A Brunching of Gays: The Social House

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chilaquiles

With news last week that Dish Restaurant at the ilume would be relocating — and that Feb. 28 would be the last “Drag Brunch” in that space, at least until owner Tim McEneny opens Dish’s replacement concept, Cedar Grove (planned for Memorial Day) — came the sudden realization that some queer folks would be without their traditional brunch hang. And since I believe the proper collective noun for gay men should be “a brunching,” it falls upon me to come up with some alternatives. Here, then, the inaugural column looking for new spots to mimosify and gossip on a warm spring Sunday. First up: The Social House.

My initial foray to scavenge for a suitable booze-and-protein-binge before 5 p.m. took me to this prodigal gastropub in Uptown. Prodigal only because it initially opened its doors in the West Village, only to relocate to Addison a few years later.
Then about three years ago, it returned to Central Dallas, this time tucked away in a quaint, parking-challenged corner between the Quadrangle and Gold’s Gym. But really, that just creates a little more buzz, a bit greater intimacy. Social House has “social” in its name, after all; you’re meant to feel the bustle and hear the hum.

And hum it does. On our visit — a gorgeous Sunday around 1:30 p.m. — the patio was packed with energetic (and good looking) diners, a diverse and friendly crowd that was also reflected in the servers, all of whom were gracious and easy-going. We didn’t make a reservation, so had to wait half an hour for our table, but no worries — bellinis and mimosas are available by the carafe (10 bucks!), and you can buy those at the bar and set up shop inside the foyer, where a shelf makes for the perfect setting to hold a flute or two of bubbly and o.j. (The two of us got two carafes before the meal was over; don’t judge.) The full menu — with its selection of burgers and tacos, pizza and pub grub — was available, and while my dining companion was focussed on the adult beverages, I came for brunch food.

The selection was what you’d expect at a gastropub in Texas: eggy offerings, gourmet meats and a dose of Tex-Mex sensibilities. I was drawn to the steak benedict ($13.95) or the breakfast tacos ($9.95) or even the chicken and waffles (at $15.95, the priciest item on the very reasonable menu), but stuck with my favorite Latino standby: chilaquiles ($9.95).
Triangles of crisply-fried corn tortillas serve as the foundation upon which are dome of ingredients create a kind of working-class casserole: marinated pulled pork weaves between a salad of lettuce, avocado, salsa, onions and an smattering of diced tomato, capped by a fried egg with lovely runny center, queso fresco and its French cousin, creme fraiche. It’s a full meal on a plate, with the added benefit of texture, deftness and a cocktail close at hang. My dining companion’s decision to order from the house specialities was forgiveable. That’s the beauty of brunch: Something for everyone, and everyone feels at home.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

2708 Routh St. Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.

Have a suggestion for a brunch place in or around Uptown that we should check out? Email your recommendation to jones@dallasvoice.com or tweet it to @criticalmasstx.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tallywackers wants you to have a quickie

Tallywackers’ BYOBurger, starting today.

A quicker. A nooner. Involving Tallywackers.

Get your mind out of the gutter, we’re talking about lunch.

Yup, the genitalia-inspired Lemmon Avenue restaurant has launched new lunch, brunch and drink menus, including daily specials under $10.

The $9.99 quickie lunch is available Monday through Friday, with a different on-to-go item each day (Monday: chicken penne; Tuesday: grilled ham and cheese; Wednesday: fried chicken sammy; Thursday: build-your-own burger; Friday: meat loaf). Saturdays and Sundays, a new brunch menu is available, as well as  mimosa for $4 and a mix-your-own bloody mary bar.

In addition, the start of the week will be Martini Monday with $4.50 gin or vodka martinis open to close; happy hour runs 4–7 p.m. each day.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Springtime Easter punch

image008Easter weekend is the springiest of times, and nothing if springier that a light and fruit punch drink. This creation from mixologist Enzo Cangemi sounds perfect for brunch at your place, or even a picnic or patio party.

14 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin

7 oz. St-Germain liqueur

6 oz. fresh guava juice

6 oz. lemon juice

Sprig of sage

Black peppercorn

Build ingredients in a punch bowl with ice. Stir. Serves 5–7 (or 1–2 drag queens).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Stoli Mary

BloodyBloody Marys are a staple in the gay community — what is brunch without them? — but what better way to spice it up than with this caliente recipe from Stoli?

1 part Stoli Hot

3 parts tomato juice

Lemon

Worcestershire and Tabasco

Making it: Combine vodka (you can always replace the Stoli Hot with Stoli Citros or just the classic), tomato juice and a squeeze of lemon and gently mix. Pour into a tumbler. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco (or other hot sauce), and a dash of salt and pepper, and stir. Garnish with a stalk of celery, olives, pickled okra or green tomato.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Funday alert: Sissy’s finally opens for brunch

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The variation on chicken and dumplings at Sissy’s is a standout on the new brunch menu

“Gays love their brunches,” I observe within earshot of Lisa Garza, proprietress of the genteel Henderson Avenue eatery Sissy’s Southern Kitchen. “Who doesn’t love brunch?!” Garza quickly interjects. “It’s my favorite meal.”

It must have been hard, then, for Garza to wait more than a year and a half after opening to add it to the menu here. The restaurant started out with dinner, then some months later added lunch service; brunch starts on Saturday.

It was well worth the wait. Garza says she knew what would be on the menu before the restaurant even opened — that’s how committed she is the experience.

“I’m old enough to remember places like Beau Nash [in the Crescent] that did” brunch the right way, she says. She wants to provide a similar experience now. And the selections on the menu reflect that.

The traditional Sunday Funday crowd will be delighted by the drink menu, which includes not just mimosas and bellinis and Bloody Marys, but a grapefruit julep (similar to a greyhound, truth be told) and a Texas screwdriver (made with Tito’s). But the dishes stand out even more.

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The beautiful and engaging grapefruit brulee

Among the Southern specialties making an appearance are chicken and waffles (the signature fried chicken, with a fluffy Belgian waffle and sugar-cane syrup) and the short rib hash (exquisite, with the beef braised crisply and sunny-side eggs on top). Some of the other items, though familiar, raise the bar.

Sissy’s Benedict is a crab cake pregnant with thick crab meat perched on a corn pone muffin and capped with poached eggs and a slice of jalapeno (for a Texas flair). The hollandaise — here as well as on the eggs Sardou — is so rich that you could serve it on cat litter and cardboard and it would make them taste delicious.

Best of the entrees, though, is the chicken and dumplings, a kind of chicken stew in a cast iron pot, with tiny dumplings lurking like matzoh amid the creamy base and succulent, uncommonly flavorful brined chicken. And for looks alone, the grapefruit brulee (a steal at $4) makes the table soar with its colorful finish and sweet-sour double whammy.

For now, Sissy’s will serve brunch only on Saturdays, but if Garza has her way, it won’t be long until it opens for Sundays as well … and perhaps even all week long. We can deal. Brunch is second nature to us.

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The crab cake benedict has hollandaise to die for

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Canasta for a good cause, this Sunday at Tony’s Corner Pocket

The American novelist Mary McCarthy once quipped that Canasta has the advantage of “doing away with the bother of talk after dinner.” But the classic Uruguayan card came popular among the aged and experiencing a rebirth among hipsters has much more to offer. While Canasta may not have the high-stakes glamor of Baccarat, or the back-room luridness of Poker it harkens back to the halcyon days of the 1950’s when it was first introduced to the United States, with smartly dressed men and more smartly dressed cocktails. It’s that paen for a more stylish age that has caused this once nigh-forgotten game to experience a rebirth of late.

If you’ve caught the Canasta bug there’s an opportunity this Sunday, Feb. 12, to indulge in all the melds your heart can muster at Tony’s Corner Pocket  (817 West Dallas). Brunch and registration start at noon with “Pick a Partner” at 12:30. Then at 1 pm single elimination tournament play kicks off. Canasta is played with teams of two, but don’t worry if you don’t have a partner to come with you. Single players are welcomed. Registration is $10, with half of the proceeds going to the tournament winners and the other half benefiting Montrose Grace Place, a non-profit helping homeless youth.

Register early by e-mailing houstonglbtcanasta@yahoogroups.com

—  admin

COVER STORY: Brunch meets nightclub

MIMOSAS AND DRAG | In gay culture, brunch is a major social and culinary event, where fancy eggs benedict (like that at Dish, above left) and bottomless mimosas are standard issue. But they are becoming more fun, with drag queens part of the morning’s entertainment at Dish and Axiom Sushi Lounge in the ilume, and ZaZa’s Sunday School brunch (above right) serving up sparklers, DJs and girls dancing on tables. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

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Sunday brunch in Dallas’ LGBT community has evolved into much more than just a meal; it’s a way to keep the weekend party going

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  |  Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Mad Men portrays the 1960s white businessman’s three-martini lunch. The Golden Girls ate cheesecake late night around a kitchen table. Carrie always sipped cosmos with the girls during cocktail hour while gossiping at the local club.

But in gay culture, the ritual of a Sunday brunch has long served as a social nexus, a place where all the major deals are made — and the arbiters of local society convene to hold court in the sobering light of day.

Putting together the right crew is part of the finesse that comes with planning the ideal brunch experience. “Not all my friends get along so I have to juggle it,” says one brunch regular.

“I usually have a herd of about five [regular brunch buddies],” says Joshuah Welch, who manages the ilume property where two tenants — the restaurants Dish and Axiom Sushi Lounge — have recently initiated theme brunches. Today, though, it’s just Welch and one other friend: “I was in a coma until 15 minutes ago,” Welch said.

Nursing a hangover is definitely another purpose of the brunch trek: Where else can you have food and alcohol on a Sunday morning to satisfy the twin desires to ease your headache and fill your belly? But the hangover element can affect where you choose to meet your friends. A place with loud music isn’t necessarily all that welcome when you’re sound sensitive, one diner — wearing sunglasses inside — ruefully admits as the music strikes up.

And there’s definitely music, highlighting the latest local trend in brunching: Turning the traditionally staid eggs-benedict-and-mimosa chatfest into something more like a nightclub bathed in sunshine.

The glam world of the party brunch is upon us.

Gays, of course, have always made brunch more a social function than a dining one — at least in urban areas. (Out-of-towners visiting Dallas say the gay community in Northwest Arkansas does not gather routinely for brunch.)

While a hearty meal accompanied by some hair o’ the dog is a reason for brunch, it is by no means the only one. Sunday in the gay community can be akin to a war room strategy session.

“You meet to plan your week — decide what you’re going to do for Sunday Funday,” says regular bruncher Eli Duarte.

“Where else can you find our community gathered in the daylight?” asks Tim O’Connor, another diner, with a hint of sarcasm. “There are not a
lot of places to do that outside the Strip, though it can be a kind of continuation of the bar scene.”

That social aspect has caught on in the broader community, and has even been raised a notch of late in Dallas.

At Dish one recent Sunday, 200 to 250 diners are expected to enjoy the morning’s entertainment. It doesn’t come from a pianist playing songs from “Your Hit Parade,” but rather a dance-mix DJ spinning tunes louder than Grandma would probably enjoy. And that’s not the half of it: Midway through the day’s two brunch seatings (one at 11 a.m. another at 1 p.m.), Dallas drag divas Krystal Summers and Erica Andrews rend the control booth from the DJ to put on a full show for the Taste of Drag Brunch.

Taste of Drag doesn’t take place every Sunday — on special occasions like Mother’s Day a more traditional service is offered — but owner Tim McEnery says they try to do it once or twice a month. And it’s not just for the gay community.

“It really is for everyone,” McEnery says.

CHAMPAGNE | ZaZa’s Sunday School brunch serves up camp with their frittatas. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Anecdotal evidence tends to bear that out. When I mention to a middle-aged straight woman that I am headed to a drag brunch, she excitedly asks where. “I need to know where I can see a good drag show,” she declares enthusiastically. At Dish, there certainly is a mix of gay and straight folks, though queerer heads prevail.

McEnery doesn’t claim to have invented the drag brunch, but he thinks it’s high time Dallas has one. It’s been a staple in cities like San Francisco and New York for years, but has only recently gained currency outside the coasts.

On this particular Sunday, the first seating already has a nine-top (including two women — one, a former New Yorker who notes that brunch has burgeoned as a social event since she moved to Dallas); across from it, five diners, including four well-appointed women in sundresses and espadrilles, their makeup and hair obviously fussed over, have taken a prime location to watch the shows.

A decent-sized crowd fills in the 11 a.m., which is generally less well attended than the later — not surprising in the gay community, several brunch regulars quickly note.

“Part of the point of brunch is to see and be seen,” acknowledges Welch, who is not at all surprised by the girls who turned up at 11 in full, flawless makeup. “People dress up to come here.”

Of course, gays and straights can mingle together or separately anywhere in town during brunch, though there is certainly a concerted effort at Dish — which is located along Cedar Springs — to make Sunday morning feel like an extension of Saturday night.

STEAK AND EGGS | Brunch is a social function, with friends attending in crews where they enjoy a little alcohol along with steak and eggs to keep the Saturday night party going like this group at Dish. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

“Who went to church today?” asks Andrews of the Dish crowd. “I did, but I still smell like last night at the Rose Room.”

Doing the Taste of Drag Brunch, she says, makes performing on the weekend almost run together.

“It’s a different group than I see at the Rose Room,” says Summers. “And we tend to do different music on Sundays — more classic drag. But it’s a perfect time to catch up with friends, to talk about how your week went.”

Over at the Hotel ZaZa ballroom, the third Sunday of every month morphs into Sunday School Brunch, where staff dress as nerdy bookworms and sexy Catholic school girls for a prix fixe menu that comes with a bottle of champagne per couple.

But it’s not just the costumes and food that attract the crowd; indeed, many attendees pay the $10 SRO cover just for the entertainment: Around 2 p.m., the lights dim, the curtain pulls back and the brunch room turns into a naughty discotheque, replete with sparklers, women dancing on the bar, mood lighting and a pounding dance beat.

Today’s a mixed crowd — “about 50-50 [gay-straight] observes one regular, “though it’s often ’mo central.”

The crowd is up and dancing before long, with muscular men in surplus among the attendees as the music gets louder and the lights dimmer. The sunglasses stay on. Gossip can wait; for now, there’s still some partying left to do.

—  John Wright

Norma’s Cafe turns 55

On Tuesday, June 21, Norma’s celebrates its 55th anniversary.

For years, the Oak Cliff cafe has been the place to find the gay community on a Sunday morning for brunch. Norma’s has welcomed the LGBT community with open arms ever since the gay community began migrating to Winnetka Heights in the 1970s.

Norma’s walls document the history of Oak Cliff including photos of the original 7-11 (on the corner of Twelfth Street and Edgefield Avenue) and the 1958 tornado. That storm tore through the Kessler Theater, a block away. Though that building was restored to its original glory last year, it stood in disrepair until then.

In its 55 years, Norma’s has expanded to a second location in Far North Dallas along Dallas Parkway past Trinity Mills Road. And Momma’s Daughter’s Diner? Momma is Norma. Her daughter opened a place on Industrial Boulevard and expanded to North Dallas as well.

In 1986, Ed Murph took over Norma’s and changed nothing. (Well, actually, on a visit last weekend, we were pretty sure the white walls had been recently repainted).

To celebrate its anniversary, Norma’s is offering three of its favorite dishes — chicken fried steak, meatloaf, and chicken and dressing along with always-hefty side dishes — for $1.79 on June 21 beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Happy anniversary, Norma’s.

—  David Taffet

Cedar Springs street party to proceed as scheduled

Country singer Chaz Marie, left, and Compete Magazine Athlete of the Year Michael Holtz

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Weather and other factors have affected a number of Super Bowl-related events originally set for this week. But despite the area’s winter weather woes, crowds are still expected to turn out for the Cedar Springs Merchants Association’s Super Street Party Saturday night on Cedar Springs.

Forecasts predict that the week’s record-setting low temperatures should give way to a more moderate seasonal chill by then, and organizers predict that the excitement of the event will be enough to keep party-goers warm — not to mention the chance for some prime celebrity-spotting.

The merchants association has received calls from a number of celebrities and athletes — gay and straight — who will be in town for the big event, all asking for details on the Super Street Party. Why? Because the straight celebs assume that in a straight-laced town like Dallas, it’s the gays who know how to party.

Those requests for information have come from celebrities said to be staying at The Melrose and other hotels in the Oak Lawn area.

Cedar Springs Road will close at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon, and the party begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free. In case it gets cold, the bars will all be open with most offering specials.

Buli promises hot chocolate and will stay open until at least 1 a.m. Hunky’s and Subway will remain open until 3 a.m., with Subway offering its Fabulous Foot-long as a Super Bowl special. Zini’s plans to operate until at least 4 a.m. and Café Brazil is open 24 hours.

The Bud Light Main Stage will be set up in the middle of Cedar Springs, with Chaz Marie as the featured entertainer. Guest DJs will provide music on the street throughout the evening.

Compete Magazine’s Gay Athlete of the Year Michael Holtz will be the MC.

Woody’s Sports and Video Bar will hold a meet-and-greet with Holtz on Friday, Feb. 4 at 9 p.m. and he will attend a brunch at Dish on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Beer booths will be set up on the street, staffed by some of the local gay sports groups raising money for their teams.

Other Super Bowl week events haven’t fared as well.

A gay-themed concert originally planned for Thursday night was cancelled, even before bad weather hit, because of poor ticket sales. The tent in the Cotton Bowl that was to house that and other concert events collapsed under the weight of the ice and snow, and the concerts were moved to the Fair Park Coliseum.

Dallas had hoped to show off many of its venues to visitors through the week but the ice that arrived early on Tuesday morning delayed the arrival of many visitors when both airports closed. The storm also caused the closing of the downtown museums for two days, as well as a number of other facilities around the area.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘A-List: New York’ returns in the fall

We already knew Logo was casting for The A-List: Dallas and Los Angeles, but word comes today that A-List: New York will return in the fall as well. Reichen will be back with Rodiney (still his boyfriend — I was at brunch with them in New York on New Year’s) as well as the back-stabbing Austin, and basically irrelevant regulars from last season Mike Ruiz, Ryan, TJ and Derek. Logo’s also promising some new faces.

Still no word, though on when the Dallas and L.A. editions will begin airing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones