Category Archives: Restaurant

Puerto Vallarta: Mexico’s Premier Gay Destination

Traveling IQ is published in EDGE

Bay of Banderas, Puerto Vallarta

Doomsday predictions, economic woes and natural disasters got you down? Take a breath, relax and try to remember that you will never be as young as you are right now. So stop texting, disconnect the Blue Tooth, and activate your “Out of Office” reply. It’s time for a well-deserved break in a place where Blackberries are fruits, not handhelds; and handholding a fruit is a Public Display of Affection not a Personal Digital Assistant. Welcome to Puerto Vallarta!

Mexico’s premier gay destination is booming with new restaurants, fresh sights and revamped classics. In Puerto Vallarta you can relax by the beach, explore the great outdoors, savor gourmet meals and party all night long.

You like these options, don’t you? Come on. Stop and smell the flowers and discover why this sweet, sexy town is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Charm and Sophistication

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountains, Puerto Vallarta combines the charm of colonial Mexico with the sophistication of a cosmopolitan, gay destination.

Start with a tan at the Blue Chairs Beach, truly the gay hotspot of the Mexican Riviera. Enjoy food and drinks served chair-side while you sizzle with the beauties of gay Vallarta.

Wind down your beach day with an unobstructed view of the sunset, hot strippers and zany drag queens on the rooftop deck of the Blue Chairs Hotel.

For those looking to explore the outdoors, Puerto Vallarta offers a little something for everyone. Take a walk on the wild side with the new GO GAY! Jungle Adventure Tour . Feel that heart pumping as you soar 250 feet above the jungle terrain on a 500-foot long zip-line. Perfect for both Tarzan AND Jane, this full-day expedition revs you up and cools you down.

After your adrenaline rush, chill with a tequila sampling, traditional Mexican grill lunch, and a splash in a private waterfall and swimming hole. Created by My Own Concierge, Vallarta’s premiere gay concierge service, this tour will leave you a little wet and dirty – just how you like it.

“You will leave happy and come back.”

Too intense for you? Unwind on Diana’s Tours full-day gay cruise. Your morning starts with continental breakfast and continues with an open bar as you glide on the Bay of Banderas and through its hidden coves. Later, debark on a snorkeling excursion and lunch on shore before heading back from your sun-soaked day.

I hope you are hungry because Puerto Vallarta’s restaurants are cooking up some of Mexico’s best meals. First, say yes to the new kid in town: No Way José delivers on a simple promise, “You will leave happy and come back!”

Winner of Virtual Vallarta’s Reader’s Choice Award for “Best New Restaurant 2010,” José serves contemporary Mexican cuisine that combines tradition and ingenuity. Savor the secret family recipe of Sopa Montezuma, a cactus soup with deliciously seasoned shrimp, before enjoying the grilled Mahi Mahi Carlotta, served on a bed of sautéed pumpkin flowers with a creamy mango sauce.

“Best Mexican Restaurant” Five Years in a Row

A quick-climbing classic on the Puerto Vallarta dining scene, gay-owned El Arrayán has won “Best Mexican Restaurant” five years in a row!

El Arrayán’s authentic Mexican menu blends pre-Hispanic ingredients (chile, cactus paddles, bean and corn) with European-introduced elements (pork, beef and cheese) now considered to be Mexican staples. Embark on a culinary tour of the country’s regions – Plantain Empanadas from Veracruz, Chapulines Tacos from Oaxaca, Cochinita Pibil from Yucatan – while sipping on their trademark margarita, made with tangy arrayán fruit.

It’s party time. Find some romance in the thriving gay nightlife of Zona Romantica. Ease into the evening with a martini at the relaxed lounge, La Noche, before hitting the dance floor at the new and improved, Paco’s Ranch.

That’s right, after fifteen years, Paco has moved across the street to an exciting, renovated location. Mingle with the locals on the dance floor or enjoy the show from the upstairs mezzanine.

Like things a little bigger? Club Mañana, the largest gay nightclub in Puerto Vallarta continues to expand with its latest indoor “Barcito,” providing a cool, air-conditioned break from your steamy Mexican night.

Don’t stop till you get enough: If you are craving a more personal encounter, make some new friends with the dancers at Picante and Anthropology strip bars.

Casa Cupula

You must be exhausted. It’s time to retire to your suite at Puerto Vallarta’s premier gay luxury boutique hotel, Casa Cupula. Yes, Puerto Vallarta has many gay guesthouse options, but none are as fabulous as Casa Cupula.

Just a ten-minute walk from the Blue Chairs Beach and the nightlife hot spots of Zona Romantica, Casa Cupula is close to all the action while providing the exclusivity of a hillside hideaway. It’s rare to find a gay hotel with five-star amenities. Enjoy the Cupula classics: chill by any of the three pools, snuggle in the seven-man (or woman) hot-tub, sweat in the full-service Pump Gym, or delight in a sunset-lit dinner at the newly unveiled Taste restaurant.

Serving American, Asian, Mexican and Italian specialties, in both entrée and tapas-sized portions, Taste is Casa Cupula’s latest temptation for a satisfying vacation.

Beware: once you check-in, you may never want to leave. And with free WiFi, delicious meals, spectacular sunsets, and the best accommodations gay Vallarta has to offer, you may wisely choose to make Cupula, your casa away from home.

Feel better? Recharged? Ready to conquer the world? Good. A little break in Puerto Vallarta does the body a lot of good. Now get back to work so you can plan your next visit.

This article was originally published in EDGE.  Click on photo below to visit their website. 

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Halsted Holla!

Photo by Jason Paul Smith

Wow.  Boo!  Wow.  Chicagoans can really howl on Halloween!  I’m sure experiencing it as a tourist helped, but last year’s Halsted Halloween Parade was a scary good time.  In New York, I would never dream of standing in the cold October night of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade—the crowds, the noise, the fear that at any moment the festivities could spiral into catastrophe.

Halloween can often feel like amateur hour.  It is the one night regular folk get to be actors, drag queens or whores—or all three!  Hiding behind a costume frees people to express themselves beyond their regular comfort level.  Add a few shots, puffs, snorts (or what have you) and your tale can end with soaring fireworks or an explosive burn.  Lucky for Matt and me, visiting Chicago last Halloween proved to be a blast.

Our night started as voyeurs along the parade route.  After the ample helping of Halloween fluff, we were ready for a little sustenance.  One of the two tables actually eating at Firefly, we inhaled one of the best macaroni and cheeses I’ve ever had, as the rest of the packed restaurant enjoyed prancing around, drinking, chatting, and watching the parade from the windows.  As we were not in costume, checking out the scantily clad Chippendale boys and sexy Dorothys (who I knew hadn’t eaten all week) while stuffing our faces with burgers and the aforementioned cheesy deliciousness, was especially satisfying.

With full bellies and happy hearts we joined our friend Kevin who, over the next three hours, took it upon himself to show us every bar in Boystown.  A blur of alternating martinis, Redbulls, and occasional waters later, we settled into the spinning stupor of our comfy Best Western bed.

We had emerged from Halloween unscathed… yet inexplicably covered in glitter.

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NYC: Sweet Treats on Wheels

New Yorkers are constantly on the go. Why should our food be any different? Food trucks of all varieties continue to expand their customer base by parking their mobile restaurants on the different streets of New York City. From tacos to pizza to dumplings, if you can imagine it, there is probably a truck serving it down the block. But times are tough and IQ likes his sugar, so let’s sweeten our summer with some of the city’s most unique desserts on wheels.

Liege with Ice Cream

First stop, Belgium. Wafels & Dinges brings the Belgian Waffle to our Yankee curbs. Choose the light ‘n crispy Brussels Wafel, or the soft ‘n chewy Liege Wafel, and dress it up with your favorite Dinges (toppings). Go fruity (strawberries, bananas), sugary (dulce de leche, chocolate fudge, maple syrup) or creamy (butter, whipped cream, ice cream). Truck locations are posted on the site, on Twitter @waffletruck or by calling 866.429.7329.

Next, pull up to the bumper for the baby-sized deliciousness of New York’s first mobile, gourmet cupcake shop. When Lev Ekster graduated from law school last year, the job market was…well, pretty sour.  But when life gives you lemons…you make a lemon meringue cupcake. Lev assembled a team of bakers, created recipes, and revved the engine of Cupcake Stop, a traveling store of fresh-baked, hand-made cupcakes. Follow the tweets to your sweet treat @cupcakestop.


Our final parker is the brainchild of a classically trained bassoonist with a little soft-serve and a lot of flair. The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck was created by Douglas Quint, a graduate of The Manhattan School of Music and The Juiliard School (and presumably a homosexual). The menu combines traditional soft-serve ice cream with imaginative toppings and funky names. Cool your lips with a Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate with dulce de leche and sea salt) or be thankful for the Gobbler  (vanilla ice cream with pumpkin butter, crushed graham crackers, whipped cream and craisins). Follow the truck’s location on its site or on Twitter @biggayicecream and top yourself off with some sweet rainbow sprinkles this summer.

(All pictures provided by the vendors)


Filed under Restaurant, U.S.A.

NYC Restaurant Week

Hey New Yorkers, are you hungry?
NYC Restaurant Week allows you to sample three-course, prix-fixe meals at some of the city’s most amazing restaurants for $24.07 at lunchtime and $35 at dinner.  From now until September 6, pull up a chair at more than 275  New York City restaurants.  Go classy (Le Cirque, Cipriani) or sassy (Nobu, Megu), but don’t forget to make a reservation, as the most popular places fill up fast.  For a complete list of this summer’s restaurants, click here.

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Rioja Restaurant Week

Drink like a bullfighter.
Sip like a flamenco dancer.

May 13-27, 2010 is Rioja Restaurant Week in New York and Chicago.  Diners can enjoy a $25 lunch or $35 dinner with a glass of Rioja wine at some of these cities’ greatest restaurants.

The Rioja region of northern Spain spans over 14, 000 acres, roughly the size of Delaware.  With vineyards dating back to Roman times, one of Spain’s primary exports is gaining popularity and praise in the States.  Explore white or red options, a delicious meal, and sip, drink (or guzzle) a little taste of Spain.

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Fort Lauderdale Steps Into the Spotlight


(Photo of STEAK 954, courtesy of W Hotels)

Every Mary has her Rhoda.  Every Marcia has her Jan.  For many years, Fort Lauderdale played second fiddle to ever-popular Miami.  But with the opening of the Ritz Carlton in August 2008 and the W Hotel in April 2009, Fort Lauderdale is shedding her braces and graduating from finishing school.  No better place to experience the transformation than overlooking the beach at the W’s stylish, new restaurant, Steak 954.

Created by Stephen Starr (of New York’s Buddakan fame), Steak 954 infuses the classic steakhouse with a modern, South Florida flair.  At dinner, steaks range from an 8 oz. Filet ($35) to a 36 oz. Australian Tajima Kobe Porterhouse ($245). Non-beef-lover options include Butter Poached Maine Lobster (MP), Miso-glazed Black Cod ($27) and Seared Duck Breast ($26).  Weekend nights can be a bit of a scene, but the restaurant, with its sleek jellyfish aquarium and outdoor terrace, is successful at accommodating an eclectic mix of guests.

For a more relaxed experience, enjoy the ocean view while sipping a Bloody Mary ($12) during the weekend brunch.  Traditional favorites like the Vanilla French Toast and Mushroom & White Cheddar Omelet share the menu with funky breakfast creations like the Short Rib Benedict and Cuban Egg Sandwich with pulled pork, and lunch-sized portions of the dinner entrees (most under $20).  Whether you are in the mood for a little “br” or a little “unch” a side order of the Truffle French Fries are a necessary complement to your meal.  I promise; you will thank me.

Steak 954 keeps with the slick, modern vibe of the W brand while incorporating the relaxed environment of a beachside café.  Fort Lauderdale is slowly but surely cultivating its own kind of casual glam that works well for this friendly beach town.  In the last few years, this wallflower has blossomed into a sophisticated, trendy new presence and is enjoying her time in the spotlight.


Filed under Restaurant, U.S.A.