Having been born and raised in New York you’d think I’d have tapped into the gay scene by now. I haven’t. Where is it?
There are a few bars that have been around forever, but I find them dated and unwelcoming. My favorite gay nights in New York were spent at CONFESSIONS, a once a month dance party that was thrown by NY-based party promoter Emily Hall Smith at a straight bar in Park Slope called Mission Dolores. What I liked about it was that the bar drew in its regular Brooklyn crowd and the homos flocked in on top of that. The result was that it wasn’t a campy catered-to-the-ladies event, just a cool bar where your odds of getting laid were higher.
I don’t think I’m alone here when I say that I’m not a fan of “going out.” You have to keep busy until 10:30 and then get on the subway to go to whatever neighborhood people go to this week and spend way too much money on drinks to stand in an overcrowded shit-hole and get drunk enough so that you can hold eye contact with the hot lady you’ve noticed noticing you, but not so drunk that you continue making out with her once she’s mentioned that her boyfriend likes to watch. When I heard The Dalloway, a new lesbian-leaning restaurant and bar, was opening my reaction was far from enthused, but then I checked it out and I have to say I may have found the antidote to my fear of socializing.
If you’re a regular AfterEllen reader you’ll be familiar with the owners, Kim Stolz and Amanda Leigh Dunn. Kim was on Top Model a long time ago and Amanda was featured on the most recent season of The Real L Word. They met years ago through mutual friends, both felt that NYC was lacking a great hangout spot and decided to go for it.
I’m glad they did because The Dalloway is a really nice place. The kind of place you could take your mom to for dinner and then stay to binge-drink as soon as she leaves because your mom did that passive aggressive thing she does that makes you hate yourself for being gay.
At first I worried the place would be too cool for me. I mean, it’s in Soho, a neighborhood that houses designer flagship stores and spoilt teens that study instillation art at NYU. But due to my girlfriend’s insistence and my secret hope that Whitney from The Real L Word would come busting in with those huge chunky dreds and start a bar fight, I decided to check it out. Upstairs is a restaurant; all the tables were booked for the next hour, so my girlfriend and I sat in the downstairs lounge by the fireplace and enjoyed dinner while the bar slowly filled up. By the time we left at 10 the place had transformed from small gatherings of friends and the occasional stone butch blues kind of couple to a bumping dance party — and a diverse one at that: lots of cute young ladies, but also a smattering of hot dudes and some older folk.
I sat down with Kim and Amanda a few days later to ask about the genesis of the space. The general sense I got was that they were building a collaborative network of professional lesbians working together to create a home base for the New York LGBT community. At first they didn’t plan on serving more than just bar snacks, but after a tasting with Vanessa Miller (also a homo), who, at 23, became Boston’s youngest Executive Chef, they were convinced to make it a restaurant and bar. Amanda designed the entire space, a former Tiki Bar, which is now chic/elegant while also dark, warm and inviting. As for the choice of location, it actually makes sense: Soho is a convenient compromise for both Manhattan and Brooklyn-based queers.
So I’ve been there a few times now, and here’s why I recommend it:
1. The food is incredible: The plates are small and good and there’s a wide enough assortment to suit most palates.
2. Nice people/solid service: We hadn’t placed our orders longer than ten minutes when our waitress apologized for the delay brought us the most delicious sweet potato chips I’ve ever had and assured the food would be coming ASAP.
3. Taste Level: They play an eclectic mix of GOOD MUSIC including indie, hip-hop, and gems from the ’80s and ’90s, not just remixes of “Call Me Maybe.”
4. Strong drinks: The bartenders know what they’re doing. If you’re into cocktails, I recommend the “Night and Day.”
5. Amenities: THREE clean bathrooms, a huge communal chalkboard and a free coat check.
6. What they don’t have: No obnoxious doorman, no velvet rope and no cover.
I found this place kind of inspiring. These girls had a vision and they went for it, executing it beautifully. I see this restaurant the way I’d ideally like my films to be — enjoyable for all, but especially welcoming to a queer audience. See for yourself.