A wave of nostalgia seems to be fueling a new crop of 1980s-themed bars and restaurants. And operators are finding these campy walks down memory lane to be a good way to target Generation X, older millennials and their families. Gen X makes up just under one fifth of the adult population in the U.S., but they possess the highest median household income, according to Technomic's 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report.
From a "Golden Girls"-inspired milkshake shop to an MTV-era burger joint, here’s a look at some of the latest operations that’ll transport you back to the time of neon, Reagan and shoulder pads.
1. Rock N Grill; Lake in the Hills, Ill.
“I wanted families to come in, point at the walls and say, ‘I remember this,’” says Chad Hufford, owner of this MTV-inspired burger-and-fries restaurant that opened outside of Chicago a couple of weeks ago. Hufford, who grew up in the 1980s, said he wanted to make his 1,600-square-foot, counter-service operation “look like my room when I was a kid.” So, he has festooned the walls with rock T-shirts, a Metallica-inspired logo and vintage guitars. He got a license from a third-party provider to play old MTV videos on TVs in the establishment.
2. Vicky’s House, Miami
Kush Hospitality, the Miami group behind concepts like LoKal and Kush, offers a spot-on recreation of owner Matt Kuscher’s childhood home in this latest venture. The milkshake shop/bar, named after Kuscher’s mother, features a 1980s oven that’s used to store glassware, yellow flower wallpaper, linoleum tile, Kuscher’s dresser from his childhood bedroom and a period washing machine that holds cans of beer. “People of my generation may never want to leave,” Kuscher says. The menu includes over-the-top, '80s-themed milkshakes such as the Golden Girls: a banana milkshake with cream cheese frosting, Golden Grahams cereal, vanilla wafer, toffee bits, a Twinkie and a housemade blondie with a cherry on top. Also offered are two versions of red and white wine, “cheap” and “better.” A phone booth like the one from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” serves as a period-appropriate entryway from LoKal to Vicky’s House.
3. Beetle House, New York City and slated for Los Angeles soon
This bar and restaurant is a celebration of the campy-noir style of director Tim Burton, the creator of 1988’s “Beetlejuice,” among many other films. The first location opened last year in New York City and a Los Angeles outpost is scheduled to launch on May 20. In LA, the concept will be located inside the Prospect Theater and will feature a stage with an interactive version of the miniature town where Beetlejuice lives. “We have a lot of actors working with us to create an authentic experience,” owner Zach Neil tells Los Angeles Magazine. “You’re eating dinner and this psycho Beetlejuice guy with a hand buzzer is sitting at your table eating off your plate.” The menu includes a best-selling Edward Burgerhands sandwich as well as cocktails featuring black ice cubes and pumpkin spice.
4. GB85, New York City
The same team behind Beetle House is responsible for this just-opened 80's-centric bar that features murals designed by New York street artists depicting '80s icons like Prince, David Bowie and “Ghostbusters” ghosts. "The entire inside of the building is a living and evolving piece of art in tribute to the '80s and especially the NYC '80s," owner Zach Neil tells Gothamist. The cocktail menu includes themed drinks like the Kevin Bacon shot, which comes in a salt-rimmed glass lined with maple syrup, filled with maple bourbon and garnished with candied bacon, and the E.T. Foam Home, with gin, absinth, lemon juice, bitters and egg whites.