Since it first debuted in 2009, the Emmy Award-winning show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has shone a spotlight on drag queen communities across the country — and inspired a surge in drag brunches. But Boston has been a little slow to catch on. It was only a couple years ago that Carrie Nation in downtown Boston first started hosting regular drag brunches, highlighting the city’s best drag queens on Sundays alongside a gluttonous brunch buffet.
“The drag brunch scene in Boston was never weekly or monthly, it was always just a special event here and there — usually for charity,” said Christopher Fijal, a Boston-based drag queen who performs under the name Kris Knievil. “But with the rise of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ culture, it’s become a lot more mainstream.”
With a handful of restaurants now featuring monthly drag brunches and a few more offering one-off events, the ability to see talented drag queens performing around Boston is at an all-time high. Here’s where you can catch a show while indulging in an eggs Benedict or breakfast buffet.
Bell in Hand
Who would have thought that the self-described oldest tavern in America would be throwing drag brunches? Held on one Sunday each month, Bell in Hand’s Brunch of Queens features four rotating queens singing and performing alongside a DJ.
Tickets, which are sold through Eventbrite, cost $25 (plus fees) and include the show plus a breakfast buffet, featuring a typical lineup of croissants, eggs, sausage, fruit, and more. While one drink is currently included in the price, a representative for Bell in Hand said that might be changing soon.
Fijal, who is one of Bell in Hand’s regular performers as well as the show director at Jacques Cabaret, shares the stage with Karisma Geneva Jackson-Tae, Amanda Playwith, and a handful of other rotating queens. He’s been a part of Boston’s drag scene since the late ’90s, and said that the landscape is starting to change.
“There’s the glitter beard phenomenon now, and some girls are a little more spooky,” Fijal said. “It’s nice to see sort of the traditional and nontraditional [queens] mixing. That’s exciting to watch.”
(Brunch of Queens at Bell in Hand; 45 Union St., Boston; various Sundays; bellinhand.com)
Carrie Nation’s Drag Me to Brunch series launched in 2017 as Boston’s first regularly occurring drag brunch, and the party’s still going strong. Held every Sunday, the event is hosted by queens Destiny Boston and Dee Dee de Ray, along with special guest performers that rotate each week.
The cover ranges from $10 (bar seating with a partially obstructed view) to $15 (table seating), with the option to purchase a buffet ticket for $20. Drinks are extra, with cocktails named after each queen. You’ll find all of the standards at the breakfast buffet (available from noon to 3 p.m.) — sausage, bacon, chicken and waffles, a carving station, cereal — though the real entertainment is on stage.
Starting at 2 p.m., the show kicks off with a choreographed number performed by four to five performers, then branches off with each queen taking control of the stage before posing for photos at the end.
“I do more Beyonce, Ariana [Grande],” said Destiny Boston, who has been hosting Drag Me to Brunch since its inception.
She said that the audience’s age can range from 21 to 84, and that she once brought an older woman with a cane on stage to twerk with her.
“It’s never a dull moment,” she said.
Marketing professional Cera Nolan recently brought her love of drag over to Casa Caña, a Latin kitchen and rum bar that opened in Allston last August, after successfully launching the drag brunch series at The Lansdowne Pub. Held once a month on the patio — which will likely become less often once the weather gets colder, Nolan acknowledged — the show is hosted by local drag queens Neon Calypso and Violencia!. Every other show is dubbed Havana Heat Drag Brunch, a special edition that highlights queens of color; the next one is on June 22.
Between raunchy songs and comedic performances, brunchgoers can order from Casa Caña’s regular brunch menu, a mix of traditional American breakfast dishes (eggs Benedict, French toast, Western omelet) and Latin-inspired plates (huevos rancheros, chicharrones, a Cubano sandwich). Of course, cocktails are heavy on the rum — sip on a classic mojito while taking in the show.
(Drag Brunch and Havana Heat Drag Brunch at Casa Caña; 1234 Soldiers Field Road, Boston; dates vary; casacanaboston.com)
Around for more than 30 years, the Back Bay’s Club Café has served as a welcome nightclub and restaurant for Boston’s LGBTQ community. While a brunch buffet has been part of the venue’s lineup for years, Club Café finally joined the drag brunch circuit this month with Brunch Baes, a monthly brunch series on select Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The inaugural Brunch Baes on May 26 saw queens Pristine Christine, DJ Coleslaw, Severity Stone, and Miranda Wrights performing for guests with songs and interactive games, including drag in a bag and a doughnut eating contest. Tickets are $25; check the club’s calendar for the next drag brunch.
(Drag Brunch at Club Cafe; 209 Columbus Ave., Boston; dates vary; clubcafe.com)
The Lansdowne Pub
Nolan, who is the marketing manager at The Lansdowne Pub in the Fenway, launched Legs & Eggs one year ago after attending a drag brunch in New York City and being captivated by the queens she saw there.
“I loved it, and I realized there weren’t any [regular drag brunches] in Boston aside from Carrie Nation,” she said.
The Lansdowne Pub’s version is now a (mostly) monthly occurrence and typically takes place one Saturday a month, though Nolan said there isn’t a set schedule. Hosted by queens Neon Calypso and Violencia!, attending the show is free (though table reservations should still be made), and diners can order from Lansdowne’s usual brunch menu, which boasts dishes like banana caramel pancakes, corned beef hash, and a breakfast burger topped with a fried egg. Alongside drag brunch, Nolan also launched the pub’s popular mimosa buckets, which each contain champagne and a carafe of orange juice. Brunch cocktails are available as well, and occasionally there will be specials, like a purple martini rimmed with glitter.
Although Legs & Eggs usually includes four performers (Neon Calypso and Violencia!, plus two rotating queens), the pub’s one-year drag brunch anniversary (and Pride-adjacent) show on June 15 will feature six queens and a show starting at 12 p.m.
(Legs & Eggs Drag Brunch at Lansdowne Pub; 9 Lansdowne St., Boston; dates vary; lansdownepubboston.com)
Coda Bar + Kitchen
In celebration of Pride, Coda Bar + Kitchen in the South End is throwing a special drag edition of its monthly BYO(V)inyl brunch party. On Saturday, drag queen star Abby Cummings will host the event with performances of some of her favorite diva tracks and Pride anthems. Guests can bring their own diva records — dust off your Madonna, Aretha Franklin, and Cher albums — and enjoy menu specials (Pride pancakes, rainbow salad) and themed cocktails from Bully Boy Distillery, like the Dancing Queen with Bully Boy whiskey and strawberry puree.
“We do BYOV on the first Saturday of the month, and we figured we should step it up [for Pride] and have a fun community and bring everyone together for one day to enjoy brunch and drag and music,” said Brittany Bovaird, Coda’s general manager.
Bovaird said that Coda’s dining room has the perfect walkway for drag brunch, and encourages everyone interested to make a reservation.
Trina’s Starlite Lounge
While drag brunch only happens at Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Somerville a couple times a year, it’s always one for the books. Held on Mondays, Trina’s version is primarily a charity function, with money raised for LGBTQ-friendly youth organizations like More Than Words, a job training and development program for vulnerable youth in Boston. Brunch is first-come, first-served, and guests can order dishes off of the regular brunch menu: cinnamon French toast crunch, the Starlite slam, huevos 2.0.
“It’s turned into this notoriously big party,” said Emma Hollander, managing partner at Trina’s, noting that four queens usually perform together, including local all-stars like DJ Coleslaw, Lucille, Pamela Manderson, and Severity Stone.
Asked whether Trina’s might increase the number of drag brunches it hosts each year, Hollander is skeptical.
“I don’t want to be like everybody else,” she said. “I want it to be special and something that people are looking forward to all year.”
But when it does happen, Hollander said, she wants everyone to tip generously.
“Drag queens are disgustingly underpaid,” she said. “We pay them to show up. A lot of places just pay them off tips.”
(Drag brunch at Trina’s Starlite Lounge; 3 Beacon St., Somerville; dates vary; trinastarlitelounge.com)