June marks the start of LGBTQ+ Pride Month and this year we’ll all be celebrating a little differently. It’s been 51 years since the protests at Stonewall Inn—an integral spark in the decades-long fight for equality led by Black queer activist Marsha P. Johnson. Folks from coast to coast are shining their Pride colors extra brightly—albeit mostly from a safe distance—and that means supporting and recognizing the queer businesses we love.
Bars and restaurants have long been important community spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ family, serving as safe places to escape, join together, plan, protest, and, of course, dish a little. Whether this June has you on the move or sticking close to home with your very best Judys, here are a few iconic LGBTQ+ restaurants to try. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, some of these restaurants have reopened in accordance with state guidelines, while others remain open for takeout only.
Julius’ (New York City)
“Restaurant” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of Julius’ but this iconic West Village gay bar actually has some pretty good grub. A continuously operating bar since the mid-19th century, Julius’ started to attract an LGBTQ clientele by the 1960s. On April 21, 1966, the “Sip-In,” inspired by a civil rights “sit-in,” was organized by the Mattachine Society to challenge a discriminatory policy of revoking the licenses of bars that served gays and lesbians. I proved to be one of the earliest public actions for LGBTQ rights, and a big step forward in legitimizing LGBTQ bars in New York.
On top of being one of the oldest and most historic gay bars, Julius’ [secretly] has one of the best grease pits in town and they just reopened for takeout. For simple juicy burgers, well-made fries, chicken fingers, and hot wings—made in a charming “open kitchen” that’s all of 12 square feet— it’s the perfect food to soak up happy hour vodka sodas slung by some of the friendliest bartenders in town.
Hamburger Mary’s (Multiple Locations)
Hamburger Mary’s is actually a franchise with over ten locations across the country, but it’s earned cult status in San Francisco (where it originated) and southern California as one of the most fun, gay-friendly hangs in all of West Hollywood (L.A.’s gayborhood). With epic drag brunches on weekends and bustling happy hours on their open-air patio, Mary’s serves simple yet steady diner-style food and invites anyone, gay or straight, to come “eat, drink and be Mary.”
The West Hollywood location recently opened for takeout, so grab a few burgers and shakes and tune into one of their live streaming drag shows on Facebook or Instagram.
Rosie’s Bar and Grill (Wilton Manors, Florida)
You won’t find a more fun spot to hang and eat than Rosie’s Bar and Grill on Wilton Drive in LGBT-haven, Fort Lauderdale. Wilton Manors is one of the gayest cities per capita in the country and Rosie’s Bar and Grill is truly its beating heart. Come for a freshly grilled fish sandwich or heaping burger, or just to see and be seen sipping one of their fabulous cocktails made by the ever-smiling-bartender Alfredo out on the breezy patio.
According to its Facebook account, Rosie’s is back open and taking reservations as of May 28.
Big Chicks (Chicago, IL)
The pub grub is solid at Big Chicks, a gay bar & restaurant on the Northside of Chicago, but you’re really going for the camaraderie and massive Bloody Marys (pictured above). Late-night this place turns into a VERY lively bar, more than a restaurant, but the kitchen stays open past midnight. Bring cash for dollar burger Mondays and keep an eye out for other food specials throughout the week.
As of June 3rd, Big Chicks’ sidewalk cafe was open for business and serving customers.
700 Club (New Orleans, LA)
700 Club gets a standing ovation just for naming this bar and restaurant to troll the conservative Christian and anti-LGBT television show of the same name. New Orleans is also one of the great food cities and probably the most unique too, so standards are high but the 700 Club, on Burgundy Street in the French Quarter delivers. The food technically comes from Faubourg Bistro in the back, and with fried catfish po’ boys, burgers, mac and cheese balls, and cold beer, it’s become a favorite spot to eat, drink, and reconnoiter for Crescent City queers.
Bars in New Orleans have not yet opened as of June 4 but there are plans in place to do so later this month.
Header image courtesy of Julius'