“Brunch, really, is the gayest meal,” my companion tells me on the first frost of the winter, which has mysteriously occurred on the first weekend of March. I ponder, “Can meals have sexual orientations?” and set off onto the adventures of the neighborhood’s Drag Brunches.
The Deep End
We enter the cavernous confines of Ridgewood’s The Deep End, an erstwhile warehouse whose atrium now sports an aquatically suggestive mural overlooking a collection of thin metal tables. As recently as last year, QNS had reported “Queens’ only drag brunch” to take place far away in Astoria and I had arrived here to see if such reports were wrong.
“The ladies should be here any minute,” out waiter assured us, long after we had finished an order of caramelized french toast and something called “The Jersey Shore,” a sort of breakfast roll with lucious helpings of lunch meat. (The Deep End was the brainchild of the operators of a modestly successful Williamsburg food truck called the “Munchie Mobile.”)
Mary Con arrived first, a brash figure who bemoaned her tardy partner (“that slut is probably still in bed!”) underneath a profane baseball cap and workout tank top and was, soon enough, amiably strutting to the clashing pad drums of “Amazing” by Hi Fashion, a Euro-louche drag banger that appeared once in a trailer for RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2013.
There are maybe a grand total of seven people here, most dressed in scrubby lost punk memorabilia, but they imminently drown Mary in one dollar bills, which quickly begin to litter the wooden floor.
Magenta arrived second, in ski pants, faux furs and shades and, after some introduction, pitted herself as the balladier to her partner’s brash camp: lip-synching Kim Petras’ “Can’t Do Better” so perfectly, it felt like a newly discovered Dion ballad. These numbers were interspersed graciously over the next few hours or so, with a lean toward alt-pop that culminated in Mary Con emoting profusely underneath a nearby Mexican flag to the tune of “Laura” by Bat For Lashes.
For more information on upcoming Drag brunches, follow The Deep End.
“The crowd certainly is more, uh, basic, you could say that,” my companion offered the next day at Bushwick’s livelier Bizarre, a steampunk emporium named after a bar of the same name that Andy Warhol and Nico once frequented. Across from us, a middle-aged woman wore a sash announcing that today was her birthday and in the table next, three energetic former film students were discussing the coming launch of something that I gathered was being sold as an “LGBT Clickhole.”
There were no fewer than four varieties of eggs benedict on the menu and diners should be warned that the vegan option, a finicky idea in the first place, comes out more like a gentle slice of toast and tofu.
Having operated a drag brunch program almost since its inception, Bizarre offers the most organized take on the concept. One, perhaps, closest to the drag brunch’s own history, which drag historian Joe Jeffreys told Food & Wine, had long been a part of tourist-friendly Manhattanite club culture.
There is, in fact, a burlesque stage at the restaurant’s center, though the Sunday morning show—which was packed by showtime, so reservations are recommended—is not entirely unlike The Deep End’s: two contrasting queens, offering contrasting takes on the feminine. One wears maybe a gown of some kind; the other twerks.
Led by Victoria Holiday and Vena Cava (an equally playful, if less profane riff than “Mary Con.” Her elegant furs look, maybe, real), the program on Sunday mornings is thematically organized around Latinx culture, which lends itself to a Jerry Rivera salsa number followed by the lush movement inspired by a “Te Boté” remix.
Victoria energetically bounces from the stage, walking along the tables with the energy of Jennifer Lopez and the strut of Cardi. Though there are far more people, far fewer dollar bills hits the ground. The MC, in fact, has to remind the patrons that this is something they are supposed to do.
One, a gentle soul with a long ponytail sitting front of me, awkwardly only has fives, but Victoria, mercifully, takes these as well.
To stay informed on their next drag brunches, follow Bizarre on Instagram.
Dromedary urban tiki bar
Walking back, we stop at Dromedary, the tiki bar with the enormous mural of David Bowie on its side. As luck would have it, it too is hosting a drag brunch. In lieu of a stage, an elevated section of the bar is sectioned off, giving it the feel of a show held in your living room. The air is more casual, but equally crowded—the afternoon is given to a fundraiser for a local cancer-stricken French bulldog and the representative of a kombucha company is here somewhere urgently advocating for the line’s latest strawberry flavor.
The drag show is, comparatively, relaxed. Its most charismatic star, Lady Bearica Andrews, dons grey PJs and a Sia wig and, when given the chance, soars out of the door, as during “Teenage Dirtbag,” because who wouldn’t leap and punch the sky because she doesn’t know who I am?
Other stories from the once-shared monoculture are told: a parody of “Hallelujah” that Emi Grate moves to in wedding-white tights, a remix of a Carly Rae Jepsen non-hit that is interspersed with heavy metal roars, which Lady Bearica wields like flames. Keep up with Dromedary’s lineup and brunches here.
Can you believe some people stay at home on Sunday mornings?
Cover image courtesy of author.