while you can. You can’t really see much on the website, but if you google it, you’ll find a lot of pix and vids.
Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde, Paris & Lille – Again, not purely literary, but a mish-mash of all things geek, which includes Jules Verne, HG Wells, Lovecraft, Asimov, and – obviously – Douglas Adams. There are a few different looks, from a zombie/bunker kinda thing to a sort of Steampunky/Jules Verne deal – heavy on the Verne, because – as we’ve said before – he’s way bigger in France than here, partly because most of our translations are woefully inadequate. But the decor is not the main event: they have a bitchin scifi/fantasy library, board games, book signings, game launches, improv and anything else that’ll fit inside the building – all in French. It’s like a small, permanent Comic Con, that’s not overly corporate. Que la Force soit avec vous! Toujours. I would move into this place.
Frankenstein Pub and Bier Keller, Edinburgh – As an American, I can’t imagine a pub in the UK or Ireland that would not be thick with atmosphere; it seems like they just wouldn’t let it happen. So, add to a classic pub (hmm… maybe a bit polished) some stylized Frankenstein paraphernalia – some of it pretty large – including an animatronic Frankenstein monster on a suspended slab that sits up It’s alive!-style and a German-style beer cellar with space for an oompah band, and you’ve got this place. Plus, rugby.
Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den, Minneapolis – From the original Walking Dead books to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide, you can’t say zombies are only a TV/movie thing. This intimate place is a little light on the theming for my taste, but they do have some wall-mounted zombie heads and a few chainsaws, so they’re legit. According to their website copy, the Minneapolis zombie problem is seasonal, since the ground is only thawed enough to release its dead for a few months a year. Donny Dirk’s is the spot to hole up in during that initial wave of apocalypse.
Like with the first Literary Eats list, we’re just scratching the surface. If you can get to one of these places, go and support them. Hold your birthday party, wedding reception or product launch there. Buy their t-shirts. Your club (gaming, book, superhero team, whatever) should meet at these places, because if they are profitable enough to thrive, there will be MORE of them – and that is what counts. More themed spaces is the mission, so let’s Get some, Colonial Marines – some french fries and beer at a gaming table with a zombie head stickin’ out the wall next to some books! OOo-rahh!