How One Queer New York Restaurant Intends To Disrupt Fine Dining

New York City is a culinary haven studded with restaurants that are largely considered some of the best in the world. Take a look at Eater NYC's list of the top "splurge-worthy" restaurants. There are stalwarts such as Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert's temple of seafood, as well as newcomers, like Aska, which dishes up "New Nordic" fare. And, while these restaurants are all unique, they do still share quite a few traits — such as carefully sourced ingredients and a price tag to match.

But the New York dining scene is not monolithic. Restaurants of all stripes are represented, and new spots open almost daily. Some toe the line and tread where others have gone before, and there's no shame in that. Occasionally, though, a restaurant comes along that looks to blaze a path into new territory and change the way in which fine-dining is delivered and experienced in the city.

HAGS, a new restaurant from chef Telly Justice and her partner, Camille Lindsley, is ambitiously shaking up fine-dining trends in an effort to create an atmosphere that is as accessible as it is delicious.

Accepting and accomodating

Recently profiled in Bon Appétit, HAGS is New York's first and only queer fine-dining establishment, which is an important distinction in a world that still lacks proper representation for all people. More than just a mantle, Justice and Lindsley have designed a restaurant where acceptance and accommodation are central pillars. That's just part of their larger goal to upend what they see as a complacent and less-than-welcoming fine-dining scene in the city.

HAGS offers two prix-fixe menus. One is an omnivorous 5-course tasting that runs $155. The other is vegan for $145. But those menus are by no means set in stone like they would be at so many other dining hot spots. Justice will gladly make any modifications necessary to meet a guest's dietary needs or restrictions. Additionally, they've rolled out a pay-what-you can option for their Sunday service so that all feel comfortable regardless of their financial situation. 

The small space — HAGS seats 20 — adds to the community-focused, convivial attitude. As Justice explained to The Infatuation, the inspiration for the food draws heavily on her Southern upbringing. Lindsley, who is the sommelier and beverage director, has designed an eclectic bar program that Gay City News reports will feature hard ciders, sakes, fortified wines, and vermouth.

As reported in Eater NYC, HAGS is queer first, and, according to Justice and Lindsley, the spirit of inclusivity and community that comes with being a queer-focused business is exactly what makes the restaurant different.