The Basics Drinking Out

6 Bars With Bar Tops You Can’t Stop Staring At

You’ll want to belly-up and stay for the view.

Ophelia bar top, lit from below with many beautiful containers visible


A beautiful bar top can make or break a bar. Whether it’s the rich mahogany of a vintage saloon bar or something modern or whimsical, a cool bar top makes you want to linger once you’ve bellied up.

These are bar tops you just can’t take your eyes off, from the over-the-top ornate to the impressively high-tech to the straight-up clever. Move that bowl of peanuts and cocktail napkin aside. You won’t want to miss one square inch of these six bars tops, featuring everything from deep-sea fossils to antique curiosities from the 1920s.

  • Bar VIA (San Francisco)

    Bar VIA interior view of the bar top

    Hotel VIA

    We all know lighting can affect the vibe of a bar. Too bright and guests feel self-conscious and unable to relax. Too dim and they can’t see the menu, let alone what they’re drinking. State-of-the-art technology from C Walters Design at this upscale hotel bar gives the bartender carte blanche to control the mood and aesthetic. A custom-cast glass bar top with customizable LED under-lighting, plus lights on backbar shelves, make the space go from vibrant and energetic to chill and lounge-y at the flick of a switch.

  • The Daily Dish (Silver Spring, Maryland)

    The Daily Dish interior view of bar top with chess board

    The Daily Dish

    When the team behind The Daily Dish decided to reinvent its bistro and coffee and juice bar as a farm-to-table restaurant, they wanted a nontraditional bar top that felt like a gathering place. So they enlisted the help of local artisan Chris Jarmin, who installs bars in houses. His stunning concrete bar top is laid with ancient ammonites (extinct marine mollusks), hand-cut marble mosaics, petrified wood and even a chess board, which gets some play during quieter moments.

    “We fell in love with having a bar top that connected us to the earth,” says co-owner Zena Polin. “There’s something about how solid it is that gives it a sense of permanence.”

  • Ophelia (New York City)

    Ophelia interior with view of bar and floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows behind the bar itself


    Cross a jewelry box with a curio cabinet, and you get the inspiration behind the 24-foot-long pewter bar top at this rooftop lounge atop Beekman Tower. Its glass insets display oddities ranging from tarot cards and antique silverware to flapper hats and postcards from women who used to live in the building. Most of the items are curated from the 1920s and ’30s, all set under subtle vintage lighting.

  • Outlier (Seattle)

    Outlier bar interior with view of bar top and its array of bottle caps

    Adela Lee

    This Seattle restaurant gives a nod to the city’s beer scene with multiple art installations touting bottle caps, a 12th Man beer-can wall and a Jimmy Hendrix mural. The bar top was designed by Julie Coyle Art Associates using recycled caps from Washington breweries. (One year, a Hoppy Holiday contest asked guests to guess the exact number of caps.)

    “It took a lot of dedicated drinking from the team to provide all of those beer caps!” jokes general manager Brian McFarland.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • Root Down (Denver)

    Root Down bar top with a piece of vintage luggage and its contents on full view

    Edible Beats

    At this airport bar, open suitcases were slid into custom-made cubbies filled with clothes, accessories and trinkets and enclosed in a custom glass curved bar top. Each one unveils a different chapter of the American travel experience, says Justin Cucci, the owner of Edible Beats, the hospitality group that runs Root Down.

    “We wanted something that would engage people at the bar as solo travelers and start a dialogue perhaps with the travelers in groups, especially in the context of the journey they were about to embark on,” says Cucci.

  • Tilt (Washington, D.C.)

    Tilt bar top, with iconic arcade game memorabilia

     Black Jack Restaurant Group

    Stepping inside this craft cocktail bar in the hip 14th Street neighborhood is meant to evoke the feeling of being inside a pinball machine. (One of the signature cocktails is an adult version of a PB&J sandwich dubbed the PNBL WZRD.) The bar top is crafted from the glass backs of games collected by the owner over the years and is lit underneath to give the entire space a glowing luminescence.

    “A cool bar top can change the entire look and feel of the bar,” says cocktail director George Sault. “It also makes very cool photos on Instagram.”