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Gay-friendly dining


MarketStEl
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Okay, jmbrightman, this topic's for you, so to speak.

This topic began over in the "My Burger Weekend" discussion, in which the original poster had a less-than-stellar experience at Hamburger Mary's.

Which led one poster to wonder why anyone would bother to create a gay hamburger joint. After all, there isn't a particularly gay way to cook a ground beef patty, is there?

No, but there is a way to serve it that reflects a gay sensibility. (Like getting your check delivered to you in a stiletto pump.) And there are other cues that a gay male or lesbian diner might pick up on that would say, "You can enjoy your meal here and be completely comfortable being who you are."

Now, in sophisticated city neighborhoods like the one many gay Philadelphians call home, it's quite likely that many places that are not explicitly gay-friendly will nonetheless welcome your business and make you and your dining (or life) partner feel valued and respected.

And there are others, like Stephen Starr's Continental Mid-town and El Vez, that look like the straight people wandered into these places by mistake, but hey, there they are, and we may as well blend in.

But there are times when we gay folk want to let our hair down and kick up our heels (high or low), and at those times, we seek out establishments that not only accept our business, but understand the vibe.

Not all of these places can be called Bump, though. Which is what makes Hamburger Mary's a welcome addition even if they haven't gotten their burger-and-service chops down pat yet.

Certainly there are other such places (Judy's, Judy's, Judy's!). But are there any "straight-run" establishments that may have caught on to this fact yet?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Well, there are establishments who serve Halal or Kosher foods -- it doesn't strike me as any less (or more) sensible to tie religion in with food...

Last time I went to my favorite burger joint, a bug-eyed nut started lecturing us about the wonderfulness of Jesus. Next time, I'm gonna ask for a seat in the heathen-only section.

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No, but there is a way to serve it that reflects a gay sensibility. (Like getting your check delivered to you in a stiletto pump.) And there are other cues that a gay male or lesbian diner might pick up on that would say, "You can enjoy your meal here and be completely comfortable being who you are."

Are the convergence of who and what one is completely inseparable in the gay community?

Sometimes it's nice to be able to hold hands across the table without a lot of staring from other diners.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Well, there are establishments who serve Halal or Kosher foods -- it doesn't strike me as any less (or more) sensible to tie religion in with food...

Well... Kosher and Halal food laws, (or the vegetarian diet of some Buddhists or Hindus, etc) are specific practices determining what an observant practitioner can and cannot eat, and how it can be prepared. It's not a matter of making the members of the religion feel more comfortable while eating somewhere.

One can debate how "sensible" religions are, but this is surely not the venue for that. But there certainly are established connections between some religious practices and food, beyond simple social meeting-place issues.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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No, but there is a way to serve it that reflects a gay sensibility. (Like getting your check delivered to you in a stiletto pump.) And there are other cues that a gay male or lesbian diner might pick up on that would say, "You can enjoy your meal here and be completely comfortable being who you are."

Are the convergence of who and what one is completely inseparable in the gay community?

Sometimes it's nice to be able to hold hands across the table without a lot of staring from other diners.

Seconded. For heterosexual readers who might be wondering about this: imagine you are out with your spouse for your nth-anniversary dinner. You're not (necessarily :biggrin: ) wanting to crassly snog your date over the appetizers, but you do want to be able to share some fond glances, maybe hold hands, maybe exchange a present, that sort of thing. Now--imagine trying to do that in a restaurant where the server and all the patrons are radiating disapproval for even your most modest sharings of affection. Sounds like a pretty lousy way to celebrate your anniversary, doesn't it? Well, that's exactly why, when I've been in a long-term relationship with another woman, we made a point of doing our celebratory dinners at establishments we knew from experience would be okay with us behaving like a couple.

Yes, these places were also lovely dining experiences. And we also had lovely dining experiences in places whose gay-friendliness quotient we did not know, or even were pretty darn certain was pretty low. But when it was important to us to not have to be paranoid about behaving like a couple, we did choose venues we could be sure would not mess that up for us. It really can be crucial.

Edited by mizducky (log)
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I'm a little surprised that this topic has more than a soupcon of relevancy in Philadelphia, or any other urbane urban evironment. Without getting too un-p.c., let me just say that without gay diners, many, many restaurants would struggle/go under. I have never been involved in a restaurant where everyone from the chef to the busboy was not aware of how important it was to make non-breeders feel just as welcome as breeders. It's nice when the right thing to do ethically and the right thing to do economically dovetail.

owner, Rx

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I'm a little surprised that this topic has more than a soupcon of relevancy in Philadelphia, or any other urbane urban evironment. Without getting too un-p.c., let me just say that without gay diners, many, many restaurants would struggle/go under. I have never been involved in a restaurant where everyone from the chef to the busboy was not aware of how important it was to make non-breeders feel just as welcome as breeders. It's nice when the right thing to do ethically and the right thing to do economically dovetail.

I can't comment about Philadelphia, having somehow never visited there. I do think that your assumption is reasonable that many staffs of restaurants in "urbane urban" areas are up to speed on this issue. But, well, let's just say that sometimes reality fails to conform to reasonable assumptions. :rolleyes: Moreover, just because the staff is enlightened does not guarantee that their clientele would necessarily be likewise. And I hardly expect a restaurant staff to exert any power over the minds of their other customers, nor would I want to put them in the position of mediating between me and another customer who decided to make an issue of things--that wouldn't be fun for either the staff or for me.

I guess it also depends on the "urbane urban" area in question. (I like that phrase. :smile: ) Just a couple of examples: when I lived in Seattle and had a fairly good grasp of the attitudes of the city in general and its more trendy neighborhoods (both gay-oriented and more "general"), I felt pretty confident about my assessments on what places would be totally okay with appropriately modest displays of affection, and it was a pretty broad range of places. Here in San Diego, where despite the laid-back SoCal ambiance the community culture is a bit more conservative, I'd probably be a bit more circumspect in dining places outside the identifiably gay-friendly neighborhoods (Hillcrest, and to a certain extent North Park), until multiple visits to a dining establishment allowed me to better assess their comfort-level.

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I have never been involved in a restaurant where everyone from the chef to the busboy was not aware of how important it was to make non-breeders feel just as welcome as breeders.

What label is placed on heterosexuals who, either by choice or for biological reasons, do not breed?

John

"I can't believe a roasted dead animal could look so appealing."--my 10 year old upon seeing Peking Duck for the first time.

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Way back in April of 2003, in a General Forum thread, I posted the following:

There was a time, in the 50's and 60's, when gay restaurants were something of a necessity. If two gay men, or two lesbians, wanted to have a nice dinner, they might not get served, or at best be seated at a table in the center of the room instead of a booth. So, we had places of our own. I can remember the Carriage Trade, the Toy Tiger, the Garden District, the Academy, the Frog Pond, David's, the Little Shrimp, the Venture Inn, all in the Los Angeles area, my home town. Of these, only the Venture Inn seems to be in business any more.

The food, by and large, ran to second level Continental. Oh, it was good enough, but never quite stellar. Then again, anyone who wanted to dine at a top, five-star establishment knew better than to take his (or her) date, knew to make the occasion social, not romantic. More often, it was the atmosphere (and the drinks) that made the gay restaurant a decent place. Piano bars and gay restaurants were a good combination. As my life-partner, Bruce, has just pointed out to me, these were also places where gay men and lesbians could take their families; if Mother was around and the boys wanted to show her a good evening, the decorum was always of the sort that no one would feel embarrassed.

But then the Seventies hit, and with them the real beginnings of gay liberation. I know, "Stonewall" was in '69, but the idea took a few years to catch hold, even in California. The group that embraced this new emancipated outlook was, of course, the younger generation (including myself). This was a group that could not quite yet afford the pricy restaurants, was more inclined to eat at home or grab a quick bite, and spend more time and money at the newer gay bars with DJs playing the latest hits. The gay restaurants more and more became the turf of the older crowd. I remember at the Garden District, the owners having been conned into sponsoring a gay softball team one year (another phenomenon), when the team for which I was scorekeeper joined the Garden District's players at the restaurant's bar. The regulars were rather nonplussed by this rowdy and youthful crowd, fresh from the ballfield. The glare I received from Richard Deacon, the late actor and cookbook author, was particularly memorable! The two generations just didn't mix.

And the world changed. Somehow, the non-gay restaurants began to realize that gay dollars folded the same way as straight ones. We were more welcome than we had been before. By the time Bruce and I met, not quite twenty years ago, there were few if any problems with dining in any establishment in Long Beach. In fact, we've always been quite welcome. But with this came another change: the gay restaurants of old began to close, because the need for them was disappearing, as were their patrons. Add the toll from AIDS, and there was little chance for the old-style gay restaurant to survive.

Are there any more gay restaurants? Sure, but their customers are different. Hamburger Mary's is a nationwide chain, targeted primarily at the young gay community, but not exclusively. As I noted, the Venture Inn is still in operation. Where the Toy Tiger was now can be found a piano bar called the Other Side, but I don't think they're still running a restaurant. There's a place called Ozz in Buena Park which combines a supper club, cabaret, and discotheque, which is nice if not outstanding. But a place called Cha Cha Cha in Long Beach, which tried to target gay diners on Tuesdays, has folded entirely. The community's needs are different now.

That isn't to say there aren't some who still prefer a gay environment, such as a bar or restaurant. It's certainly a better bet for meeting new people with similar interests than at a straight bar or restaurant, for example. Bruce and I are planning on moving cross-country sometime soon to Rehoboth Beach, DE, known as a heavily gay resort town. We're moving to Delaware to be closer to his family. We're moving to Rehoboth for the community. But I can't think of a single restaurant in Rehoboth that would not welcome a straight family or couple, the same as they would welcome a gay couple or family.

I realize it's a bit strange to repeat a post in a Pennsylvania thread where I'm talking about my experiences in Los Angeles, but I thought it better not to edit my earlier post. Bruce and I are now very happily living in Rehoboth Beach, which is very gay-friendly, and straight-friendly as well...which is how things can and should be.

We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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First, VERY belated "Welcome to Delaware!", SWoodyWhite & family.

And, I LOVE your signature quote :biggrin:

To the point at hand: IMHO, people should be able to go about their lives in peace. Why on earth people feel the need to comment on things that are NONE of their business is beyond me, but I know from first - hand observation that they do, loudly and crassly in many instances, just pushing for a fight.

So, as long as that is reality, then gay people will need places to go where they can let down their guard and relax. I will not begrudge them this. :cool:

Edited by shelly59 (log)
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...

But there are times when we gay folk want to let our hair down and kick up our heels (high or low), and at those times, we seek out establishments that not only accept our business, but understand the vibe.

Not all of these places can be called Bump, though.  Which is what makes Hamburger Mary's a welcome addition even if they haven't gotten their burger-and-service chops down pat yet.

Certainly there are other such places (Judy's, Judy's, Judy's!).  But are there any "straight-run" establishments that may have caught on to this fact yet?

Word has it that such behavior just might be permitted at Carman's Country Kitchen though if you're in drag and on roller skates the counter seats may not be all that demure.

I'd be more interested in the converse. Are there Center City restaurants that are less than gay-friendly?

Two stories from my restaurant back in the early 80s:

In planning the decor I saw a picture of a sign from an inn in the UK. I thought it was cool and wanted to hang a similar sign at the entrance. It read "Patronized by diverse ladies and gentlement of quality, distinction and elegance." My investors wouldn't go along with it fearing that it might give customers the "wrong idea." Unfortunately I listened to them.

Two of my best and most regular customers were of the stiff lipped, prim and proper Delancy Street ilk. They chose my place to celebrate their only son's 21st birthday. He chose his 21st birthday to come out to his parents. A memorable scene ensued in our small, intimate dining room. Alas it was the last time I saw those regulars at the restaurant.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Great story about the 21st birthday celebration, Holly.

Seconded. For heterosexual readers who might be wondering about this: imagine you are out with your spouse for your nth-anniversary dinner...
I am heterosexual, but not wondering about it because I understand. I wish to comment though, Mizducky, that your posts are well written and I appreciate the seriousness of the issue. I'm following the good discussion on this thread with interest.

That being said........ I wanna know where to go to get your check delivered to you in a stiletto pump! I love it!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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I'd be more interested in the converse.  Are there Center City restaurants that are less than gay-friendly?

i'd like to know about that too. because after all, while i have zero problem patronizing gay-friendly establishments, basically i would be much more inclined to specifically avoid gay-unfriendly (or really intolerant in any way) establishments than to specifically seek out gay-friendly ones.

Two of my best and most regular customers were of the stiff lipped, prim and proper Delancy Street ilk.  They chose my place to celebrate their only son's 21st birthday.  He chose his 21st birthday to come out to his parents.  A memorable scene ensued in our small, intimate dining room.  Alas it was the last time I saw those regulars at the restaurant.

too bad you didn't have the sign out; maybe they would have been slightly more prepared for what was coming.

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Two stories from my restaurant back in the early 80s:

In planning the decor I saw a picture of a sign from an inn in the UK.  I thought it was cool and wanted to hang a similar sign at the entrance.  It read "Patronized by diverse ladeis and gentlement of quality, distinction and elegance."  My investors wouldn't go along with it fearing that it might give customers the "wrong idea."  Unfortunately I listened to them.

Two of my best and most regular customers were of the stiff lipped, prim and proper Delancy Street ilk.  They chose my place to celebrate their only son's 21st birthday.  He chose his 21st birthday to come out to his parents.  A memorable scene ensued in our small, intimate dining room.  Alas it was the last time I saw those regulars at the restaurant.

Now that's a great story! One can only hope in the time that's ensued since the lad's 21st birthday his parents have come to some sort of understanding with him. Or perhaps he's happily living in their Delancey Street manse by now...

I love the sign. Too bad the investors won out on that one.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I realize it's a bit strange to repeat a post in a Pennsylvania thread where I'm talking about my experiences in Los Angeles, but I thought it better not to edit my earlier post.  Bruce and I are now very happily living in Rehoboth Beach, which is very gay-friendly, and straight-friendly as well...which is how things can and should be.

Welcome back, glad to hear you like Rehoboth, and Delaware's joined to Pennsylvania at the hip anyway, so there's no problem. :laugh:

This seems to have morphed into a General Food Topics discussion anyway (gotta love the "active topics" search). Perhaps the discussion should be moved there?

Funny you should mention the Venture Inn in your recollection. That is also the name of the oldest surviving gay restaurant in Philadelphia.

And, come to think of it, the owner is heterosexual.

A somewhat relevant aside that keeps some Pennsylvania content in this: Up until very recently, almost every gay bar in Philadelphia either had a restaurant attached or had some sort of food service operation. State liquor laws required that in order for a bar to obtain a permit to sell alcohol on Sunday.

I don't know if that provision still exists, but most of the bars still serve food today.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Holly I can sympathize. I was a partner in 2 restaurants in London (one in Notting Hill and the other in Battersea) in the early '90s and we had many discussions as to whether to actively market ourselves as gay friendly due to the increasing demographic in the areas and the general lack of openly gay friendly establishments (this information according to a gay friend of mine). In the end the vote amongst the partners went against the idea and a couple of years later we closed both locations. I often wish that vote had swung the other way. Small mindedness robbed our investors of the power of the "pink pound".

Get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!!!

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Just to put some more perspective on this, by way of commenting further on mizducky's comments and SWoodyWhite's reminiscences:

Today, I imagine that if a gay couple were to book a table at Le Bec-Fin to celebrate their domestic partnership/civil union anniversary, the staff would make them feel every bit as pampered as the heterosexual diners, and the patrons probably wouldn't make a scene, either. (They paid too much to do that.)

Thread-tying: Ran into the owners of Hamburger Mary's last night at Woody's. They're none too thrilled at the prospect of Ruby Tuesday's opening right down the block from them.

I still maintain that Philadelphia's big enough now to accommodate them all, but I'd be apprehensive too if I were faced with competition with a national advertising budget.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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...

Certainly there are other such places (Judy's, Judy's, Judy's!).  But are there any "straight-run" establishments that may have caught on to this fact yet?

Word has it that such behavior just might be permitted at Carman's Country Kitchen though if you're in drag and on roller skates the counter seats may not be all that demure.

I'll have to borrow my friend's Rollerblades and pick up a clingy number over at Buffalo Exchange to test this when next I visit. Besides, I should at least update her on how I'm doing, since I unburdened myself in the course of swapping life stories with Carman on my first visit back in February.

I'd be more interested in the converse.  Are there Center City restaurants that are less than gay-friendly?

Actually, I suspect that if there are any places where gay diners would feel uncomfortable, it would be less the fault of the management than of the patrons.

It's quite likely that the same sort of self-segregation that occurs with class and race also takes place with sexual orientation. I know I wouldn't say to my friends, "Let's pop over to the Irish Pub for a bite to eat!" on a whim, and--except, perhaps, on New Year's Day--I doubt I'd run into too many Irish Pub habitues chowing down at Bump.

And, as I suggested over on the burger thread, some of it has to do with one's own mood and the atmosphere of the establishment. I suspect I'm far from the only gay person to dine at Moriarty's, and the staff and patrons have never been anything less than courteous. but I certainly wouldn't go there and camp it up, for the ambience discourages it.

IOW, we don't worry as much about the places that are less than gay-friendly because we have so many other choices now, both explicitly gay-friendly and quietly gay-friendly.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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What label is placed on heterosexuals who, either by choice or for biological reasons, do not breed?

"Child-Free"

Well off :blink: (or whatever you choose to be the opposite of poor)

Get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!!!

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I visit Philly often, and on our way back we almost always stop to get coffee for the car in a cute little Coffee Bar on 12th Street, that is EXTREMELY gay-friendly. Great coffee and a terrific environment, I actually think the coffee is better there than the much-revered La Colombe. It's certainly more fun. Anybody help with the name of this "gay friendly" coffee house?

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What label is placed on heterosexuals who, either by choice or for biological reasons, do not breed?

"Child-Free"

genius

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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What label is placed on heterosexuals who, either by choice or for biological reasons, do not breed?

"Child-Free"

I thought it was D.I.N.K.

Double Income, No Kids.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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