You're Here, You're Queer ... It's Time to Drink a Beer!
Order a stiff one with some help from our queer club guide.
By Laura Marrich
Gay bars come and go with surprising frequency in Albuquerque. Hell, even veteran scenesters have a hard time keeping track of what's available from time to time. But if you've recently come into town or out of the closet, deciding where to spend your evening can be that much more confusing (and potentially disastrous). Don't want to end up an Alice in Leatherland? Tired of beating around the bush? Find the scene that's right for you with our lineup of clubs, pubs and booze-holes that help put the "queer" in Albuquerque.
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One of Burque's oldest gay bars also attracts somewhat of an "older crowd" (read: thirties and up), but for good reason; the guys who hung out there when it first opened liked it enough to stick around. AMC gets big scores for their friendly staff and general lack of pretension, but the smoky air might drive you away. When it's not too crowded, the wide open dance floor is great for kicking up your heels.
Burque's newest female-fueled club also attracts ... well, lesbians. You might remember this place for its two former tenants, the Aussie Cantina and Renee's. Rest assured that the same great patio, big dance floor and upstairs pool tables have persevered. Now Exhale's lineup of DJs, live entertainment and dancing are just a sampling of the new treats you'll enjoy in the company of women. Speaking of treats, they've got a sizeable bar menu; check it out at www.exhaleabq.com.
Also popularly known as "Foxes Booze 'n' Cruise," nothing says "dive bar" like wrap-around fake wood paneling. They've got DJs, live music and the occasional (not to be missed) drag show; and despite the lack of a kitchen, they have been known to offer free chicken dinners on Sundays (don't ask us how). Your experience may range from uncomfortably surreal to riotously campy, depending on how many drinks you've had before you get there.
Gulp is the swanky sister-lounge of Graze, both brainchildren of out celebrity chef and Albuquerque Original restauranteur Jennifer James. James has cultivated two fabulously sophisticated spaces, capitalizing on clean, ingredient-driven small plates (at Graze) and a hip, top-shelf side bar (Gulp). There's not an ounce of pretension at either place. On Saturday, June 11, take advantage of their "Pinky and Pies on the Patio." $25 reserves you a table on Graze's prime parade-watching patio, a slice of pie and a nice bottle of Fiddlehead Cellars Pinkie Rosé. Or, just go for the $2 hot dogs and beer. See what else is happening at www.grazejj.com.
Whether they're wet, dry or absolutely filthy, we can't get enough of the famously stiff cocktails over at Martini Grille. This Mecca of martinis shakes things up with sophisticated bar food and provocative live entertainment for every orientation, though it's not billed as a gay bar. Do not miss the outrageously danceable Vanilla Pop variety show on Wednesday nights.
To be fair, OPM is not a gay bar; but the ultra-lounge decor, swank drinks and cool DJs do bring in hotties of all persuasions. Keep your eyes peeled for Fire Womyn, an all-female dance party they have hosted in the past (log onto www.firewomyn.com). Other pluses include little bowls of wasabe-pea Asian snack mix (yeah, the good stuff) and sparkling bathrooms. Find out more at www.o-pm.com/abq.
What's in a name? Perhaps not surprisingly, Pearl's Dive is a popular Downtown hangout for lesbians (though it's not a gay bar, either). You'll love it for the live folk and jazz music, romantic back patio and really good food that ranges from vegan to vegetarian to out-and-out carnivorous. Stop by for 30 or so different varieties of beer and a game of scrabble before you head out for the night. Preview the dive at www.pearlsdive.com.
Pulse is a sweaty, thumping, smoky club with sweaty, thumping, smoking go-go dancers. Every night's different, so call ahead for the theme and dress appropriately. Blu, on the other hand, is a low-key little side lounge that's bathed in—you guessed it—ambient blue lighting. Kick back with your Mr. or Ms. Right or Right Now for an audible conversation, or belt out some '80s classics on karoake night. Sneak a peak at www.pulsenightclub.com.
At the Ranch, country and western go hand-in-hand like faded leather chaps and a cold Bud Light—and believe us, you'll find plenty of both there. The Ranch holds its own as the city's biggest (and to our knowledge, only) gay cowboy bar. Cuffs is a little side bar with lots of muscle, dirty movies and even dirtier floors. Go for the super-friendly bartenders and line dancing. Leave when the smoke obscures your vision completely.
DJs, dancing and wood oven pizza are the calling cards of this metrosexual Downtown destination. The interiors were remodeled within the last year to include breezy open spaces, sexy dark woods and soft, black leather accents. Dodge the obnoxious top-40 crowd in favor of hot salsa nights and afternoon people-watching on the front patio.
There's a woman's touch on what used to be O'Niell's big oak bar. The new tenants have feminized the former Irish pub with touches like old Texas antiques and a patina of arugula chiffonade on every plate. Highlights include perfect beer-battered fish, burgers and appetizers until midnight and a short wine list that's divided into "cheap, decent and good." The patrons here are generally more restrained than their boisterous predecessors, which you may actually prefer.
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