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Many local bistros giving Pride-season proceeds back to LGBT orgs

Rainbow-colored cocktails, cake, donuts and more on the menu this weekend

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pride dining specials dc 2019, gay news, Washington Blade
At Osteria Morini, pastry chef Tova Hillman and team are celebrating Capital Pride Festival with a five-layer rainbow Italian almond cake. The cake will be offered through June 9 with proceeds going to Casa Ruby. (Photo courtesy Osteria Morini)

The Pride celebrations across D.C. on this 50th anniversary of Stonewall are overflowing. Selected options for drinks, food and events are listed below. 

Drinks

Gay-owned EatWell D.C. continues its long tradition of supporting and celebrating LGBT residents for Capital Pride. Throughout the weekend (June 7-9), all EatWell DC restaurants (The Pig, Commissary, Grillfish, Frenchy’s Naturel and Logan Tavern) are offering a special L’amour C’est L’amour cocktail and donating $1 from each purchase to the D.C. Area Transmasculine Society. EatWell’s newest spot, Frenchy’s Naturel, is also hosting “Unicorn Pride” theme all weekend, in which diners are encouraged to wear tutus and other unicorn regalia. Details at eatwelldc.com

City Winery (1350 Okie St., N.E.) will donate a portion of its charity wine flights to Capital Pride. Each flight features a range of City Winery’s Washington house-made wines, including a combination of white and red wines as well as the winery’s popular rose. Details at citywinery.com

Fare Well (406 H St., N.E.), has teamed up with lesbian-owned Republic Restoratives to feature the Fare Well Mule, made with that distillery’s Civic Vodka. A portion of proceeds from drink sales from June 1-30 will be donated to TransLAW. Details at eatfarewell.com

Hotel

In coordination with Exactly, the creative agency from Brightest Young Things, seven local Hilton properties will sprout rainbow activities, cocktails and “benches” featuring floral artwork by local artist Holley Simmons of She Loves Me. The hotels will serve D.C. Brau Pride Pilsner and Absolut Vodka Pride Edition in ROYGBIV cocktails. Details at hilton.com

Food

All D.C. proper locations of Matchbox (Capitol Hill, Chinatown and 14th Street) will donate a portion of sales from each Honey Pie Punch sold between June 3-9 to the D.C. LGBT Center. Details at matchboxrestaurants.com

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken (1308 G St., N.W.) on June 8 and 9 will add a special Pride Doughnut to the menu: a rainbow-glazed square doughnut. It’s also available for preorder. Details at astrodoughnuts.com

Throughout June, Brabo Brasserie (1600 King Street, Alexandria, Va.) is swirling a rainbow into their signature dessert in a rainbow baked Alaska, which is then flambeed tableside with 100 proof brandy. Brabo Brasserie will donate a portion of proceeds to The Trevor Project. Details at braborestaurant.com

During the D.C. Pride Festival, Le Diplomate’s (1604 14th St., N.W.) curbside Glaces de Diplomate ice cream cart will feature a rainbow cone of glace made in house, covered in rainbow sprinkles. All proceeds from the cone are being donated to the Capital Pride Alliance. In addition, given its location on the parade route, Le Diplomate will extend its patio from 4:30-7:30 p.m. and offer cocktail specials. Details at lediplomatedc.com

At Osteria Morini (301 Water St., S.E.), pastry chef Tova Hillman and team are celebrating Capital Pride Festival with a five-layer rainbow Italian almond cake. The cake will be offered through June 9 with proceeds going to Casa Ruby. Details at osteriamorini.com/washington-dc

Nicoletta Italian Kitchen (901 4th St., N.W.) is celebrating Capital Pride Festival with the rainbow cake-bite Pride Sundae  May 31st – June 9th. This new restaurant in Mt. Vernon Triangle will donate proceeds to the Trevor Project. Details at nicolettakitchen.com

Commissary (1443 P St., N.W.) also highlights its annual Pride food specials: two bagel sandwiches featuring the Bethesda Bagels’ Rainbow Bagel. The Pridewich, will have chicken sausage and spicy aioli; the Unicorn Bagel features blueberry cream cheese and rainbow sprinkles. Both are available all Capital Pride weekend. Details at commissarydc.com

Events

City Tap Dupont (1250 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) is ready to party with local queen Ba’Naka starring drag brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. From 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, Ba’Naka will host drag trivia, followed by a guest DJ for a ladies late-night party with happy hour specials. Details at citytap.com

For a second year, Republic Restoratives (1369 New York Ave., N.E.) is teaming up with 20 restaurants and bars District-wide to feature a specialty cocktail made with Republic Restoratives’ signature CIVIC Vodka and served throughout June. Proceeds from each cocktail will be donated directly to TransLAW. On Sunday, June 9, from noon-4 p.m., it will host the Not The White House PRIDE Party in support of TransLAW and LGBT44, the unofficial network of Obama administration LGBTQ alumni. Food is provided by gay-owned BBQ Bus. Tickets on Eventbrite. Details at republicrestoratives.com

On Saturday, the Tasting Room (1600 King Street, Alexandria, Va.) offers Pride Movie Night showing “The Birdcage,” projected onto a wall in the courtyard for an alfresco cinema with a special drink menu. 

Also Saturday, Miss United States Andromeda Peters and her fellow contestants will sign autographs and headshots during Commissary’s first Beauty Kween Brunch Party. Commissary will turn into a beauty pageant with complimentary tiaras from Day Owl Rosé, glitter cocktails and Kirsten Dunst’s cult classic film “Drop Dead Gorgeous”playing on a loop.

At Marvin (2007 14th St., N.W.), Pride with DJ Keenan Orr starts at 3 p.m. on Marvin’s roof deck on Saturday. Signature Smirnoff cocktail, Ruby Slippers, and rainbow fans will be provided; proceeds will go to Casa Ruby. Details at marvindc.com

Destination Wedding’s (1800 14th St., N.W.) patio pop-up along 14th Street is getting spritzy. On Saturday, it’s hosting a Spritz Patio Party from noon-6 p.m., with specials like the frozen fraperol spritz along with Doi Moi drinking snacks. 

Urbana ( 2121 P St., N.W.), on the parade route, is hosting its annual “Pride+Shine” party on Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.  DJ Trayze will play and special guest Mike Hot-Pence will take photos and collect donations to benefit The Trevor Project. There is no entry fee; a $50 bar package includes select beer, wine, mixed drinks and unlimited pizza. Urbana’s bar team will offer rainbow Jell-O shots while the culinary team will be handing out complimentary rainbow ice cream cones. Details at urbanadc.com

Radiator (1430 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.) offers “POP” (Pride On the Patio), a colorful, bottomless brunch for “popping in” and “popping out” before and after brunch. Radiator’s bar team will offer a special menu of ROYGBIV drinks celebrating Pride with all the colors of the rainbow. It runs Saturday and Sunday starting each day at noon. Details at radiatordc.com

On Sunday, June 9, DNV Rooftop (1155 14th St., N.W.) will host “Gaywatch,” a beach-themed pool party and hangover brunch, from noon-5 p.m. Special $15 large-format cocktails like the “Man-gria” and the “Bella-lini” will be served in a beach bucket. DJ Alkimist will play while guests take a quick dip in the “ocean” (i.e. the rooftop pool), and float on rainbow lifesavers. Details at donavanhoteldc.com

Milk Bar Flagship (1525 15th St., N.W.) at Logan Circle is hosting a slew of fun for Pride. June 7-9, the sweets shop will donate a portion of proceeds from all B’Day MilkShakes (a blend of B’day Truffles, rainbow sprinkles and soft serve) to The Trevor Project. Today it will host a Pride Baking Class led by local drag queen Banaka; proceeds go to SMYAL. Finally, on Wednesday, June 12, the bakery is set to host a Pride Yappy Hour with Washington Blade, where sweets for both people and pups will be available. Details at milkbarstore.com

Tico is hosting one of the longest parties of the weekend: from 2 p.m.-midnight on Saturday, June 8, catch the parade and the passing action with a margarita and taco in hand. Tickets include food and drink; proceeds benefit My Sister’s Place. Details at ticodc.com

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Dining

Restaurants have history as places for protest

ShutDownDC solicits tips for whereabouts of anti-Roe justices

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Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the target of a recent protest at Morton’s Steakhouse. (Photo public domain)

Food is inherently political — including the spaces that serve them. Restaurants, as “third places” in the public arena (outside of home and work), are accessible and open, a convener of society. Politicians in D.C. have traditionally treated restaurants as a half-third space: a semi-private location outside of the office to conduct business, utilizing restaurants as an extension of their workspace. This public presence, however, implicitly invites the public in — and lawful protesters have taken note.

On July 6, the dimly lit downtown location of Morton’s The Steakhouse chain became a protest stakeout. According to media reports, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was having dinner at the steakhouse when protesters learned of his whereabouts, convening a small demonstration.

The gathering was put together by an organization called ShutDownDC, which has called for peaceful action against the justices who voted for the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v Wade. Politico reported that Kavanaugh may not have even seen or heard the protests, but he did leave before dessert.

And while the Supreme Court did not release a statement, the restaurant’s management was perturbed. It sent a statement to a Politico reporter noting:

“Honorable Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and all of our other patrons at the restaurant were unduly harassed by unruly protestors while eating dinner at our Morton’s restaurant. Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.”

The response to Morton’s plea was swift and fierce. Commentators noted that protest is enshrined in the Constitution, while the right to eat dinner is not.

Notably, Morton’s The Steakhouse parent company is owned by billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who also owns the Houston Rockets. According to The Counter, Fertitta is one of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s biggest donors, providing more than $100,000 annually since 2015. His family has given several hundred thousand dollars of donations to other Republican politicians, including President Trump.

After this protest, ShutDownDC stated on Twitter that it will offer up to $250 to industry staff for tips of the whereabouts of justices who voted for Dobbs.

This incident, however, was not the first time that citizens have engaged restaurants as a space for protest. Restaurants, as these third spaces, have offered fertile ground for previous demonstrations – especially during the Trump administration.

Washingtonian noted that one of the most infamous was against former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at Mexican restaurant MXDC in 2018 during a controversy regarding DHS and treatment of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. Several other expressions of peaceful demonstrations against Trump officials took place during the rest of his term in office. Restaurant owners themselves are not immune to taking political action – during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, many restaurants offered food and other support.

During the tumultuous conclusion to that presidency, restaurants also had to contend with the specter of aggressive action. In preparation for what would turn out to be the Jan. 6 insurrection, many restaurants and other businesses closed their doors and fortified their exterior walls. In comparison to the peaceful restaurant protests, the Jan. 6 actions turned violent, denying restaurants revenue – and leaving many fearing for their safety.

Kavanaugh, meanwhile, was safely ensconced in his steakhouse, without fear of violence. Groups like ShutDownDC will continue to “use strategic direct action to advance justice and hold officials accountable,” according to its website, supporting nonviolent action in public places.

Anthony Aligo, a gay man and owner of wine bar Barkada, noted that, “This isn’t anything new. We believe everyone should be treated with respect and believe in the constitutional right to exercise your first amendment rights.”

This most recent event reinforces that restaurants, especially those known to harbor power lunches, must contend with the possibility of this type of protest. And leaders, when they decide to go out in these public spaces, must be aware that the people they represent also can be present there as well.

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Dining

Double dose of D.C. dining deals

Black Restaurant Week, RAMW Summer Restaurant Week return

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Derek Robinson, Falayn Ferrell and Warren Luckett. (Photo by Unique James)

D.C. is about to receive a double dose of dining destination deals over the next several weeks: Black Restaurant Week (July 18-31) and RAMW Summer Restaurant Week (August 15-21).

Black Restaurant Week

Founded in 2016, Black Restaurant Week is holding its third annual celebration of African-American, African, and Caribbean cuisine in the D.C. and Baltimore region July 18-31. During Black Restaurant Week, participating venues create their own promotions, rather than being constrained to a specific meal or prix-fixe menu.

For this iteration, BRW is partnering with the National Urban League Conference, and has extended the promotion from 10 days to 14. BRW, according to its founders, was developed to shine a light on minority businesses – aiding them in building community awareness to increase their bottom line. The mission: celebrate African-American, African, and Caribbean influences in the culinary industry, educating consumers on the abundance of cultural cuisines.

More than 100 restaurants are participating in the area. A short, non-comprehensive list includes 2 Southern Belles, All Set Restaurant & Bar, Austin Grill, Cloudy Donut, England Eatery, FishScale, Melange, Money Muscle BBQ, and Negril the Jamaican Eatery.

As part of the campaign, BRW hosts events to better bring together the dining community. The promotion begins with a Kickoff Mixer at The Delevate on July 19; other events include a happy hour, an open mic night, and a date night, all at different participating venues.

Black Restaurant Week has supported more than 2,000 restaurants, bars, bakeries, caterers, food trucks, and other culinary establishments across the country since the organization’s founding.

Kristal Williams, co-owner of Fishscale, says, “Black Restaurant Week provides an opportunity to discover and celebrate Black-owned restaurants and Black chef-owned establishments.”
Ferrell, one of the BRW co-founders, notes that, “during our Black Restaurant Week campaigns, we see an average of 15% to 20% increase in sales for participants, which helps tremendously as businesses are in a continual recovery status from the pandemic and as we are in an inflation season.”

She continued that, “Black Restaurant Week has an immediate financial impact with participants. The goal is to invest dollars back to the business. With our nonprofit organization, Feed the Soul Foundation, we have been able to provide $52,000 in financial support to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore-based, minority-owned culinary businesses.”
A full list of participants and more information can be found at blackrestaurantweeks.com.

RAMW Summer Restaurant Week

The semi-annual Summer Restaurant Week, run by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), will take place Monday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 21. The area’s signature summer dining promotion invites diners to experience regional restaurants in a variety of ways.

Participating restaurants will offer on-site multi-course brunch and lunch menus for $25 per person, and multi-course dinner menus for $40 or $55 per person. Many restaurants will also offer cocktail pairings.

Returning again this summer is the “RW-To-Go” dinner meals, available at two price points: $70 or $100 for two people and $140 or $200 for four people so that those uncomfortable with indoor dining can take the meal home.

“Diners across the region can look forward to what will be a delicious promotion celebrating the season’s summer flavors with menus at great price points,” says Kathy E. Hollinger, president and CEO of RAMW. “We have the return of the popular RW cocktail, wine, and mocktail pairings, as well as RW-To-Go dinner meals for diners who may want a great night out or picnic outdoors. This promotion is designed to give the most options for patrons as they dine their way around our great region.”

Restaurants stretching from Alexandria to Friendship Heights to Woodley Park are participating.

A number of 2022 RAMMY Awards Finalists are participating in the promotional dining week including Annabelle, Baan Siam, Blend 111, Bindaas Cleveland Park & Foggy Bottom, Bresca, China Chilcano, Convivial, Cranes, Dauphine’s, La Bise, La Cote D’Or Cafe, Mintwood Place, Modena, Nama, Slate Wine Bar, Rasika, Rasika West End, and Sababa. The 2022 RAMMY Awards will take place on July 31.

New participating restaurants include Annabelle, Dolce Vita, Dovetail Bar & Restaurant at the Viceroy, and Il Piatto.

Longtime participant Alan Popovsky, co-founder and principal of PRG Hospitality (Lincoln Restaurant, Teddy & the Bully Bar), says that “for our downtown locations, Restaurant Week provides an opportunity to make new guest relationships and fortify our existing ones. It’s essential in our industry today.”

A full list of participants and more information can be found at ramw.org/restaurantweek.

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Dining

Crazy Aunt Helen’s to host ‘Pride-a-palooza’

Barracks Row restaurant celebrating all month long

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Crazy Aunt Helen’s ‘serves American comfort food with a southern slant.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shane Mayson’s restaurant is as colorful as his language. His multi-hued American eatery Crazy Aunt Helen’s debuted last July on Barracks Row, just a few days after Pride concluded. But as Pride is 365, this restaurant has spent its first year with flair and fanfare, and this June, Mayson, who identifies as gay, isn’t holding back.

“I LOVE PRIDE MONTH,” Mayson wrote (caps are his). “I love everything we have at Crazy Aunt Helen’s for Pride. Check out our events and get blown away,” he says.

This isn’t Mayson’s first Pride – but it is his first as owner of Crazy Aunt Helen’s, a delightfully fabulous neighborhood restaurant in Barracks Row.  

Thus far in June, Mayson has already held comedy shows, book readings, a ladies’ tea dance, play readings, bingo, and a Story District event. Coming up on June 25, to end Pride month with even more color, is “Pride-a-palooza,” featuring a host of drag queens, food, drinks, prizes, and plenty of surprises that MayD.C. Mayor Muriel Bowserson has been waiting an entire year to showcase.

Crazy Aunt Helen’s “serves American comfort food with a southern slant,” explains Mayson. Taking over the space of Irish pub Finn McCool’s, Crazy Aunt Helen’s spreads over two floors, plus a patio and streatery. The interior is wildly bright: a Prince-esque purple host stand and staircase welcome guests, and a highlighter-green wooden banquette runs the length of the dining room. A set of wicker chairs and flower-print cushions recall that southern influence.

Mayson enlisted Pixie Windsor – the very same of eponymous Miss Pixie’s – to design the restaurant (the two have been friends for years). “Pixie has a way with creating fabulous comfortable spaces,” Mayson says. 

Windsor and Mayson partnered to craft the whimsical aesthetic, from the brilliant paint job to a bright-pink neon sign.

Mayson is quick to note that his Aunt Helen “was charming, warm, and funny, with an amazing laugh, and I wanted my restaurant to have that same feeling,” he says. “I wanted our guests to feel like they are getting a big’ol hug each time they walk in the doors.” 

The menu is just as homey and eclectic. Mayson waxes poetic about the fried green tomatoes, the chicken fried steak smothered in chicken sausage gravy, and a Jewish-style braised brisket. Yet many of the dishes are also vegan and vegetarian, like the “fab” cakes made of soy and mushroom and a vegan steak.

As for the drinks, Mayson says that the “signature cocktails are also seasonally driven, and I only use local distilleries like Republic Restoratives, another LGBTQIA business.” There’s also a list of beer, wine, and zero-proof drinks.

Mayson has been in the restaurant business since he moved to D.C. in 1984, working first at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill, and most recently as director of business development for the restaurant group of the highly lauded restaurant industry leader, and lesbian, Jamie Leeds.

Mayson is using Pride this year as Crazy Aunt Helen’s coming out, both as a restaurant and a safe space. “I can say that I have had experiences in my life where I didn’t feel welcomed places. The staff and I work very hard to make sure everyone who walks into Crazy Aunt Helen’s feels welcome,” he says.

“I find it’s the small things that build to allow folks to feel safe,” he notes. There’s no required uniform, allowing staff to dress however they feel most comfortable. Mayson also makes an effort to support local LGBTQ artists and performers, giving them space in the second-floor Peacock Room to share their talents.

To that end, Mayson is offering The Rainbow Theatre Project, a theater group that has been dark since pandemic closings, a home until they are back up and running. During June, they performed four staged readings from four LGBTQ playwrights. “I can’t wait to have the Peacock Room buzzing with entertainment every night of the week and to hear all the people laughing and enjoying the food, each other and the show,” Mayson says.

Mayson’s goal at Crazy Aunt Helen’s is twofold: create a space “that’s welcoming and nourishing to both our bellies and our spirits.”

Shane Mayson (Photo courtesy of Mayson)

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