Two new gay-owned bistros defy the economy to benefit the community
With the economy as volatile as it has ever been, many businesses are laying off workers or even closing their doors.
But the gays never do things like everyone else. Which is how two sets of same-sex couples — Royce Mathews and Brian Corkins, and Rita Davis and Carlene Saelg — are managing to buck the trend.
It’s one thing for celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Stephan Pyles to brave the market: They have name recognition and years of experience in the traditionally risky restaurant business. But Hungdinger, a new Italian bistro on Throckmorton, and The Pearl Cup, a coffeehouse at the far end of Henderson, are the first-ever dining ventures for both couples.
"The idea was born when we went out to the Original Market Diner," says Mathews of Hungdinger. "I love the atmosphere there — a classic hole-in-the-wall, extremely friendly with obviously gay couples hanging out."
Why, he wondered, didn’t Cedar Springs have its own version of that — with a twist? "The idea of having drag queens as servers would be campy and edgy and in step with the atmosphere of the neighborhood."
Davis was similarly motivated in establishing The Pearl Cup.
"We lived in Austin several years and one of the first things we did was look for a coffee shop," she says. But they never found one with the right vibe. So they decided to establish their own.
"We kept finding ourselves drawn to that neighborhood," Davis says. "We wanted to build a place where community could happen. People from the neighborhood come in every day, sometimes more than once a day."
A sense of community drove Mathews as well. He wanted good food, of course, but just as important was a campy sense of fun.
There are two transgender waitresses, colorful decor and on certain nights weekends, diners are treated to late-seating drag shows.
"The identity is more performance hall and dinner venue," Mathews says. "You can come for a drink and to watch the show, or just have dinner."
And then there’s the name — "paying homage to my boyfriend," Mathews grins. But when he saw the definition of "humdinger" as "a person or place that is extraordinary," he realized he could replace the M with an NG, and "extraordinary" with "fabulous," and he had the elements in place for a future gay host spot.
For now, Davis says The Pearl Cup has been a hit with locals, but she hopes the gay community discovers it soon. (Hopefully this weekend: The grand opening begins Friday and continues Saturday with eight hours of live music.)
"We found a baker who could make the perfect Italian cookies," Davis says. And a locally roasted secret-recipe coffee has already become a huge hit.
"We wanted something to set us apart," Davis explains.
Hmmm… mystery java and being served pasta by drag queens under a disco ball. Can’t get much more unusual than that.
Hungdinger, 4000-E Cedar Springs Road. Open Wednesdayâ€“Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. (open daily soon) and weekend brunch at 11 a.m. 214-522-4864.
The Pearl Cup, 1900 Henderson Ave. Open daily 7 a.m.â€“9 p.m. (Sunday, 9 a.m.â€“4 p.m.).
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 13, 2009.