Unicorn Booty's New Dish
Popular LGBTQ blog expands to brick-and-mortar restaurant
Imagine your favorite Web page or blog came to life – like real life, not virtual life. What would it look like? Who'd be there? How would it taste, feel, smell?
For Nick Vivion and Kevin Farrell, co-founders of the dishy and successful LGBTQ-focused infotainment blog Unicorn Booty (www.unicornbooty.com), it looks like a 2,000-square-foot restaurant/bar in a 150-year-old building in the burgeoning Bywater district of New Orleans. Since its opening in November 2012, their brick-and-mortar baby, Booty's Street Food, has become populated with curious neighbors and visitors from afar, and it tastes, feels, and smells like the smorgasbord of international street tapas that it serves.
Conventional wisdom says that online commerce frees entrepreneurs from the obvious overhead of bars and restaurants. So when a popular virtual haunt creates an intentional and literal foundation, it's news. The Unicorn Booty boys went with their gut to cull the impressive online following of their two-man operation (the Unicorn Booty rate card or "partner kit" boasts 850,000 visitors per month and 120,000 social media followers) into an actual space with more than 15 employees – including John Besh protégé Greg Fonseca as head chef – where people could gather in the flesh and enjoy innovative cuisine, craft cocktails, each other's company, and of course, free wi-fi.
"New Orleans provides a counterpoint to people like myself who work a lot and like to work," says Vivion. "I'm proud to be a workaholic, I enjoy it – but here, I sometimes have to take forced breaks – literally, friends will come over and pick me up and take me out. That kind of stuff doesn't happen in Seattle." In this very real move, Farrell and Vivion may be ahead of the curve as the concept of "overconnectedness" becomes the hot topic that everyone's tweeting about.
"Nick and I actually met at Burning Man a number of years ago," Farrell chimes in, "and we affectionately say that it's always Burning Man in New Orleans – the costumes, the parades, the craziness here, the creative culture ... things that are important to us." Farrell attended Loyola and lived in NOLA "for about five years, up until Katrina. I lost my house, my car, everything to Katrina, and relocated to Seattle," where he and Vivion launched their Unicorn Booty empire.
Now relocated to the Big Easy, Unicorn Booty continues to trot out juicy pop culture nuggets, like "Alexander Skarsgård Basically Makes the World Explode With Sexual Tension" and "What Do You Call a Lesbian Dinosaur Talk Show Host?" Meanwhile, in real life, guests can order up an array of pupusa, yakitori, yuca fritters, bulgogi, and then some, plus a full line of desserts (... and you gotta have balls to serve zeppole, aka "fried Italian doughnuts with powered sugar," in a town that put beignets and Cafe Du Monde on the map).
While social media trends exacerbate tipping points of online burnout, Farrell and Vivion are tapping into people's desire to connect while seeking paths toward genuine experience as something more than just a little lagniappe to mediated entrées.
Blog to Brick: How We Turned Our Blog Into a Bar
Tuesday, March 12, 11am
Hyatt Regency, Hill Country ABCD
For an extended interview with Vivion and Farrell, see "Unicorn Booty Bounces," the Gay Place, March 7.