Drag is different on the Atlantic Seaboard, according to Daniel Bund, owner of downtown Portland’s newest lounge, the Queen’s Head.
Originally from Portland—cousin to Wayne Bund, a local artist and WW contributor—Bund spent several years living on the East Coast and in the U.K. There he performed drag with what he describes as a more cabaret flair.
“The drag environment I grew up in was really eclectic,” he says. “You had to be really creative. You had to be clever, which is not to disdain anyone performing here.”
All total, Bund has been performing drag for almost 20 years. He describes a fondness for theatrical drag performance, with live music and comedy bits, but generally defers to his network of producers to book live entertainment at the Queen’s Head.
Just opened at the end of November, the Queens Head is an English-style pub and lounge occupying the space once home to Tryst and, before that, Berbati’s Pan. Bund sees the Queen’s presence as an overt return of the LGBTQ+ community to Ankeny Alley—a stretch of Portland’s downtown closed to car traffic and home to bars, restaurants and clubs like Shanghai Tunnel, Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, and Kit Kat Club.
“[Our new neighbors] are all really happy that we’re open because we bring a different energy and a different kind of mentality back to that area,” Bund tells WW.
He says success will look different for the Queens Head than it does for fútbol bars and across-the-pond rock clubs. Bund noted that LGBTQ+ audiences seem more hesitant to go out and stay out late due to the coronavirus’s Delta and Omicron variants, so making people who do come out feel welcome is especially important.
“I feel like this is worth it,” Bund says. “I’m getting a lot of people coming up to me and being appreciative of the space and what we’re doing, and that feels good. It feels like we’re doing the right thing.”
Queen’s Head hosts drag shows and burlesque performances five nights a week, but Bund also hopes to create a pub atmosphere—though he also jokes that Portland doesn’t lack for pubs. He hired chef Antha Hansen to write a shifting menu of bar snacks and comfort food drawn from across the U.K.’s Commonwealth.
Hansen’s menu boasts coronation chicken sandwiches (roasted chicken with sliced grapes and sweet and spicy chutney), cucumber and watercress sandwiches, baked Brazilian coxhina dumplings, curry hand pies, and customizable charcuterie boards with chicken and lamb skewers, roasted mushrooms, and fresh cheeses served on tiered high tea trays.
The Queen’s Head also serves supper club specials, with Hansen ready to switch out with vegan substitutes. A recent queer prom party plated marinated pulled pork or fresh oysters, which Hansen says could have been swapped with sautéed mushrooms or smoky-marinated shredded veggies.
“This is not an insult, but a lot of the [queer] bar spaces in town, the food is an afterthought,” Bund said. “There’s a legal requirement to serve food at a bar, and some places will do the bare minimum. That’s great if that works for them, but we wanted to actually go for it on the food and try to fit into that hole in the market.”
While the lounge doesn’t have a signature cocktail yet, Bund and Hansen plan to include a range of gin-based drinks as well as tequila and vodka concoctions—they’ve noticed a demand from their clientele.
“Some things might work, some things might not work,” Bund says, “so it’s going to be a process of trying stuff out, figuring out what sticks, and adjusting and growing from there.”
GO: The Queen’s Head, 19 SW 2nd Ave., 503-206-6293, thequeensheadpdx.com. 5 pm-midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 5 pm-1 am Friday, 5 pm-2 am Saturday.