Chase spooky vibes at a cavern tavern, a tiki-slinging plane wreck and a subterranean speakeasy.
Why should trick-or-treaters get all of the attention?
Each fall, this trio of atmospheric Bay Area bars ups the ante with skeletons, haunts, and plenty of whimsy. Enjoy those spirits — both cocktail and ghost — while chasing spooky vibes at an Oakland cavern tavern, a tiki-slinging plane wreck in San Francisco, or a San Mateo subterranean speakeasy.
Last Rites, San Francisco
Last Rites, a plane-crash themed bar in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle, combines tiki and terror. Every aspect of the space is designed to immerse you in this twisted tale, inspired by Choose-Your-Own-Adventure dime novels.
As you walk in, you’ll have to remind yourself that you’re no longer just a bar patron. You’ve survived a plane crash and are now stranded in a dense Polynesian rainforest. Make your way through the stone passages, sit along the jungle canopy, pay homage to the fire-breathing skull statues, or order a drink from the airplane fuselage-turned bar. Surrounded by special effects such as a roaring sound system, flashing lights, and phantom fog, you’ll quickly forget about the world you used to know.
While Last Rites provides frights all year, owner Justin Lew says the “Last Ritual” theme brings it up a notch around Halloween. In addition to tropical terrors, the bar will be decorated with even darker decor in late October, including burning effigies and witches’ bundles.
What to drink: The Zombie Killer, Emerald Eclipse, and Blood Moon are just a few of the rums and tropical cocktails available at this bar. The menu is laid out like a book catalog, with each drink telling its own adventure story, complete with fictional characters, eerie synopses, and inventive covers. The Caldera’s Curse ($55), a communal drink-in-a-bowl for the entire table set ablaze by roving waiters, is the true jewel of the jungle.
What to eat: The bar only serves one food item, a bowl of wonton chips with Asian chili umami seasoning ($5). You should have enough rations for your tropical trek if you order a few for the table.
Details: Open from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Tuesday through Wednesday, until 2 a.m. 718 14th St., San Francisco; lastritesbar.com; open Thursday-Saturday and 5 p.m. to midnight on Sunday.
The Avenue, Oakland
Let’s take a look at what you see when you walk into The Avenue. A swarm of terrifying, fanged clowns. Aliens are being examined in a foil-lined operating room. “I can hear them in the walls,” Hannibal Lecter exclaims from a cell and a roach-infested hoarder’s den.
That’s just in the first room; there’s plenty more to amaze and frighten you in the back.
Curtis and Tana Howard have been going all-out – to increasingly ridiculous levels – for almost a decade to transform Oakland’s premier rocker bar into a gory Halloween jamboree.
“We’re talking about what we’re going to do starting in August.” “We talk about what we have in storage and what the themes will be in different parts of the bar,” Tana says. “It has to be bloody, ripped, a little dirty, or, in my case, black.” If you look around our house, you’ll notice a lot of black, and it’s almost like a museum with all the strange things in it.” (I can confirm that the Howards do indeed live in an alternate version of their Halloween bar.)
“All the dolls in the back room, I ‘hand-spooked’ them – got them at thrift stores and made them scary individually,” Tana recollects. “‘Why don’t we just bury them in the backyard for a couple weeks?’ Curt suggested for spooking the dolls.” But I thought adding a stink component would be revolting.”
“I did once buy a scent for our smoke machine, and that went a little bit south,” said Curtis. “It was a zombie scent, and it just smelled just like dead rat.”
“I think it was called Dystopia,” Tana recalls.
There are also Halloween-themed events. This year, the bar is putting on a “31 Days of Horror” event, with a different horror film playing every night of October. There’s also a popular photo booth for people dressed up, as well as a costume contest on Halloween, where people bring their ghoulish A-game to win cash prizes.
What to drink: You won’t find any high-brow beverages here. The friendly bartenders will make you any basic cocktail you want, but the standard is usually a beer and a shot. For Halloween, the bar is serving the American Werewolf, which consists of a Coors Light and a shot of silver tequila.
What to eat: Outside food is permitted, and a pizza parlor and ramen restaurant are nearby.
Open daily from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 4822 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; theavenuebar.net.
Wunderbar, San Mateo
The most difficult aspect of entering this intimate, reservations-only underground speakeasy is obtaining a reservation through Tock. The next task is to find the entrance to the bar.
Wunderbar’s menu is a ring of tarot-esque cards with classic cocktails depicted on one side and a description of the bar’s spin on the drink on the other, all embellished with beautifully rendered art.
What to drink: The Lost at Sea ($15), which is made with a house rum blend, tepache, pandan, cream of coconut, and citrus. There’s also beer, wine, and mocktails, such as the tangy non-alcoholic Wise Woman ($8), made with blackberry, sage, lemon, cane, and tonic.
What to eat: The buttered popcorn is complimentary. After that, go upstairs to Wursthall for German-style sausages, pretzels, and other treats.
Open from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday, until 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 31012 Baldwin Ave. in San Mateo; www.wunderbarsm.com.