Midtown Happy Hour: Barcelona Bar Nothing Like the Actual Barcelona

If you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week, our Happy Hour Correspondent posts about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap.

A few weeks back, one of our ML readers graciously compiled a list of suggestions for ML Happy Hour in the comments section of a post on Jimmy’s Grill and Bar. The suggestion that really caught my eye was Barcelona Bar (8th Ave. btw. 54th and 55th). I went to their website, where the 4-7pm happy hour specials: $3 Bud Light drafts, $4 domestic bottles, and $4 wells were clearly advertised. It looked like a decent deal. The site described the bar as “A Barcelona-style shot bar in NYC”. Shots. Not my bag, but that’s fine. They must also have all the wonderful things you would find in actual Barcelona, right? Tapas, cava, tempranillo, maybe a little Ibiza-style trance music… can’t wait.

But the only thing Barcelona about the bar are the pictures of Gaudi architecture and an homage (in the medium of Legos, I might add) to Snowflake, the albino gorilla and the main attraction at the Barcelona Zoo until his death by skin cancer in 2003. On the website, they even have a short “bio” of Snowflake, with a little picture of him with a shot glass ‘shopped in.

So how ‘bout those tapas I was looking forward to? Not there. Not even one little patata; the bar doesn’t serve food. Trance music? No such luck. They had Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” playin’ when I walked in, followed by “Paradise City” by Guns N Roses, and the vibe stayed the same throughout my stay. Cava or Tempranillo? I didn’t even ask when I saw the boards on the back wall with the names and ingredients listed of what seemed like hundreds of shots. Shots are clearly their specialty. (You can find more information about the shots on their website.)

In my visits to Barcelona over the years when I worked as a contractor for a cruise line, I never happened upon a shot bar. But after some research I found that there is one shot bar in Barcelona, Espit Chupitos. This must be the “Barcelona-style bar” they speak of.

At this point I’m going to forget the real Barcelona, and shift my thinking to all the good things about Barcelona Bar in our own New York, because this could definitely be a great spot if you like shots and heavy metal music. Unfortunately for me, my Def Leppard love fizzled out in 1989 when I was about 10 years old, and my shot-taking stint ended exactly at age 21 after I tried to complete the 21 shot challenge on my birthday, got to 14, and never wanted to take a shot again for the rest of my life. But I’m sure there are folks out there who love both shots and hair bands. If so, this place is for you.

I definitely noticed when I walked into BB that it rocks a younger clientele. It was a mix of men and women in their 20s and 30s and looked like a nice spot to pick someone up if you are so inclined. I also noticed a juke box, which might explain the music, and a dart board if you fancy a game. The bartender was friendly but didn’t engage much… but I was perhaps the oldest person in the bar at the ripe old age of 33 so I don’t really blame him. My favorite thing about Barcelona Bar is that people seemed to feel at home there. One guy was reading a book, and another was taking pictures of some cupcakes he had brought along. (Now there’s an admirable chap.) I went on a Wednesday, and it was half-full when I arrived at 5:30 and no seats at the bar when I left at 7:00.

Lots of customers opted for pitchers of beer and I saw a few taking shots. I went with the $3 Bud Light drafts and ended up spending a lot less than I normally would in Midtown. They had an extensive selection of bottled beers if that’s your thing. I also noticed they have a $3 shot special that changes all the time. So if you’ve had a really rough day at work and you’re intent on getting crunk, Barcelona Bar might be just the spot to do it.

In sum, even though Barcelona Bar would never be my first choice for a happy hour haunt, if I closed my eyes and wish myself 20ish and single again, I could really enjoy it. Youngsters, make your way down there. In the meantime, I’ll hobble back to my comfortable dive where old women drink Chardonnay on the rocks and old men regularly piss themselves.

The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • I need to get shit-faced, asap. No, I mean NOW. Shots, shots, shots, SHOTS!
  • I’m a young, single professional and lookin’ for a hookup. It couldn’t take long here to get some liquid courage. If I stay here a few hours, I’ll at least make out with someone.
  • Bud Light is awesome and the prices here ain’t bad.

The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I’m gonna go ahead and put this on my Murtaugh list. “I’m too old for this shit.”
  • It’s called Barcelona Bar? Why? Oh, you have a picture of a dead white gorilla that lived at a zoo there 10 years ago? OK, dude… whatever you say.
  • I really don’t like shots, so I might as well skip this place.

Barcelona Bar, 923 8th Avenue, 212.245.3212


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