The James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy has been a welcome addition to the Northside, bringing live jazz and so much more to the Deutschtown neighborhood. The food is pretty good, the beer options plentiful, and it always seems to be bustling with live music options. We’ve watched venues come and go in that space so it has been a thrill to see James Street maintain.
Last year, James Street teamed up with Kierra Darshell to launch a twice monthly Sunday drag brunch. This caught my eye for two reasons – the dearth of brunch options on the Northside and the dearth of drag shows that start before 11 PM and end at god-knows-when o’clock. I like brunch and I like to go to bed at 11 PM so this was very appealing to me.
The shows feature a rotating array of guest performers and includes table service. Admission is $10 and there’s a $5 special on Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. The brunch menu is limited a bit to some unique sort of fusion foodie items, but it was certainly flexible enough for us to find something we liked. I’d love to see them add a few more traditional items, but that’s just my personal preference.
The show is lively and fun. It sells out regularly so reservations are highly recommended.
More recently, James Street has teamed up with Viva Valezz Productions to bring regular queer burlesque shows to the speakeasy. They kicked off this month with a noir themed murder mystery event featuring over 20 performers from Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati and Athens, OH. The purpose was to raise funds to benefit the Fierce! International Queer Burlesque Festival which is produced by Valezz.
This event was packed. I had purchased a table and I’m glad that I did because there wasn’t room to move as the people continued to pour into the space. At $5 general admission (tables are more, of course), the price was right. Doors opened at 8:30 and the show kicked off around 10:30, wrapping up after midnight. So you can have dinner upstairs (or after 8:30, downstairs) with free parking and enjoy the show.
This particular show featured burlesque, drag, live jazz, and more as we all tried to sort out who had killed Phat Man Dee. I’m pretty sure we were all wrong, but that’s okay – it was a rolicking, sexy and fun show. Plus, I won a cool raffle prize. We ordered food. We laughed and chatted, saw friends. Met new people. Heard and saw some great performances.
Make a note to check out the next burlesque show on April 29.
Kudos to the James Street folks for recognizing that queer entertainment deserves a venue and that it obviously has mainstream appeal. I’m sure most of the folks at the Drag Brunch were cis gender heterosexual folks and that’s fine. I can see how the burlesque shows will also draw a mixed crowd.
The Northside has such a rich, unexplored history in LGBTQ nightlife which I began to learn about through the Pittsburgh Queer History Project – the 2001 Club, Jazi’s, the Allegheny Social Club, the Home Circle Club and, of course, the Eagle where I saw my first Queer cabaret show in 2006. I’m glad James Street taps into that legacy with a very modern twist – like a little window with a wink and a nod to the complete history of the Northside, from social clubs to bordellos and more.
Be sure to add these events to your calendar so we’ll continue to have a vibrant queer performing arts scene in the region.
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