Photos: The New '80s Bar That You Enter Through A Vending Machine
A new bar at the Line hotel in Koreatown just opened and it fulfills our need for nostalgia and kitsch. Break Room 86 is a magical and straight-up cool bar where you enter through a retro vending machine and get transported to the '80s.
In the same vein as Good Times at Davey Wayne's and La Descarga, Houston Hospitality has done it again: created an immersive bar experience where you feel like you're in another country or decade. Break Room 86 is the newest addition to The Line hotel's growing hip bar and food scene, and it's all about the impeccable '80s touches that make us feel giddy in this space.
LAist visited Break Room 86 on opening night on Tuesday. To get into the bar, you walk a long way through a loading dock off Ardmore Ave. and Wilshire Blvd. and end up at a snack machine that also just so happens to double as a door to Break Room 86. Suddenly, you're in a reddish and dimly-lit bar with leather booths, gig equipment boxes as coffee tables, and tiled walls and ceiling as if you're in a New York subway station. Music from the likes of Prince, Tears for Fears and Simple Minds is blasting while folks dance in front of stacked vintage TVs showing retro '80s videos. The walls are covered with cassette tapes, old stereos, speakers and band posters. You can toss some quarters into the vintage arcade games like Pac-Man and Galaga that sit in a corner of the room. And there's even a wall lined with red lockers to make you feel like you might be in a scene from The Breakfast Club in real life.
Fitting in with Koreatown culture, Break Room 86 also has four karaoke rooms for groups of 10 to 20 people that guests can rent out. Even getting into those rooms is like a trip through Narnia. One of the entrances is through the wall of an old telephone booth. We'll leave it to you to find the other ones. Once inside, you'll find a cozy room that feels like somebody's den in the Midwest, with vintage album covers lining the walls and neon signs featuring things like the Ghostbusters logo. Apparently, you can also play games from the Atari console in there. As expected though, these karaoke rooms don't come cheap and can go from $150 per hour to $1,500 all night depending on how many people you bring along with you.
As for their craft cocktails—a menu helmed by Houston Hospitality beverage director Joe Swifka—they are new spins on colorful and sugary sweet and fruity drinks popular in the '80s. Their Rock-It Pop drink (one of our favorites) is a throwback to the red-white-and-blue rocket popsicles. They also have drinks with names like Cherry Chapstick—cherry-infused Encanto pisco—and Purple Rain, made with Pernod absinthe. True to '80s fashion (a la 1988 Tom Cruise flick Cocktail), they even have a bartender there doing some impressive flair cocktail tricks, like flipping bottles around in the air and balancing glassware.
Break Room 86 also has flavored wine coolers to bring you back to your Boone's Farm days that arrive in glass flasks. The best part is that you can also get alcoholic Push-Up Pops at the bar as well. Fair warning, after enough sugary drinks, you might find yourself with a heinous hangover. However, you can wash that all down with some childhood snacks like Pop Tarts, Cup O'Noodles and Cheez Balls that you can get at the bar. And since it's all about the details with twin brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston, who are the masterminds behind the bar, even the cocktail menus are inside of old VHS boxes with films like The Lost Boys or Ferris Bueller's Day Off on the covers.
One of the things I was most amused by were the live performances that guests can expect on some busy nights. Behind the bar is a stage on hydraulics that seems to appear out of thin air. A breakdancing crew came out and helicoptered to When In Rome's "The Promise":
And then a Michael Jackson impersonator came out moonwalking:
When I turned around for a split second after the performance, the stage seemed like it disappeared. Another mysterious and otherworldly feel to Break Room 86.
Break Room 86 is located at 630 S. Ardmore Ave., Koreatown, (213) 368-3056. It's open Tuesday through Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.