Everything You Need to Know About Attending Drag Brunch

Plus, do's and don’ts from the ultimate queens.

June 06, 2022


Photo by: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Drag brunches have become so much more than an excuse to binge drink mimosas on a Sunday. They’re tongue-popping, fan-flicking, lip-syncing extravaganzas, woven into America’s cultural fabric like the excess of sequins you’ll find on the events’ performers.

As we begin Pride Month, it’s important to reflect on the history of what is, perhaps, the most fun event you can attend on the weekend. And since you’re likely to partake in a drag brunch (or four) in June, we’ve solicited the advice and expertise of RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Jaida Essence Hall (season 12 winner and current All Stars contestant), Kim Chi (season eight finalist) and Brita Filter (season 12 contestant and NYC drag brunch legend) for their take on the do's and don’ts, as well as a list of their favorite venues.

Why Attend a Drag Brunch?

Gathering with friends and noshing on breakfast food is already a welcomed respite from the hardships of everyday life. Throw in a fabulous queen dressed in an oversized wig, sparkles, and six-inch heels while lip syncing to your favorite pop diva songs, and now that respite becomes a full-on party.

“I think drag brunches have become such a celebrated part of LGBTQ+ culture because it's kind of like our church,” says Filter. “Once we grew up and found our ‘chosen family,’ that is what drag brunch has become — a way for us to celebrate and love each other in a safe space.”

Chi echoes this sentiment, sharing that the laborious process of getting into drag is always worth the smiles.

“It’s just great vibes all around and nothing adds to the festivity like drag queens performing,” she says. “Drag queens are the cheerleaders of nightlife and willingly get up early and get in makeup and costume to spread joy while making a living. What’s not to love?”

“Who doesn’t love a good drag show while eating with a good cocktail or two?” adds Hall. “Dress to impress, turn up the bass and keep the booze flowing.”


Photo by: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

How Did Drag Brunch Start?

The art of drag dates back to the 17th century when men would play women’s roles on stage. Allegedly, the term “drag” actually stems from the phrase “putting on their drags,” in reference to the women’s costumes (typically petticoats) that “dragged” on the ground behind the actors.

According to Thrillist, the very first brunch debuted in 1884 at a New Orleans restaurant owned by Madame Begue. She referred to the meal as “the second breakfast,” which eventually caught the attention of local patrons and inspired a future article titled “Brunch: A Plea,” which was published in Hunter’s Weekly a decade later.

There is no exact moment that documents the introduction of drag brunches, though Joe E. Jefferys, a drag historian at New York University and the New School, told The Guardian in 2019 that the “drag-and-dine experience” likely emerged in the 1950s as a way to entice middle class diners with the allure of live performance.

“I often talk about drag as the indigenous queer performance form, in that it is by the people, of the people and for the people,” he says. “But drag brunch was largely about making queer performance accessible to straight audiences.”

Of course, these events looked a lot different than the kicks, splits, and cutting-edge couture we see now, but the intent was still there: an appreciation for the artform of men performing as women.


Photo by: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

Jason Koerner/Getty Images

What to Know About Attending Drag Brunch

Drag brunches are environments where you can let your hair down (or up if you’re donning a wig on top of it), but there are a few ground rules that the queens would like guests to keep in mind to ensure the experience is safe and enjoyable.

Tip #1: Do not touch the performers.

RuPaul once famously said “drag is not a contact sport.” While physical interaction may be part of a song or act, avoid groping or booty tapping your queens.

“Don’t touch drag queens unless they initiate the contact first,” reminds Chi. “Did I mention not to touch the drag queens? Don’t touch the queens!”

Also, leave the performing to the queens.

“Sometimes people get too excited and may be feeling their oats a little too hard. Do not get up on the stage and start dancing if you're not invited by the drag queen,” reminds Filter. “We are trained professionals and will let you have your bachelorette or birthday moment when the time is right. Sit down.”

Tip #2: Bring your cash and let it rain.

Though drag queens are typically paid a set fee for the number of hours they work, a bulk of their wages come solely from the generosity of attendees. Be sure to tip your queens (and with a resounding “Yaaas” for good measure), especially if they are really pulling out the stops to put on a good show with splits, kicks and costume reveals.

“The act of tipping a queen is a sign of respect, even if it's just a dollar,” says Filter.

“Don’t be a party pooper and tip your queens,” Hall concurs.

Tip #3: Be mindful of restaurant staff.

While the atmosphere is lively, fun and energetic, it’s also chaotic for restaurant employees who have to maneuver between crowded tables and take care of intoxicated guests. Always be sure to tip at least 20 percent to show your appreciation and treat these workers with the same respect you have for the performers.


Photo by: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Iconic Drag Brunch Spots in America

Practically any major city offers drag brunches, typically but not limited to gay bars. Here is a list of iconic spots chosen by the three queens, as well as a handful of other venues that famously serve pancakes with a side of death drops.

Jaida Essence Hall: “If you haven’t been to Voss Events brunch in Vegas at Señor Frog’s, run — do not walk! Also, I love me an Oilcan Harry’s moment [in Austin].”

Kim Chi:” I recently worked at Fabrika in Philadelphia and that’s such a cool venue! They have an elevating stage and aerial life on top of a well-lit, open venue! There are a lot of cool open spaces in Miami, Chicago and New York, as well. I’ve also enjoyed drag brunch at Roscoe’s Tavern in Chicago and El Cid in Los Angeles.”

Brita Filter: “SADBrunch, which has been popping up all over the country in Atlanta, Florida, South Carolina, and D.C., has been really killing it when it comes to brunches. You can expect a full cast show, with delicious food at every one of their brunches. I'm working with them to bring one to NYC very soon.”

Other noteworthy locations include Lips in New York City, Palace in Miami (one queen death jumps into a split from a double-decker bus), The Standard in Los Angeles, Suzy Wong’s in Nashville, and even Mad Myrna’s in Anchorage, Alaska (which has a surprisingly popping drag scene).

The Real Tea

No matter where you choose to drink, dine, and drag, it is inevitable that you’ll have a good time. Stay respectful, stay hydrated, and remember that your queens are not just hired performers; they’re emblems of pride and indicative of just how far the LGBTQ+ community has come in terms of acceptance and visibility.

Now, sashay away.

Joey Skladany is a writer, editor, TV/radio personality, lifestyle expert, former entertainment publicist, and author of Basic Bitchen. Prior to becoming a writer, Joey was a publicist at TLC. He was most recently editor-at-large of CBS Interactive's Chowhound where he managed the site's food and travel editorial content. Currently, he is owner and CEO of Beyond Basic LLC and a contributor to dozens of digital lifestyle brands. His work has appeared in People, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Food52, Cosmopolitan, Apartment Therapy, and more.

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