For anyone who’s ever asked “why can’t there be a friendly-yet-sexy, queer-themed, centrally located, luscious restaurant and lounge in New York City?”—your answer has arrived. The Dalloway is the newest addition to the local lesbian and gay scene, compliments of Amanda Leigh Dunn of The Real L Word and Kim Stolz of America’s Next Top Model.
Located in chic southwest SoHo, the Dalloway has made its home across the two spacious floors of 525 Broome Street (between Thompson and Sullivan Streets), opening in October 2012. In a recent visit there, owners Dunn and Stolz had just signed the lease and were prepping for a flash sale of leftovers from the prior establishment—the Hawaiian-themed lounge Lani Kai—and stood before bamboo-themed wallpaper sorting out dozens of potted plants, tropical candleholders and carved-wood furnishings.
The two joined forces only a matter of months ago, like star-crossed entrepreneurs who shared the same idea: to open a fabulous “lesbian-implied” establishment in New York. Their joint sensibilities steered them away from trendy Williamsburg and too-remote Park Slope to lower Manhattan. That they found the venue so quickly seemed kismet, and the perfect downtown locale served as a central stomping ground that would appeal to a cross-section of New Yorkers.
“We had decided on SoHo, and this was literally the first place we looked at,” says Dunn. “It was right after Kim and I had just thrown this idea out, and it couldn’t have been better timing because we had this window of about a month to put everything together…Everything worked out seamlessly. It’s such a good location, and so unexpected.”
Dunn and Stolz quickly settled on a name, taking their inspiration from the 1925 Virginia Woolf novel Mrs Dalloway. For their establishment, the Dalloway is meant to be a haven where gay women and patrons of all stripes will feel welcome and comfortable. More like a neighborhood hangout than an over-styled boîte.
“You don’t want to walk into a place and feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time, like you’re on a freakin’ movie set,” says Dunn. “You want to be able to go in even by yourself and order a dish and a glass of wine, and not feel like a loser being there.”
“But really, the big thing is that it doesn’t really even matter who we are. The thing that’s good about the platform that we have is that we have a little bit more of a reach, and we can bring people in a little bit easier.”
Dunn, 25, hails from New Jersey, but gained a serious appreciation for the vibrant lesbian community in Los Angeles, where the Abbey draws a familiar, mixed crowd to its spacious West Hollywood restaurant and bar.
Stolz agrees that a good mix is key to the Dalloway’s success, and believes the menu will serve as the invitation. She enlisted Chef Vanessa Miller, of Boston’s recently closed Noche, to craft a small-plates menu (“not tapas,” says Stolz) that downsizes tantalizing entrées in both quantity and price. Food details are still in the works, but one definite will be the brunch menu’s “coddled egg,” served in a small glass with layers of grits, chorizo, eggs and truffle.
The Dalloway’s “drink design team” and mixologist will be crafting specialty cocktails, but Dunn is quick to assert that beverages will span everything from cheap PBRs to Pimm’s Cups to tasty non-alcoholic drinks, at a range of prices that will include happy hour deals.
Stolz, 29, is eager to try her hand at Manhattan’s culinary trade. A native of fine-dining territory—the Upper East Side—she asserts, “The food is going to be so good. I think we’ll appeal to the foodie community and the LGBT community—and I do mean L, G, B and T. I also think that we’ll appeal to people who live in the area and just want to have a good meal.”
Both owners believe there is room for the Dalloway on the local queer scene. It will offer an industrial-chic, stripped-down interior design, together with innovative-classic fare, and a friendly staff.
Layering in the lesbian element will entice the women who pack into fun weekly parties that aren’t necessarily held at gay venues. Here, those ladies and their cohorts will have a place that’s open-minded, but women-centric.
“There’s a reason why these parties are packed every single week—because there’s demand,” says Stolz. “Amanda and I are networking with all those [party promoters] and bringing in the parties that work [for this space], and we’re going to have great events here for the community. I’m already connected with the [LGBT] Center, and with different organizations around the city. We hope to have the downstairs be a great event space and the upstairs be more of a restaurant and local ‘lesbian-implied’ bar.”
Dunn and Stolz have invited both of their girlfriends (or in Stolz’s case, fiancée) to join the ride, and from the start they’ve helped with the remodeling plan and lengthy to-do list—going so far as chasing the Con Edison truck down the street to get the power up. With 4,000 square feet, it’s a tall order, but fortunately the space is laid out well, and offers nice details like deco-retro booths and a real fireplace. (To take full advantage, Chef Miller already has a dessert on the menu that will invite you to roast your own marshmallows.)
Their plan is to launch before the holidays, opening Wednesday through Sunday at 5 p.m. most nights, but earlier for Sunday brunch. Programming the space will evolve with time, but musical diversity will complement the blend of patrons and inventive food. Above all, the pair is set on creating a warm space whose charm and delectability transcends reservations.
“You want to be comfortable and be able to be yourself; you want to have a good crowd that has a good dynamic to it—or else it’s boring,” says Dunn.
Stolz points out, “If you’re the shyest one of all your friends, we want you to be comfortable coming in here. And if you’re the most outspoken one who wants to go out dancing every night, we want you to come here and be attracted to the fun scene that it’s going to be as well.”
To the skeptics, this enthusiastic duo is ready to outlaw exclusion and attract the gamut of lesbians and the ones who love them—platonically or passionately.
“I think that we are into the era of the very cool lesbian who likes to party, not the one who wants to stay home and sew, which is a stigma that lesbians have had,” Stolz adds. “I think people like to go out. I think people like good food. And we’re just creating a space that should serve both those needs.”