Photo Coverage: Lucky Cheng's Turns 25!
Lucky Cheng's, which originated as an East Village Chinese restaurant back in the days when its waitstaff were referred to as "female impersonators," is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall in its Hell's Kitchen home of the past two years.
Now a pop-up drag dinner show on Fridays and Saturdays in midtown, Lucky Cheng's began life at 24 1st Ave., where it was located from its opening day, Oct. 1, 1993, until it moved to 52nd St., just west of Broadway, in 2012. It stayed only two years in Times Square, and a subsequent location on the Lower East Side was short-lived as well. Since the spring of 2016, Lucky Cheng's has had a home at Stage 48, an event venue on West 48th St. off 11th Ave., where season finales of RuPaul's Drag Race have been filmed.
Many Drag Race contestants have worked at Lucky Cheng's, as did Laverne Cox prior to her breakout role on Orange Is the New Black, for which she became the first transgender person ever nominated for an acting Emmy. Since the beginning, Lucky Cheng's has employed primarily drag queens and transgender women to wait on tables--and perform for diners. It helped bring drag to a wider audience, as the restaurant became a sensation soon after its opening and remained a celebrity hotspot and nightlife institution for years.
During Lucky Cheng's quarter century in business, its performers and patrons have witnessed (and participated in) the evolution of both drag and trans acceptance. When the restaurant first opened, drag was taboo and in the shadows, but it's now part of mainstream television, not only on RuPaul's Drag Race but other shows like America's Got Talent and Project Runway too. Meanwhile, being transgender was kept a secret, whereas now trans people run for political office, appear on the covers of major magazines and have regular roles on TV series. (In another cultural shift, Lucky Cheng's original building in the East Village--a down-on-its heels neighborhood when the restaurant opened--was sold earlier this year in a $12 million-plus deal.)
"From launching countless talented LGBTQ performers to being a welcome refuge for so many who sought community and a place to celebrate together, Lucky Cheng's will always hold a special place in LGBTQ history," said Rich Ferraro, chief communications officer of GLAAD. "Lucky Cheng's has always been synonymous with the beautiful diversity of the LGBTQ community, and we join our NYC community and allies in wishing them a happy anniversary."
There is a 7pm seating on Friday and Saturday. For $55, customers enjoy the show and a three-course dinner; cocktails, beer and wine are available at an additional cost. Food served at Lucky Cheng's comes from the kitchen of Cantina Rooftop, a restaurant in the Stage 48 building. Visit luckychengs.com for more information. Reservations are accepted by phone from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 212-995-5500.
Here are some scenes from this past Saturday evening at Lucky Cheng's.