In one of Amsterdam's busiest streets, surrounded by coffee shops and a never ending flow of tourists sucking on weed lollipops, you'll find Getto: an iconic LGBTQ restaurant where drag queen burgers dominate the establishment's menu.
You won't spot it unless you're looking for it. At first, the tiny building looks like a regular bar, but take a closer look inside, and you'll note the disco balls, which slowly spin from the ceiling, a cocktail list with drinks such as "Horny Queen Maxima cocktail," and hamburgers named after famous drag queens.
John Sade, who runs the twenty-year-old restaurant with his boyfriend, fills me in on the role the establishment continues to play in both the Dutch and international LGBTQ-scene. "Twenty years ago, the Warmoesstraat was a street for guys and was full of leather bars. When Getto first opened, we deliberately chose to open our doors to lesbians as well. We organized very successful girls nights. The women brought a totally different vibe to the neighborhood, which was previously totally testosterone-driven. Then the drag scene started to develop and we gave them a home too. What began as a restaurant in an obscure corner of town quickly became very popular."
Restaurant Getto only has one goal: acting as a safe haven for everyone, not only gay people and drag queens, but also for anyone with a leather fetish. According to Sade, "Getto means literally 'a gathering of the like minded'. There are more restaurants in the city owned or run by gay or lesbian couples, but they are gay friendly. We are openly and in-your-face gay. On Thursdays, you might just walk into a drag show when you enter. Straight people are welcome, as long as they behave themselves."
On the menu, John honors the drag queens who have put drag on the map and fight for LGBTQ-rights. "Every burger on the menu is named after a drag queen who truly contributes to our community", says John. "As long as they do that, they get their own burger." Yesterday, Getto launched a new burger for the first time in a while. It's called Miss Olympia, who won the Drag Queen Olympics last summer. To celebrate this tradition, I sat down and talked to three drag queens with burgers named after them to share their favorite memories and see if the burgers reflect their personalities.
MUNCHIES: You have your own burger because you're the driving force behind many LGBTQ-initiatives. What do you think of that?
: Well, it's a big honor. People often tell me: "I ate you at the Getto. You were delicious."
Of course I'm delicious, what did you think!
Did you celebrate when you found out [a burger was named after you]? I went into the kitchen with my twin daughters, to play around for the pictures. There was also an official launch of all the burgers and for that all the drag queens showed up, like one big family.
Which burger are you? The one with beef, bacon, cheddar, lettuce and guacamole. It's delicious!
Do the ingredients go with your diva personality?
Yes, look: a pretty shape, petite, a little spicy. Tasty! And it's sloppy, just like me. A huge, dripping mess. That's Jennifer. That's how I feel, and definitely how I will feel tomorrow morning.
If you could choose your own ingredients, what would they be? Probably tzatziki and kalamata olives, because I'm a Greek lady. Though olives on a burger would probably be awful.
How long have you known about Getto?
For twenty years, since I had only just moved to Amsterdam. I was very happy when I discovered this restaurant. It reminded me of Australia, my home country. They have a cafe there that looks like this one, and they sometimes have kangaroo on the menu here, so I immediately felt right at home. I often come here to drink cocktails.
What is the most memorable night you've had at Getto? During Hartjesdagen [a yearly multi-day crossdressing festival in Amsterdam] we used to have dinner here with 20 drag queens. Someone would bring a boombox and we'd have games on the curb, in the spirit of the Drag Olympics. Hundreds of people would come and watch!
Why aren't there more LGBTQ friendly restaurants in Amsterdam? We used to have more of these types of restaurants. Same goes for gay hotels, there's only one of those left as well. Every year a few gay businesses close and very few new ones open in Amsterdam. The whole gay scene is disappearing and that's a problem. There should be places like this one, where people can meet up, eat, drink, and be in the majority for change.
Miss Windy Mills
MUNCHIES: How did you react when you got your own burger? Miss Windy Mills: I remember when Jennifer Hopelezz made it onto the menu in 2009 and I said: if you have your own burger at Getto, you've earned your place as a drag queen. There used to be a lot of international drag queens on the menu, but they have been replaced more and more with local talent. A year and a half ago, I got my own burger. It was a magical moment.
How did you celebrate? On the day I got my burger, I brought a little apron. I worked here [that night] as a waitress, wearing the same wig I'm wearing right now. All night long I was here: serving burgers, taking drink orders, pouring beers, entertaining at the tables. It was fun! I figured: if I get this burger, I need to do this right and have a great way to remember [the moment].
Does the burger go with your personality?
I always say: fake it 'til you make it. I can involve myself in any given situation and make it all about me. So, yes! [My burger is a] chicken filet sandwich and it became a joke about my boobs. Many drag queens use a breast plate: a silicone slab with pre-shaped boobs, but my boobs are [made of] real meat. I started saying: I only work with very large chicken filets. That's how I made the burger about me.
So what are your boobs made of? Goat cheese. (laughs) No, that's a secret!
What about the other ingredients on your plate? Well, I have a small waist and voluptuous hips. Very few drag queens make that choice and I don't understand why. A real Dutch woman just happens to have a little bit of extra meat on her. The bacon on my burger relates to my own fat! My ass, for instance: the ingredients are a secret, but it was made using a bread knife and foam rubber.
What would be on the burger if you could design it yourself?
Back in the day I thought I wanted a lamb burger. I grew up on Texel, [the Dutch island] where they have a lot of sheep. With mango chutney and baked onions, on a multigrain bun. Multigrain goes with my personality, because I'm not a shallow drag queen. I'm a multigrain bun, because it isn't made of empty calories. It has substance. It keeps you going!
What role does Getto play in the city?
There is a difference between a gay bar and a gay restaurant. A restaurant is a lot easier to walk into than a bar. You can come here without constantly being hit on. These days [the restaurant] attracts less Dutch people, because they can be openly gay in more places, but it remains necessary for future generations. Now we get a lot more tourists who come from countries where they don't have the same freedom [we have here].
MUNCHIES: Which burger do you have? Coco Coquette: A vegetarian one, with beans and nuts. All of the meat burgers were already taken and my colleagues didn't want to attach their name to a vegetarian [burger]. I thought: I don't mind that. I'm not a vegetarian, but it does go with Coco's style.
Why? Just to balance out all of the drags queens who only want a lot of meat. Men and meat, right? It's a thing. Coco is a simple housewife who parties hard every so often. She's an animal lover.
Does the rest of the burger also go with your drag personality? I would have preferred a kroket [local snack: a croquette filled with ragout), even a vegetable one would have been fine. Then it would have been Coco Kroket. It sounds good, but they would have had to install an extra fryer, so it wasn't possible. About this burger: it's important that the Coquette-element is well represented. This festive toothpick [sticking out of the burger] is totally Coco.
Did you notice that it's shaped like a small penis? I'm seeing that now for the first time! Either I didn't notice before, or it has been added later. Without my permission! The barbecue sauce is also new, I think. The burger has been jazzed up in the last few years, just like me! It's a bit odd, fruit on a burger, but that goes well with Coco. She likes being a little different by not fitting into the classic mold of a drag queen.
Do you like the taste?
It's a bit on the dry side, but that's why they serve it with this yummy sauce. Makes a difference. It's also fitting: Coco is actually a bit dry as well.
Are you a burger lover? No, I find eating burgers very difficult. They always collapse and it's a lot of work to eat them. It's an overrated food item. The fries are very good, they remind me of Belgian fries. The bun really does soak up all of the juices. It's not the best burger in the world, but I wouldn't change it. Coco isn't perfect either, and that's totally fine.
What is your favorite Getto memory? There have been a few hilarious parties. One I will always remember is a theme party: Christmas on Hawaii, when it was brutally hot in the middle of summer. I performed here waring a Hawaiian skirt and a Santa hat. The best part about this place is that it's sort of hidden. Straight people sometimes walk in without realizing where they are and ultimately, even though they have found out it's a gay establishment, they leave with a positive feeling. Like: it might not totally be my scene, but it was still very nice and fun.