Last Friday, two Verge staffers embarked on a potentially misguided journey to a new Tim Burton-themed bar in New York City. This is their experience.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: Good morning, Lizzie! Remember this weekend, when we went to Beetle House, the Beetlejuice / Tim Burton-themed bar in Manhattan's East Village? I mostly remember it, except for the parts that happened after I ate half a chocolate bar soaked in a gallon of vodka.
Lizzie Plaugic: It was a good time! Or maybe it was a bad time. Like most Tim Burton movies, the experience improved in direct correlation to how much alcohol we drank. Luckily for us (and for the economy of Beetle House) the drinks were strong and we drank a lot of them. But when we first walked in, I quickly felt as if we had made a terrible mistake. The entire restaurant is basically a hallway, most of which was occupied by the bar itself and decorations best described as "art printed out from Google images."
Kaitlyn: I sort of liked the decorations — it was a pretty solid 50 / 50 split between Hot Topic and Disney's Haunted Mansion ride, two places where I spent many happy childhood hours. There were vintage-looking chandeliers, purple strip lights, several pieces of framed Edward Scissorhands fan art, and a pair of metal legs coming out of the wall! But now that you've brought up the part where we walked into Beetle House, let's talk about how stressful our first five minutes there were. When we arrived, we were told that Beetle House tables are available by reservation only. This perturbed us both, as we had tried three times to get a reservation but nobody answers the phone at Beetle House. A waitress in a Halloween party store "pirate wench" costume (I think) was loathe to seat us, but she did so anyway. Our table was located in the space between the hostess stand / coffee pots and the kitchen / bathrooms, a space that was not large enough for it. I loved our table because it gave us a good view of where the staff kept their personal items, such as EOS lip balm, cigarette lighters, and Dr. Pepper, but it was very cramped.
The view from the cranny we sat in at Beetle House NYC.
Lizzie: Our waitress seemed upset by our existence, but I tried not to take it personally — I think she was upset by the existence of every person in Beetle House, including her own. When she finally shoved us into our tiny servant's table she asked us, "Are you guys okay?" in the way you would speak to someone who had just gutted a cat at the Thanksgiving dinner table. At that point, the correct answer to her question would've been, "No, we are not okay." But that is not the answer anyone wants to hear! So we said, "Yeeeah," in an unconvincing way. I did not feel okay because a) We had just shoved dollar pizza down our throats while walking to Beetle House and b) "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas was playing on the speakers — a song I never want to hear in any situation, much less in a bar that resembles a Russian funeral home.
beetle house is pretty much disney's haunted mansion but in a hallway
Kaitlyn: Our waitress certainly did not like us, which hurt our feelings. Some people whose feelings weren't hurt? Everyone else in the bar! There were couples in Jack Skellington T-shirts and Beetlejuice-inspired striped blazers, 10-year-olds eating $14 house salads, and tourists in windbreakers, all of whom looked like they were having the time of their lives. It was an odd crowd for a Friday night in the East Village, which is usually a haven for hip young New Yorkers who would like to stumble into Jesse Eisenberg on the street and pretend not to care. The only songs I remember hearing on the speakers were the Lana Del Rey song from the soundtrack of Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby, the Talking Heads song that is on the 13 Going on 30 soundtrack, and Harry Belafonte's "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," which is from a critical scene in Beetlejuice. Everyone got up and danced to it, including our BEST FRIEND...
Lizzie: Jimmy! Also known as a man paid by the bar to dress up in a Beetlejuice costume, head crust and all. Jimmy was very good at doing that mucus-y Michael Keaton voice, but when we asked him if it hurt his throat to keep talking like that, he said yes, and switched to his normal voice. I appreciated Jimmy for his ability to transition so seamlessly from horny dead guy to slightly less horny aspiring actor slash house painter.
Kaitlyn: "Slightly less horny" is probably key to note here, for reasons we can return to later. After we talk about how much alcohol we consumed. My first cocktail of the night was a "chocolate chocolate martini," which contained vanilla vodka (MOSTLY), chocolate liqueur, cream, creme de cocoa, a third of a Hershey's bar and probably 4,982 calories. It tasted like chocolate milk that had been whisked and supplemented with a pint of vodka. I drank the whole thing.
Lizzie: I got a drink called the Glen or Glenda, which is apparently a reference to the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood. According to the menu, it contained "tequila, mango purée, citrus, agave, chipotle powder, Peychaud's bitters, and a rosemary garnish." It was good, and, like yours, did not skimp on the alcohol, but unlike yours, wasn't sweet enough to resemble a dessert. Your drink definitely tasted like a chocolate milkshake with vodka in it, which is the perfect beverage for a high schooler, or really anyone who wants to feel like they've snuck illicit substances into a Johnny Rocket's.
Kaitlyn: Thank you. Your drink tasted delightful: spicy like a hot wing, and fruity like a Gatorade. Our editor, Emily Yoshida perused the cocktail menu before we embarked on this outing and said "YOU HAVE TO GET THIS" about something called the Big Fish Bowl (this is a not-immediately-obvious reference to the film Big Fish, which I didn't pick up on for 54 hours). It was a fish bowl that contained vodka, Malibu rum, blue curacao, sweet-and-sour mix, pineapple juice, Sprite, Nerds candy, and Swedish Fish. Lizzie, I think you noted beforehand that the recipe was similar to lean. That's an illicit substance, so I have no idea if you're right. In reality, I think the Fish Bowl was 100 parts Malibu rum to zero parts anything else. Our friend Jimmy was a little hurt because I said it tasted like suntan lotion, to which he snarkily replied, "How do you know what suntan lotion tastes like?" Then he brought us a stemless wine glass with 11 extra Swedish Fish candies in it. He loved us.
beetlejuice aka jimmy loved us
Lizzie: Jimmy said he got in trouble because the bartender told him those 11 Swedish Fish cost $30! If that is true, Swedish Fish are a form of currency that most of the world has wildly misjudged in value. I think I'll start buying more Swedish Fish, because you're basically buying money!
Kaitlyn: Jimmy was very put-upon by his coworkers, I sensed. He showed us his acting headshot and I tried to compliment him by saying, "You could be a Baldwin cousin." He didn't take it as a compliment, even after I drunkenly shouted, "DON'T YOU REMEMBER WHAT A BABE ALEC BALDWIN WAS IN BEETLEJUICE?" Instead, he walked away and didn't talk to us for 10 minutes. Speaking of Beetlejuice, we drank a cocktail called The Beetle's Juice. In it, there was muddled blackberry and limes, blackberry schnapps, tequila, bitters, and cranberry juice. I don't think I need to tell you that it was mostly tequila.
Lizzie: The Beetle's Juice tasted like a 7-Eleven Slurpee with tequila in it, continuing Beetle House's tradition of serving cocktails best suited for high school students drinking out of big plastic to-go cups. We also felt obligated (by Beetle House's reservation-only seating policy and by the amount of alcohol we drank) to request some kind of solid food. We ordered an item called Beetle Bread, which seemed to be the most on-theme, and was also the cheapest thing on the menu. It was basically pizza.
Kaitlyn: It was acceptable bruschetta with slabs of melted mozzarella on top. We shared it with our friend, The Verge's Ashley Carman, who followed us there for some reason. She pointed out that the silverware in Beetle House was seriously odd. Here is a photo:
Lizzie: It was warm! Acceptable bruschetta is not warm, in my opinion. The forks were weird, but why were we given forks, anyway?
Kaitlyn: Oh, interesting. Who knows? Maybe to defend ourselves from Jimmy, who got a little too familiar as the night went on. By "familiar," I mean that he was comfortable placing a plastic robot cockroach on my lower spine and whispering in your ear.
Lizzie: He whispered into the back of my neck, which is even more intimate than the ear, if you ask me. After that, we decided we had had enough Beetle House for the night, and possibly for a lifetime, and the lifetimes of all our offspring.
A photograph of us with Jimmy, taken before he broke character to become our friend but long after we started drinking.
Kaitlyn: And yet we stayed and asked Jimmy about his favorite movie, his favorite Michael Keaton movie, his favorite ‘90s band, and whether or not he had listened to the new Chance the Rapper mixtape. Answers: Paris Texas, Multiplicity, The Cure, and "I've heard a few songs," which was a lie.
Lizzie: Whenever you say, "Oh, I've heard a few songs," and wave at flies in the air that aren't really there, you're lying. Somewhat serendipitously, we later found out that Chance himself is something of a Burton buff.
Thank Tim Burton For So Much Inspiration https://t.co/rld5QqeqWS— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) May 22, 2016
Kaitlyn: Our bill came to $75, which is a lot of money, but we still felt we should add a generous tip, in hopes that some of the money would make its way to Jimmy. He breathed on us, but he also brought us candy, so. Anyway, let's wrap this up! Who should go to Beetle House, Lizzie?
Lizzie: The people who should go to Beetle House are: people whose favorite Blink-182 lyric is "We can live like Jack and Sally if we want," haunted house employees, people who can't get into the nearby Will Ferrell-themed bar, wealthy teenagers with fake IDs, and Chance the Rapper.
Kaitlyn: I had a great time. If you're me, you should go there. If you don't want to go there, you should still make frothy chocolate milk with copious amounts of vodka.