June has passed, but soon Chicagoans will be able to bask in that fierce Pride energy all year round at a popular drag restaurant and performance venue’s forthcoming location on the Near South Side. Mini-chain Lips is slated to open in late summer at 2229 S. Michigan Avenue. Local queens Mimi Marks, Mz. Ruff N’ Stuff and Angel LeBare will host a grand opening weekend starting Friday, August 23.
Touted as the “ultimate in drag dining,” Lips Chicago will be all about opulence. Four eight-foot crystal chandeliers will dangle overhead, offsetting pink leopard tufted walls, velvet curtains, and a bevy of bejeweled mirrors. The venue’s stage features a throne — the performers are queens, after all. The 8,000 square-foot space seats 174, so diners should expect a crowd.
The menu from chef Tom J. Schmidt (Little Goat) offers both appetizers and entrees. The former includes popular classics like crispy battered calamari (called the “Harlet Wench”) and “Saadi Fierce” crab cakes. The entree list highlights pastas, poultry, seafood, and beef. Items include the “Saffire Blue,” a pan-seared dover sole (avocado, arugula, red onion, tomato, champagne vinaigrette) and “Tori Sass,” an 8-ounce prime filet basted with garlic and herbs (potato latkes, seasonal vegetables). Vegetarian options are limited, but herbivores can try the “Kinlee Preston,” seasonal curried vegetables served over rice with chickpeas, peanuts, and coconut milk curry sauce. The full menu is available below.
Lips offers diners a full bar, as well as a handful of signature cocktails. These include the “Yvonne Lamé,” a frozen cosmo named in tribute to Lips’ founder, pineapple upside-down cake shots (vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, grenadine) and a “Hotchata” shot (Fireball, horchata).
Drag performance has surged into the mainstream in recent years largely due to the wild success of TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, but drag performers profoundly influenced LGBTQ American life for decades prior. Drag queens are cited as some of the key activists in the historic Stonewall rebellion in 1969 and are featured in major films and plays including La Cage Aux Folles (and its cinematic counterpart, the Birdcage) the Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, To Wong Foo, and more.
Chicagoans may be familiar with the drag-dinner idea thanks to popular local venues like Boystown’s Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club and casual spot Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville. Lips, founded by New York queen Yvonne Lame’, has operated for 25 years in New York City, San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlanta. The restaurant and venue will share the space on South Michigan Avenue with the Windy City Playhouse South.
Stay tuned for news of Lips’ opening in late August.