Where to be Gay in LA
Ten years ago, The L Word became the first television series to prominently feature not just one, but several lesbian and bisexual characters who were hot, wealthy, and, for the most part, played by heterosexual, high-femme women. The show was set in West Hollywood, where it purported several women with full-time jobs and purpose-driven lives met up at the same café every morning for a leisurely coffee or breakfast before work. But any of the queer women who moved to L.A.’s resident gayborhood were sad to discover that the Planet, SheBar, or any other facet of The L Word world was simply a set on a Vancouver soundstage, as most scenes were not shot on location (a.k.a. anywhere near L.A.).
A new generation of L Word fans, though, will finally be able to visit the actual spots featured in the reboot, some retooled for TV but brick-and-mortars, nonetheless, as The L Word: Generation Q was shot and set on the east side of L.A. Since the original went off the air in 2009, Silver Lake’s long history of queerness has become more celebrated and less of a secret. The Black Cat, for instance, was home to the city’s famous pre-Stonewall, pro-LGBTQ demonstration and subsequent police raid in 1966.
In the first few episodes of Generation Q, Shane returns on the brink of another breakup, looking to take over a former gay bar, Atlas, and make it gay again. In reality, that bar is the Semi-Tropic, a 21-and-over spot for food, coffee, cocktails, and kombucha, with laptops out during the day and DJs at night. The vibes, like the rest of the neighborhood, are very queer, which makes Shane’s bar, Dana’s, a great jumping-off point for a guide to the “reality” part of where L.A. queer women and friends go on the east side.
Shane’s bar might be fictionally set in Silver Lake, but the Semi-Tropic is in the adjacent neighborhood of Echo Park, where the park itself is a popular spot for sunny-day sitting with friends and dates, offering A-plus people-watching. Sasha Lane hangs out here, but be careful: Your ex-girlfriend probably does, too.
A new dyke bar might soon find its way to the hood, though, as architect Lauren Amador is currently looking for the perfect place to set up shop. Until then, The Fingerjoint has been hosting pop-ups in conjunction with other queer women-owned brands like Yola Mezcal.
Every summer, Dyke Day, the largest event for dykes and friends to take place during pride, is held in Elysian Park. It’s like Echo Park explodes, with picnics, puppy parades, and vendors like the Pleasure Chest handing out free advertisement stickers or fans reading “switch” and “power bottom.”
Also in Elysian Park is Dodger Stadium. One of the team’s minority owners is Billie Jean King, who has her own plaque on the nearby Avenue of Athletes. Right across the street, you’ll find the newly opened Bar Flores (craft cocktails and tacos), owned by Karla Flores-Mercado and operating with an entirely female bartender team. Neighboring club Short Stop hosts a monthly new queer night on Tuesdays, Dial-Up Disco.
Generation Q also did some shooting outside of Pharos Athletic Club, where queer people are both training and working out. (But if you’re looking for the real boxing spot Kate Moennig frequents, that’s Trinity Boxing Club in Beverly Hills. Looking for LGBTQ-specific? Try Everybody Gym in Eagle Rock.)
Mohawk Bend, a Sunset Boulevard staple with a lot of beer and vegan-friendly fare, hosted the Generation Q wrap party, and it’s just around the block from Folklore, a trans- and queer-owned hair salon where Cameron Esposito gets her mop chopped.
A new addition at the edge of Echo Park and Filipinotown is Bloom & Plume Coffee, affixed to Maurice Harris’s colorful appointment-only floral studio. The gorgeous purple QTPOC-centric coffee shop’s tagline is “Thirst come, thirst served,” its covetable T-shirts promoting Black Excellence.
Lena Waithe and her wife, Alana Mayo, live in Echo Park, as do Lauren Morelli and Samira Wiley. (By the way, if you’re looking for a barber who makes house calls, both Waithe and Wiley book with Barber Doll the Slayer. If you are looking for something a little more wallet-friendly, ProjectQ’s community center in Chinatown offers gender-affirming cuts not just to paying customers but to LGBTQIA homeless youth, as part of its nonprofit organization.)
Bette Porter’s campaign office is just past Echo Park and the adjacent Filipinotown, overlooking MacArthur Park.
The closest Silver Lake has to a lesbian bar is a french restaurant called Café Stella, though it’s not exclusive to women or queer people. The cocktail lounge is a dimly lit, sexy area where the likes of St. Vincent sips on wine from sommelier Jess Kiefer.
A few blocks down is gay dive Akbar, but if you are looking for women, you’ll have the best luck at a night like the monthly Gay Asstrology at the Satellite, which celebrates sun signs with free entry, or the leather-themed Cruise at the Eagle (leather not required). The Virgil has also been home to parties like QTPOC-centric hip-hop night Cake, among other queer comedy shows and dance nights.
During the day, there’s the Silver Lake Reservoir, a perfect cruising spot with two dog parks, across from Lamill, a self-professed coffee boutique and restaurant where writers, actors, and other public-figure types like Hannah Hart can be seen taking meetings, working on scripts, or talking shop. (Micah mentions taking José to a nonexistent fancy restaurant called Topolino “by Lamill” in episode two. When they get to the restaurant, José says he would have been fine with Garage Pizza, a New York–style, by-the-slice spot in Sunset mini-mall.)
Silver Lake might just be home to the most queer women-owned businesses per capita in all of Los Angeles for Hoover Street alone. Along a stretch of just a few blocks is Jewel, a plant-based breakfast and lunch spot from wives Jasmine and Sharky Shimoda; Vinovore, Coly Den Haan’s shop selling only wine made by women; and the nonprofit Maeday Rescue, Natalie Garcia’s newest addition to the trifecta of sapphic needs: food, alcohol, furry things. Wildfang’s Los Angeles location is a must-stop for shoppers looking to find fashion that doesn’t subscribe to the gender binary.
Noteworthy locals include Ruby Rose, Abbi Jacobson, Kimberly Peirce, Clea DuVall, and Jill Soloway, who sets much of Transparent in Silver Lake as well. Looking for power lesbians? Try Edendale, where industry women meet for drinks and dish.
Just a few minutes from Echo Park is DTLA, which has experienced a bit of a renaissance over the last few years, partly due to queers and other marginalized artists coming in and creating spaces. Gay bars like Redline and Precinct are more for the boys, but the former sometimes hosts Them Fatale drag-king shows in the early evening hours. A new addition, Bar Franca, is owned by Rachel Thomas, whose former spot, the Must, brought in a regular queer crowd. Franca is no exception, with the monthly Divorce from Gina Young and Sorrell Scrutton, who also run the soon-to-return Silver Lake queer party Sports Bra. Divorce typically runs on first Thursdays, with specialty cocktails (“Trial Separation,” “Silent Treatment,” “Furbaby Custody”), classic queer viewing of films like Bound on the big screen, and an Instagram component in which Young asks individuals to name their current status — available, partnered, divorced, potentially all three.
During the day, you can grab a doughnut or breakfast at the lesbian-owned Nickel Diner, but at night, take a trip to Mistress Justine Cross’s Dungeon East, where L.A.’s own celebrity domme hosts regular workshops and play parties, including BDSFemme, for cis and trans women only. (Deviant, an all-genderqueer play party, takes place at Dungeon West in Culver City.)
As for the rest of the nightlife, the New Jalisco Bar is a Latinx staple, and promoters like Lez Croix often find spots in the neighboring Arts District or further northeast like Highland Park, an incredibly queer area in its own right, though queer-owned shops like Book Show are being kicked out due to rising costs of rents.
Virgil Village/East Hollywood
On the western side of Silver Lake is a rapidly gentrifying area, largely thanks to the likes of Sqirl, a woman-owned hipster favorite that has lines out the door, but venture past Vermont and you’ll find Cuties, a community coffee shop devoted to LGBTQ customers, hosting regular community events and pop-ups with the likes of Noisy Library, a Jamaican QTPOC-owned catering and events company. Faultline is typically home to boys and bears, but every once in a while they’ll let other queer and trans people take over the venue for a few hours. Coqta is one such party, celebrating the Latinx diaspora (black and brown femmes to the front).
Back up Melrose toward Sunset will bring you to another highly queer area, Los Feliz, where the feminist shop Otherwild not only sells women- and queer-created wares you’ve seen on Broad City, but hosts events including two recent Fingerjoint pop-ups, as well as regular tarot readings and specialty workshops.
Queer chefs and co-owners Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson run the Mediterranean restaurant Kismet, “a neighborhood spot dedicated to creating an inclusive and supportive space in service of its dynamic community.” After lunch or before dinner, head to Skylight Books, where you’ll see a lot of queer female authors host events, locals like Michelle Tea and Maggie Nelson, as well as visiting writers like T Kira Madden and Jeanette Winterson.
Kristen Stewart frequents a sushi spot called Starfish Sushi on Vermont, as she lives in the nearby celeb-laden Laughlin Park, close to Ashley Benson and Angelina Jolie. Carrie Brownstein also calls Los Feliz home, while Generation Q star Stephanie Allynne and wife Tig Notaro live a little further southwest in Larchmont.
Generation Q did some shooting at Atwater’s Bon Vivant Market & Café, but the queerest place to be on that stretch of Glendale is A Love Bizarre, Suzy Mae’s queer gallery and gift shop that also boasts a free co-working space for any LGBTQ person who wants to come hang outside in their communal area, which otherwise hosts storytelling or screenings.
A quick jaunt will get you over to Zebulon for Dynasty Handbag’s Weirdo Night, Sunday evenings full of surprises like an impromptu visit from Kathleen Hanna, among a lot of other wildly entertaining performance art and comedy.
West of La Brea
L.A.’s west side is not completely devoid of lesbian and lesbian-adjacent culture, as the legendary Jewel’s Catch One (now Catch One) still plays host to many queer-themed events, and Girlbar’s Altargirl (a.k.a. the inspiration for SheBar) is still going strong Wednesday nights at the Chapel next door to the Abbey. The June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives sit down the street from Rocco’s, where The Real L Word star Whitney Mixter co-hosts a regular Call Out Thursdays party with YouTube influencer Ambers Closet. Mixter will also be throwing Generation Q watch parties at the lesbian-owned Hi Tops sports bar every Sunday night. Thirst is WeHo’s regular hip-hop monthly, and the Standard’s mmhmmm has hosted DJ Whitney Day’s Heartbreaker, the pop-up of New York’s QTPOC femme party GUSH, as well as Empire and America’s Next Top Model star AzMarie Livingston’s new GVO — Good Vibes Only.
The Fairfax location of pizza and pasta joint Jon & Vinny’s and plant-based Mexican Gracias Madre are two WeHo restaurants with queer chefs bringing in the likes of Kendall Jenner and Ellen DeGeneres, respectively.
The Founders Metropolitan Community Church, where Olivia Thirlby’s character, Rebecca, is a priest, is not only very real, but historic. The Hollywood church was founded by Reverend Troy D. Perry, an early advocate for LGBT rights and creating homes for the community inside religious spaces. Nearby, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is where Bette addressed a small group of queer and trans youth. Above Sunset, in the hills, Sarah Paulson lives in a home she bought from former American Horror Story castmate Emma Roberts.
Stuzo, a QTPOC clothing company Lena Waithe helped put on by wearing its Coco Butter sweatshirt while kissing Halle Berry on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year, just opened their brick-and-mortar store in Mid-City. Parties like Kim Anh’s Paradiso and Open Dyke Night take place at Tramp Stamp Granny’s, Darren Criss’s Hollywood piano bar which, in its former life, was a bar called Grandpa Johnson’s, where Kate Moennig, Michelle Rodriguez, Samantha Ronson, and Leisha Hailey’s ex Camila Grey would DJ and hang out with each other and invite other people to watch.
So we’ve come full circle, as Shane hopes to bring dykes back to Dana’s, and Showtime hopes to embrace fans new and old with Generation Q. Should the show inspire any Los Angeles vacations, hopefully, Greyhounds full of new baby dykes and friends can find a lot more than what they see on TV.
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