As Oak Cliff is to Oak Lawn, many cities have born satellite gayborhoods
Over the years, a number of urban neighborhoods around the world have developed decidedly gay followings. GLBT visitors to San Francisco have long made a beeline for the Castro. Like Cedar Springs, New York’s Chelsea, Chicago’s Lakeview and San Diego’s Hillcrest are famous for having substantial concentrations of gay-popular businesses.
But as "gay ghettos" have diversified in recent years, with mainstream populations embracing these neighborhoods, gays and lesbians feel increasingly comfortable shopping, dining, socializing and living in other parts of town. As a result, many progressive, artsy neighborhoods have developed a gay following without necessarily possessing a core of gay businesses.
Stroll some of these areas and you might not see dozens of rainbow flags or an especially high number of same-sex couples milling around, but it’s easy to discern a queer sensibility.
If you’re something of an urban adventurer, or you’re simply longing to branch out in your travels and explore hip, distinctive urban districts with great energy, a liberal vibe and a gay-welcoming attitude, check out some of these particularly inviting big city neighborhoods.
Brooklyn: Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens
Brooklyn’s charming Park Slope neighborhood has long cultivated a lesbian following. Just across the Gowanus Canal from Park Slope, there’s a pair of similarly diverting, trendy neighborhoods, Cobble Hill and — due south — Carroll Gardens. Essentially an extension of debonair Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens are handsome residential districts chock-full of 19th Century townhouses.
Both areas have seen a major transformation in recent years, as hipsters, gays, intellectuals and fashion plates have invaded en masse. In fact, nobody living around here in the mid-’90s could have imagined that Cobble Hill’s once-dowdy commercial thoroughfare, Smith Street, would today glow with haute eateries, stylish home furnishing shops and art galleries.
Along Court Street in Carroll Gardens, you’ll still find many of the Italian markets and pizzerias that date back to the area’s Little Italy heyday.
Atlanta: East Atlanta Village
Many visitors to Atlanta focus on the glitzy downtown and super-gay Midtown area, missing out on a number of enchanting, offbeat neighborhoods outside the city core, such as Inman Park, Little Five Points, Castleberry Hill and East Atlanta Village. All of these communities have a somewhat gay vibe, with East Atlanta Village perhaps the most interesting at the moment.
With its wealth of indie coffeehouses, lounges, music clubs, ethnic restaurants and boutiques, this neighborhood about five miles southeast of downtown draws an amazingly diverse bunch. Walk along Flat Shoals Avenue to find such intriguing hangouts as Mary’s, a raffish and lovably gay bar; Joe’s Coffee, with its quirky artwork and potent java; and City Life Apparel, carrying a wide assortment of urban attire.
New Orleans: Faubourg Marigny
The neighborhood immediately downriver from the French Quarter — across tree-shaded Esplanade Avenue — is Faubourg Marigny, which, because of its increasing GLBT following, is sometimes referred to affectionately as "Fagburg" Marigny.
Many gays and otherwise progressive-minded types have bought up this artsy neighborhood’s quaint French West Indies-style cottages and Greek Revival mansions. The neighborhood’s greatest attribute, at least for gay visitors, is its wealth of gay-friendly (and moderately priced) restaurants and B&Bs — there are even a few queer bars here, including the Phoenix and Cowpokes. You’ll also find one of the most gay-popular spots in town for jazz brunch, Feelings Cafe.
Washington, D.C.: Logan Circle
If you walk about six blocks due east of uber-gay Dupont Circle, you’ll come to Logan Circle, the white-hot D.C. neighborhood that’s enjoyed a massive gentrification in recent years. Along 14th Street, you’ll see the greatest evidence of change — hot new restaurants, the chic gay lounge Halo, a huge Whole Foods Market and the stylish Hotel Helix, which is run by Kimpton.
Fans of the neighborhood’s handful of fine theaters hang out at the inviting 1409 Playbill Cafe, and live music devotees stroll along the U Street Corridor, which marks the neighborhood’s northern boundary and is lined with great clubs and restaurants.
Even before Logan Circle became so fabulous, gays and lesbians began buying the Edwardian and Victorian townhouses in this historic but formerly blighted neighborhood. For example, gay William Lewis House B&B has been going strong for well over a decade.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 21, 2008.