Lady Bunny: where I eat, people-watch and play in the West Village

In between international gigs, actress, comedian and drag legend Lady Bunny lives where the West Village meets Chelsea. Lonely Planet correspondent Brian Healy recently talked with her about why she loves people-watching, where she enjoys the best late-night tacos in town and how you can blow a lot of money in the Meatpacking.

The people-watching is always top-notch on the Christopher St Pier © rblfmr / Shutterstock

The West Village gay scene has still got it

There’s all kinds of bars over here – gay bars in the West Village, a couple in Chelsea. The pier is a great place to go walking. It doesn’t quite have the sexual ambiance that it used to, when it was very cruisy, and people were having sex outdoors. But it’s still fun. You’ll still see the ballroom children voguing down there – basically, the kids who are too young to get into clubs. 

The Christopher St Pier is a great place to power walk, if you don’t want to do that on the streets and dodge cars. It’s very popular with cyclists. It’s much more family-friendly and yuppie – as the West Village has become. But there’s still a lot going on there, everything from little drag shows to salsa-dancing classes, which appear to be free. Everything I do is free!

Crowds watch projected rainbow lights outside the Stonewall Inn, West Village, New York City, New York. USA
A night out at the Stonewall will connect you to LGBTQIA+ history. And it’ll be really fun, too © Noam Galai / Getty Images

A pilgrimage to Stonewall

You gotta take a trip to Stonewall – the birthplace of gay rights, as they call it. The Monster is also a friendly, medium-sized club with piano show queens and show tunes upstairs, and dancing and strippers downstairs. They’ve been doing a disco tea dance that I used to go to when I first moved here in the ’80s, and it’s still fun. And some of the clientele have been around since the disco era, so they know the moves!

In Sheridan Square, they do drag shows in the park. I don’t want to say that they’re “street queens” because I don’t know if they live in the street, but it’s not RuPaul’s Drag Race queens with expensive outfits on. The spirit is just wonderful. The audience is super-appreciative. I think during Pride Month, they get a permit to do the shows once a week. It just feels organic, like you could be transported back to the days of Stonewall. It’s very, like, pop-up there, and do a lip sync to a not-that-great sound system. But the spirit is there.

Displays of the late Queen Elizabeth are assembled outside of Tea & Sympathy, West Village, New York City, New York, USA
Anglophiles will swoon at Tea & Sympathy, a welcoming West Village institution © Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Late-night tacos, plus afternoon tea

There’s a taco truck that parks at 14th St and Eighth Ave called Tacos El Idolo. And it is delicious Mexican street food – from a truck  you might be scared to eat from a truck in Mexico!). You never quite know when they’re going to be there – I think they attract a lot of late night, after-the-clubs clientele. I like the chicken tinga quesadilla, which is just spicy chicken.

I love Cowgirl. It’s my favorite place to go for a birthday. I get the sagebrush shrimp, which is not on the menu. It’s fried shrimp – better than my mama’s! (I hope she doesn’t read this.)

I love Tea & Sympathy. English food is not known as…tasty – but it is there. The most delicious thing is a three-tiered platter of cakes called afternoon tea. It’s cucumber sandwiches, some cake – it’s absolutely delicious. I don’t like having a high-carb treat practically next door to me, so I don’t usually get that one! The vegetarian options are delicious. If you’re here in winter, they do a Thanksgiving and Christmas pie, which is a turkey pot pie with cranberries in it that can’t be beat. Nicky, the proprietor, puts pureed parsnips in her soups. It just gives it this delicious sweetness.

A party at Boom Boom Room, The Standard, Meatpacking District, New York City, New York, USA
A night out at the Boom Boom Room will be fabulous – but it’ll cost you © Thomas Concordia / WireImage

A fancy night out in the Meatpacking District

If you want a fab night out, The Standard has Le Bain and the Boom Boom Room. I’m not certain I could get in there if I weren’t working there, because it’s kind of exclusive! It’s not gonna be a cheap night out. There are cool parties there – Susanne Bartsch and other promoters do different events there. I’ve seen Mariah Carey sing at the Boom Boom Room, Patti LaBelle. You kind of have to be invited or pay a very high price.

The Meat Market was really a place for trans sex workers when I lived there with RuPaul. And now it’s become this glitzy area with designers and an Apple Store – which is convenient, since I’m always breaking my computer. That’s a good place to go people-watching, too. Especially if you like to see Sex and the City wannabes, in designer high heels, tripping over the cobblestones as they sip on Starbucks and text on their phones.

The cast-iron fountain at Jackson Square Park, West Village, New York City, New York, USA
In between evenings out, chill out at tranquil Jackson Square Park © Diana Robinson Photography / Getty Images

Loving New York’s street scene

I live right in between the West Village proper and the beginning of Chelsea, 14th St. I love it because in the rest of this country, everyone is driving. And I like to watch people, to meet people, to see people and talk to people – not whizz past them in cars. I crave interaction. And not many cities in this country have a street scene.

I get together with friends in the park. I never thought I would be old Lady Bunny and literally sit in the park every morning, but one of my favorite things to do is watch the fountain at Jackson Square Park. I know that doesn’t sound like a fancy night out – but I just like to be in the mix!

Fitness, the Lady Bunny way

Now should I tell you about all the gyms that I don’t go to?

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