In New York City’s East Village there is a restaurant that pays homage to the films of Tim Burton as well as to the efforts of restaurateurs to bring happiness to a pandemic-beleaguered city. The good news is that as of 2/27/2021, restaurants in the Big Apple increased their indoor dining capacity to 35%. So, there is a creepy light at the end of this tunnel.
Beetle House NYC, East Village
Beetle House NYC (308 East 6th Street) has increased not only the seating capacity but also the energy level. The gothic edifice features a large window which displays a skeleton draped in red lights. Upon closer inspection, one notices that the skeleton is holding a baby skeleton with angel wings. As the soon-to-be patron takes in this image, it is possible to be greeted by Jack Skellington (or an actor dressed as the part), the star of Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The charismatic fellow is an instant draw for the restaurant with his pet skeleton dog Zero in tow, whose lighted nose parallels Santa’s more cheery counterpart.
Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas
Jack is as he appears in the movie, jovial and kind-hearted with all the best intentions. He leads the patrons into the restaurant where reality gets suspended for a while (other than the mandatory temperature check). The decor is instantly both alarming and pleasing, reminiscent of the thrill one had when approaching the scary neighbor’s house on Halloween, knowing the candy payoff is worth the momentary fright. The bar is decorated by two huge skulls, Burtonesque lighting, and a few extra skeletons thrown in for good measure.
The bar at Beetle House, NYC
The walk into the dining area is visually stimulating, as if Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas and, of course, BeetleJuice were all appearing in one glorious dream. Before arriving at the table, it is likely that the guests will be met by the alter ego of the sweet and mild Jack. Dressed in a black and white striped jacket and pants, with zombie-like facial makeup, Beetlejuice (or an actor who studied the irreverence of Michael Keaton’s morbid and often obscene title character), approaches like a freight train to scare and disgust everyone within earshot – but it is wildly entertaining. Beetlejuice and Jack even take verbal potshots at each other with the former getting the better of the two, and the latter threatening eventual revenge. This is like Tony and Tina’s Wedding meets Night of the Living Dead.
Once the smoke clears, and the waiter can explain the prix fixe menu (appetizer, main course and dessert for $50), drinks are ordered and the metaphor is extended. The drink menu is quite creative. Cookies and Scream, Bio-exorcism, The Beetle’s Juice, and We Come in Peace are just a small sample of the unique libations served.
Cocktail at Beetle House, NYC
The food is more fun than unforgettable, but fun seems to be the mood of the night, and unforgettable is inherent. Appetizers of Willy Wings and Jack’s Jambalaya Risotto spice up the early part of the meal. Edward Burger Hands and Bloom’s Big Fish are perfect for the land or sea lovers. A vanilla trifle sweetened the ending of the meal, leaving the diner satisfied and smiling. The smiles are partly due to the frequent visits to the table by actors decked out in costumes based upon Tim Burton’s signature idiom – creatures we can’t help but love.
Jack’s Jambalaya Risotto
The mesmerizing evening can ultimately be credited to the vision of Zach Neil, restaurateur, best selling author, investor and all-around inspiring man. With a portfolio of 20 businesses including hot pop culture restaurants in NYC and LA, and in preparation of the release of his second book, Slashers: Killer Plant-Based Meals, Zach has also launched a new program called Re-invest in Mainstreet with a focus on women owned and women of color owned businesses. The program identifies business owners who need financial assistance and mentorship to stay afloat and thrive from the devastating consequences of the pandemic.
It is not surprising that the bones of this creepy dining experience are held together with concern for the well-being of others. Aligned with the tongue-in-cheek horror of Tim Burton’s live and animated productions, Beetle House succeeds in creating a cinematic and gustatory experience that transmits joy even at the gravest of times.
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