Nestled in a residential area of Astoria, on a quiet block lined with apartment buildings, something very loud happens every Sunday at Fresco’s Cantina. We’re talking table dancing, R-rated language, bass-thumping loud. Around noon, the patrons start trickling in. About half an hour after that, a speaker emerges from a hard-sided case. And before you’ve made a dent in your carafe of sangria (more on that later), the only drag brunch in Queens will have you screaming “Yass, queen!”
Fresco’s Cantina at 12-14 31st Ave. has already made a name for itself on the heels of its awesome “Mexican reinvented” cuisine, its popular happy hour and eclectic atmosphere. In January, owner Brian Martinez decided to try out a drag brunch to boost sales in the post-holiday slump that plagues the industry. And it blew up like a glitter cannon.
As a member of the community himself, Martinez wanted to create a place where Astoria’s vibrant LGBT population could go to let their hair down.
“Even though we have a large LGBT population, we only really have a couple of gay bars,” he explained. “I’d been to drag brunches in the city and I thought, why not?” It started with a four-week trial run, but the event’s popularity has kept it going ever since.
Brunch fans of all stripes enjoy throwing down a few mimosas and belting out a song or two with Martinez’s cadre of queens. But Martinez does not necessarily recommend kids join in on the fun. Because the subject matter can get spicier than the breakfast burrito, he wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 16.
“Let’s put it this way,” he said, laughing. “It’s up to you what you want to expose your kids to, but we’re not the ones who have to answer the questions when you get home!”
And once the show starts, it’s easy to see what he means. Drag queens Gloria Swansong and Golden Delicious put on a wild, raucous, no-holds-barred show. It runs the gamut from Disney mashups made decidedly R-rated to Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton and, of course, Broadway favorites. Audience participation is not only encouraged but pretty much required. If you don’t want a skirt thrust over your head, sit against the wall. And bring plenty of dollar bills — these ladies aren’t lip syncing for their health.
At Fresco’s, don’t expect bottomless drinks but don’t expect to go home thirsty, either. The cantina offers a carafe of Martinez’s own sangria recipe or the classic mimosa plus an entree for $35 per person (plus tax and gratuity). And trust me, you’re not going to need more than one carafe.
The menu runs the gamut as well, offering a brunch version of the cantina’s Mexican and South American flavors with a twist. Martinez pointed out the “Lomo al Caballo,” or the cantina’s take on steak and eggs, as their bestseller. A heaping pile of perfectly crunchy french fries comes with tender marinated skirt steak, onions and tomatoes with a fried egg on top. Pro tip: dunk your fries and steak in the egg yolk for a umami bomb that will spoil you for any other steak and eggs platter.
On the sweeter side, don’t sleep on the churro French toast. French bread tossed in cinnamon sugar gets drizzled with Nutella dulce de leche and topped with just a whisper of whipped cream. A side of scrambled eggs and crispy bacon makes the perfect salty accoutrement. We dare you not to lick the plate.
And if you’re trying to stay healthy, you can do that here, too. A hearty, pan-seared salmon fillet comes atop mixed greens with red onions, roasted corn, halved cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado. The house-made citrus vinaigrette ties it all together with a kick that will wake up your tastebuds.
If you come in with a hankering for classic Mexican, the cantina has your back. The breakfast burrito comes stuffed to bursting with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, bell peppers, onion and cheese nestled in a toasty flour tortilla. A trio of pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole is perfect for dipping your burrito or a side of addictive fries. And for those of you who are really feeling Saturday night, the hangover quesadilla comes with a little bit of everything — steak, chicken, pork and three cheeses will take care of any residual pain.
At traditional drag performances, the queens take center stage. And at most brunches, the food and drinks are the stars of the show. But at drag brunch, you’ve got the perfect combination of both. The queens strut and sing and banter with each other and customers alike, and no topic is off-limits.
“It’s basically gay church and we’re your crossdressing ministers,” explained Golden Delicious. And by the time you leave, you’ll have danced yourself clean. Or at least, watched the queens put on a performance that more than earns the dollar bills patrons shove at them.
A table of girls who came to celebrate a birthday said the drag brunch exceeded their expectations and even outweighed drag shows they’ve seen in the past. “This was even better because they involve everyone,” said Iliana Polanco, who danced her heart out during an audience participation portion. “I’d really recommend it to anyone.”