Before I dive right in with the review let me get some things out of the way. I have been performing for almost 9 years and I know how doing reviews of drag shows can be a slippery slope, but I think I came up with some clear criteria which I will be commenting on. Let's break this down. Each review will cover the following points: The venue and its accessibility, price point, and location. The Show and the cast, diversity, cohesion, timeliness, and hype factor. Food and drink and its price, options, etc.
3 Categories, simple right? Ugh, I will probably make people mad but most likely not this crew because the brunch at Zen West was superb! Let's get right into it, shall we?
Zen West sits on the corner of York Rd and East Belvedere Ave south of the Towson area in Baltimore City. It is easily overlooked even with the big mural that says Zen West, the parts of the facade that has windows and outdoor seating faces Belvedere Ave which is the least busy street of the intersection. Zen West sits in good company in that section of York Rd, with Belvedere Square, The Senator Theater, and other restaurants and shops all steps away. Grabbing a meal there and sticking around for a few hours should be expected. There is no parking lot for Zen West and street parking isn't super plentiful but right at Belvedere Square, there is plenty of parking. There is a small lot across from Zen West on Belvedere Ave, but I am not clear if Zen West patrons are able to use it. The building is fairly accessible too, I would call ahead to varify wheelchair access though. I felt mobility wise it was an easy space to navigate. The tables are pre assigned, so if you do not want to sit at one of those high tables with stools get there early or contact Zen West to request a table. They were very happy to accommodate for us. When we entered the space we were imediditly blown away by the stage and lighting. Who knew this was sitting here off York Rd? Come to find out they have been hosting local bands for quite sometime. They should have known it was a matter of time before one of us discovered them.
The Food & Drinks
Zen West is a Tex-Mex restaurant so brunch was just that, breakfast burritos, Nachos, Wings etc you get it. You can check out the brunch menu here. Even though reserving your table on Eventbrite was free the event costs $25 and for that it includes food and a drink. Imagine our faces when we found that out! With that said. The food was right at our expectations. Nothing more. We all got different things and nothing was surprising. We didn't leave hungry at all. The drinks were what we came for. There is no drag brunch without bottomless mimosas! Before we went, I searched their website and social media to see if they offered a bottomless option and that info was no were to be found. COME ON THATS A HUGE SELLING POINT and the bottomless mimosas were only $12!!!!! Remember we also go a drink with our ticket price so I got a margirita to start and finished strong with two big ass cups of mimosas. Those cups were HUGE! I don't know if it was irresponsible or smart, but our server did not have to constantly come by to refill our cups, so I'm gonna say smart. If you are looking for a brunch that gives you all the things for a good price. This is it!
When deciding to start writing reviews of drag shows and brunches the last thing I wanted to do is critize someones drag. So, what I want to do is talk about the experience of the show. To be honest this cast was exceptional. Everyone really brought it and looked absolutely amazing doing it. The performers were Dee Dee Dereon, Citrine, Chasity Vain, Drag King Molasses with Hazel Dereon as their stage kitten (A stage kitten is usually a performer that helps set up the stage between acts and helps collect tips during performances. They usually perform one number during the show). Hosted by probably one of my favorite hosting duos Venus Fastrada and Vagenesis.
The theme for this show was 80s and not only me and my crew got dressed in theme so did a few other tables in the audience. I am a fan of themed shows especially when they are done like this. A theme show can really pull together a diverse cast and this cast was extremely diverse. Each performer really brought something different to the show. One of the comments we made were how much we appreciated the performers not sticking to songs by performers of the same gender as the drag performers. Molasses nailed sexy performing Black Velvet by Alannah Myles, Citrine did a Michael Jackson mix, Dee Dee Dereon did a Prince's Purple Rain and Chasity Vain did a David Lee Roth number. Really, these performers came to entertain and they came through with each act. After the show I spoke with Venus and she told me how hard Vagenesis and her worked on being intentional with casting. It really shows. The show started on "drag time" but it wasn't obvious. Ok, they were less than 15 mins behind. People were still getting their food and getting into their bottomless mimosas so there were no complaints about that. The runtime was right at 2 hours with a short intermission half way through. Everything went flawlessly and each act kept us wanting more. There is something about being somewhere dark and loud for brunch that makes you forget it's the middle of the day and you are wasted. I say that if your audience is vibing with you like that, you have succeeded in the drag brunch game.
If you are celebrating anything, a birthday, wedding, divorce, promotion, got fired, the weekend. Celebrate with Venus and Vagenesis on the first weekend of the month. Every month there will be a different theme and trust, you might see me there again. It was too much fun! Follow Venus Fastrada and Vagenesis on Facebook for updates and tickets for the next show. (Zen West, please update your website!)
Overall Score for this brunch 9/10