Drinking in banks and jails: 21 restaurants/bars converted from very different buildings

converted bars
Andy Kryza
Andy Kryza

We've all been in a Thai restaurant that was obviously once a Pizza Hut, but even the ghost of a stuffed-crust pizza haunting your pad Thai has nothing on a cool, old building that's been converted to a place where you can stuff your face or give your liver a workout. From an old elementary school to a jail and an airplane, these 21 joints keep their historical roots while also keeping you fat and happy. And terrified. Because, well... GHOSTS!

The Masquerade
The Masquerade

The Masquerade (Atlanta, GA)
What it was: A wood mill specializing in wood shavings
What it is now: One of the most popular music venues in Atlanta, it's an ideal place to fire back shots in the spooky, cavernous old building while catching some of the most badass bands rolling through the ATL (well, most badass mid-level-famous bands). Oh, and it's apparently haunted by the ghost of a worker who died in a gruesome accident and who apparently hates Dr. Dog.

The Liberty
The Liberty Hotel

The Liberty (Boston, MA)
What it was: The Charles Street Jail, a gigantic prison complex on Beacon Hill, built in 1851. Residents included Malcolm X and Sacco & Vanzetti.
What it is now: Prison wine sucks, and prison food's even worse, but The Liberty jams a shiv into the idea of what a jail can be. Following a massive renovation, the place is now one of Boston's best luxury hotel complexes, and includes five upscale restaurants and bars, including Alibi, Catwalk, and CLINK. Now people are trying to break in.

Hillside Farmacy
Hillside Farmacy

Hillside Farmacy (Austin, TX)
What it was: The Hillside Drug Store, a 1950s pharmacy kind of like the one Marty McFly's mom hung out in drinking sodas and thinking about making out with her son. 
What it is now: Restoring the original fixtures and keeping all that bee-boppin' charm, the Hillside Farmacy has ditched the questionable cure-alls for upscale takes on diner classics like meatloaf sandwiches, plus fancier stuff like steak frites, quail, and other dishes that would really impress your Mom before you took her to prom.

Chattanooga Choo Choo
Flickr/London looks

The Chattanooga Choo Choo (Chattanooga, TN)
What it was: A humongous train station, parts of which were built before the Civil War.
What it is now: Well, it's still a humongous train station... only it underwent a $4mill renovation to update its centuries-old architecture and transform it into a luxury hotel. The compound includes the Station House restaurant, which boasts singing servers and all-you-can-eat shrimp, plus a diner in a train car, a Victorian bar, and more. It almost makes it worth getting that stupid old song stuck in your head.

Andy Kryza

Crop Bar and Bistro (Cleveland, OH)
What it was: A gigantic 1925 bank, complete with marble columns, huge arches, and 17,000ft of floorspace.
What it is now: One of Ohio's most-lauded restaurants, Crop has kept the integrity of the space intact -- from the remastered columns to the gigantic murals over the bar -- while cooking up high-end cuisine in an open kitchen set up right in the middle of the packed floor. In the basement, meanwhile, you can rent out the vault space, which is great for parties or, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, survival.

The Airplane Restaurant

The Airplane Restaurant (Colorado Springs, CO)
What it was: A 1953 US Air Force Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker used for refueling missions, which were also the hardest part of the Top Gun game.
What it is now: Well, it's still a KC-97, but now its cargo is more focused on burgers, steaks, pasta, and "jet fuel" cocktails that you can consume while kicking it in the fuselage, or in the adjoining "terminal" building.

Jury Room
The Jury Room

The Jury Room (Columbus, OH)
What it was: An 1850s bordello, which begs the question: if the jury was really hung, why did they have to pay for company?
What it is now: One of the oldest continually operated bars in Ohio, you can chow down on house specialties like Spiked Tortellini and a mac & cheese sandwich while drinking stiff drinks with actual stiffs... this joint is supposedly one of the most haunted spots in America, owing to its history of sin and on-site murders.

The Old Firestation #3
The Old Firestation #3

The Old Firestation #3 (Fairfax, VA)
What it was: An old-school firestation. Dalmatians! Buckets!
What it is now: It may have kept the Rockwellian exterior and decor, but this two-story joint comes alive with live music on the weekends, taking on a rowdy dive-bar feel while serving up incendiary drinks and some serious Greek and American bar bits, including Buffalo wings and chili that's, surprisingly, not 5-alarm.

Brewery Vivant
Brewery Vivant

Brewery Vivant (Grand Rapids, MI)
What it was: An old funeral chapel and an auto shop
What it is now: Kind of like when two Transformers come together to form a big-ass dinosaur, Brewery Vivant took over an old funeral home for its tasting room, then connected it to the neighboring former car-repair shop, where it brews up popular beers like Big Red Coq IPA and the Solitude Abbey.

The Silo
The Silo Restaurant

The Silo Restaurant (Lewiston, NY)
What it was: A coal silo, which sat next to a steamboat terminal before an ice jam destroyed everything but the circular tower.
What it is now: Overlooking the banks of the Lower Niagara, the Silo features a circular dining room specializing in enormous sandwiches like the Adam Richman-approved Haystack -- which loads ribeye, mozz, and hash browns on a bun -- plus dogs, burgers, and Americana classics.

The Edison
The Edison

The Edison (Los Angeles, CA)
What it was: A historic power plant, built in 1910 as one of the initial contributors to the nickname "City of Lights".
What it is now: Keeping the mad science aesthetic of the original building and updating it with influences from Gothic to Nouveau, it's like walking into a weird, hallucinogenic room from a Kubrick movie, complete with burlesque performances, big bands, and a gigantic bar. You'll want to stay and play forever. And ever. And ever...

Steel & Rye
Dave Baldwin

Steel & Rye (Milton, MA)
What it was: First a car dealership, then an ambulance garage
What it is now: While you'll still find an industrial vibe -- exposed brick, pine planks, and steel trusses make up the decor -- this 125-seat restaurant serves up decidedly modern, high-end bites of Americana like lamb meatballs with pine nuts and mussels in a chorizo & lobster broth alongside a whiskey-intensive cocktail selection. That beats the hell out of the free popcorn at most dealerships.

Bank Restaurant
BANK Restaurant

BANK Restaurant (Minneapolis, MN)
What it was: The Farmers and Mechanics Bank
What it is now: The century-old bank is now home to a sprawling upscale restaurant, where bankers' cubicles are now dining booths, the teller's counter is prime-seating right in front of the open kitchen, and the vault doubles as a wine cellar and seating area. The place specializes in steaks and seafood, meaning that while the dye-packs used to thwart robberies are long gone, the calamari could still result in you getting ink on your hands.


Dijon (New Orleans, LA)
What it was: "The Old Firehouse of Annunciation", a 1914 NOLA Fire Dept. that was the first to switch from horse-drawn carriages to actual motorized fire trucks
What it is now: A rustic/fancy, gigantically ceiling-ed spot that underwent a massive restoration and renovation to turn it into an upscale restaurant specializing in Creole cuisine, plus in-house charcuterie and ice cream. That's a big step up from the Ghostbusters' use of a similar building, though would it kill them to offer up a Twinkie now and again?

The Tippler
The Tippler

The Tippler (New York, NY)
What it was: A storage room in the basement of the Nabisco factory
What it is now: Located underneath the famous Chelsea Market -- a two-block monolith of food, stores, and offices -- the Tippler's set up in a long, ornately columned space with an intense focus on cocktails and a crazy eye for historic detail, from replicates of classic paintings to a century-old freezer that makes sure your Negroni is extra cold, and would turn your Cheez-Its into Cheese Nips in seconds.


Moshulu (Philadelphia, PA)
What it was: "The world’s oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel," built in Glasgow in 1904. It carried coal and nitrate between Hamburg and Chile, voyaged to Australia, Asia, and Africa, and eventually docked in Philly. Maybe because it was a Rocky fan?
What it is now: One of Philly's best-known, and most recognizable, fine-dining spots, where you can climb aboard and feast on dishes inspired by the ship's travels, including sushi, stuffed chicken, and gnocchi.

Church Brew
Church Brew

Church Brew (Pittsburgh, PA)
What it was: The historic, century-old St. John the Baptist Church
What it is now: While most church-based drinking is limited to watered-down communion wine, Church Brew has transformed this house of the holy into a full-blown brewery, pouring made-on-site suds like the Pious Monk Dunkel and Pipe Organ Pale, which you can sip while gazing at the stained-glass windows from pews converted into bar seats. Amen.

The Station
Andy Kryza

The Station (Portland, OR)
What it was: The Northwestern Electric Company, which opened in 1931 to ensure that people could listen to their stories on that newfangled radio
What it is now: A sports bar made upscale. Upscale as in your bartender has to climb a library ladder to get your whiskey while you scream at a TV. A bunch of the original power-plant fixtures have been revamped and polished, offering a cool contrast to the upscale pub fare like Korean tacos and pork-belly deviled eggs.

Kennedy School

The Kennedy School (Portland, OR)
What it was: An elementary school, built in 1915 and closed in 1975
What it is now: Converting old buildings into bars, restaurants, and hotels is the McMenamin brothers' jam -- the team also counts an old working farm, a masonic lodge, and a funeral home among its properties. But the Kennedy School might be the coolest. The place has its own brewery, concerts in the gym, hotel rooms in the classrooms, and multiple bars and restaurants under one roof, so you can grab a pint in the boiler room, stop for a cigar in the detention room, eat dinner in the courtyard, kick it with a Scotch in the Honors Bar, and watch a movie in the auditorium -- all without leaving the building.

Pine Box

The Pine Box (Seattle, WA)
What it was: A funeral home
What it is now: A 120-seat temple of craft beers, where you can drink in a vaulted space decked out with a U-shaped bar. Behind said bar, the shelves previously held ashes from the crematorium, and there's a poster in memory of Bruce Lee, whose funeral was held there in '73. Which isn't creepy. At all.

Catfish Plantation
Catfish Plantation

The Catfish Plantation (Waxahachie, TX)
What it was: An plantation-based Victorian house built in 1895
What it is: A Victorian house, duh. But now it specializes in fried catfish platters, shrimp... and TERROR. The place is supposedly one of the most haunted spots in America. Legend has it that three people died in the joint, and that they tend to make their presence known quite a bit. Maybe it's because somebody FORGOT THE GD TARTAR SAUCE!

Andy Kryza is Thrillist's national food/drink senior editor, and in 9th grade helped convert his friend Seth's basement into a temporary coffee shop in an effort to pick up girls. It didn't work. Follow his coffee breath via @apkryza.