A Queer Dinner Club Just Debuted in San Francisco; I Was Sat at the Table

Deluxe Queer hosted its first multi-course dinner on Saturday, October 22nd after soft launching earlier this past summer — and it’s clear the dinner series has staying power.

To be queer in a world organized around heteronormativity is to oscillate pretenses in perpetuity. Depending on our situations — our work environments; our shopping habits; our social circles; our family dynamics — we queer people are dotted with societal chromatophores. Alas, it’s often rare for us to find authentic and genuine expressions in our lives, especially in group settings (that exist outside of a nightclub or bar or Covid-stricken cruise ship).

Instances where our true colors can show feel fleeting at times; the episodes where our shoulders drop, brows relax, and voices reverberate in authentic pitches. This is even true here in San Francisco — the gay capital of the world.

Last month, sitting around a long dinner table lined with individuals who walk through life with the utmost sincerity to themselves, I found my body unwinding and my mind uncurled. I was at peace among like-minded kin. It was a communion with queerness made better by phenomenal dishes that were both prepared and served by the founders of Deluxe Queer, SF’s newest queer dinner club.

The brainchild of three SF-based, self-knighted queerdos — Sean Ang, Regen Williams, and J Pan (a.k.a. “Jonathan”) — Deluxe Queer held a soft launch during Pride Month in partnership with And Our, a non-binary clothing label founded by SF-based creative Anthony Rogers. (I, too, was fortunate enough to attend that aforenoted brunch; it was a pastel wonderland of senses, flavors, and tastes… all of which were enhanced by the afternoon’s jovial conversations and glass-shaking laughter.)

The summer meal was an exercise in tweaking and brand-setting; the dinner held on October 22nd, which was organized around New Year dishes and festivities, honed in on those learned insights.

Five individual courses were served throughout the evening, all of which pedestaled a certain communal preparation or serving manner. 

Jook — a savory porridge that functions as a blank canvas for extras — was individually served, with the intention of additions like bonito flakes and house-made pickles to be added by way of passed plates. A “celebration salad” consisting of various spear-like vegetables was jointly tossed by members of the table. Pork belly, with its potato chip-like skin and soft, fatty meat, was rolled into Mushu wrappers that were previously streaked with a mesmeric homemade hoisin-mole; crisp pickled pears offered both sweetness and acidic notes that cut through the seared lipids.

Unarguably the best crème brûlée to ever grace my tongue had its hard outer shell collectively cracked by a symphony of hammering spoons.

In that audible crack, what resonated around the table was the notion that this was far more than a meal: It was an exercise in both building new connections and relinking old ones. For the founders, this dinner was also about living out a dream of small business ownership.

“I have always dreamt of owning a little shop of my own with everything going on in the world right now, and me being 28, opportunity struck when my old queer classmate asked me,” Ang tells Underscore_SF. “I have loved them for ages, and this is my chance to reconnect.”

Williams was keen on getting involved ever since Deluxe Queer’s first brunch made rounds on social media; she reached out to Ang in a DM on Instagram, saying that she would help with anything they may need — “I’m really excited about Sean’s vision, and be a part of making it a reality, feel so honored to be a partner.”

(Williams, with her astute background in baking, having worked at such lauded institutions as Tartine, was the mastermind behind not only the mind-fuckingly-great dessert that evening, but also the mushu wrappers.)

The future of Deluxe Queer is blindingly bright. Jonathan noted that he, as well as the other two members, find the best part of hosting these dinners is finding community around something they love — “and I also love getting down to crazy shit,” Johnathan waxes.

For the time being, the trio will continue hosting pop-up meals, inching ever close to the idea of opening up a brick-and-mortar shop that exists in multitudes

“I want Queer Deluxe to be mroe than jsut a restauran,” Ang adds. “I want it to grow into a community space! A multi-hyphenate gay thing!”

I can say that all the above is already true, even outside of having a dedicated event space; may the many dinners to come I enjoy in their company continue building a litany of hyphenated adjectives.

To keep up to date with Deluxe Queer’s future event pop-up events, follow them on Instagram and TikTok; Deluxe Queer recently launched a dedicated website (deluxequeer.com), and they have a sign-up page that interested parties can subscribe to, here.

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