Archives for category: restaurant

December’s a funny time to be dining outdoors. But with indoor dining shuttered in NYC for the foreseeable future, outdoors is the only option, and if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. Which in this case meant a visit to the Michelin-recognized temple of Asian fusion cuisine, Hortus, and their second-floor outdoor patio.

Open to the elements all summer long, the patio got covered for the winter just one day before we came. But it’s still a well-ventilated outdoor space, with open panels to let in air and giant kerosene heaters gushing flame to keep the clientele warm. And we are definitely the sort of clientele that needs keeping warm.

Which meant much gathering around the heaters, leading to photos like these, which suggest a coven at work more than some hungry folk simply gathering for a holiday meal.

What we wound up summoning wasn’t a demon but nearly as sinful: oysters, ribeye, salmon, truffles, pumpkin soup, green tea, hot sake. We got to find out which of our members had never tasted an oyster before and witness their first time.

The restaurant was kind to make allowances for us — not only allowing us to dine topless (or as close to topless as the near-freezing outdoor weather would permit)…

…but accommodating one or two other unusual requests as well. These are unusual times and it’s the places that demonstrate some flexibility that will see a group like ours coming by.

We had books on hand from our friends at Hard Case Crime as a little Christmas treat, including an early peek at Stephen King’s new novel, Later, and an even earlier advance copy of a book called Five Decembers (so early that the back cover and spine were blank!).

We welcomed a first-timer or two, as we always like to–

–and a second-timer–

–and of course some dear friends of long standing.

Normally this time of year we might have treated ourselves to a spa day…

…but with Covid still rampaging, anything as enclosed as a sauna or steam room just felt too risky. The very intimacy and closeness that makes the spa so wonderful argued against it this year. But intimacy comes in many forms, as does closeness, and freedom, and we enjoyed all of the above — and a great meal besides.

We urge you to patronize your favorite local restaurants as best you can in this difficult time — they need you. And remember that your friends need you too.

Merry Christmas, all — and here’s to health, happiness, love and friendship in the new year.

On Friday, Governor Cuomo of New York announced that restaurants in NYC would no longer be allowed to offer indoor dining until the rise in Covid cases subsides. Indoor dining had only resumed in September — before that, it had been shuttered since March. The difference being that between March and September restaurants were able to put tables outdoors in the street. They can still do that now, but who’d want to sit at them in the freezing temperatures of December, January and February?

Well, we might. But the truth is, we don’t like freezing any more than the next person, and the fact that we dine topless makes us even more prone to freezing, assuming that the next person is clad in a quilted down coat, knit hat and mittens. But so far this year we’ve managed to pick our shots, and by selecting abnormally warm days we’ve been able to find afternoons in both November and December where outdoor dining was not just tolerable but positively scrumptious.

Our November visit was to a downtown burger joint called Royale, named after the “Royale with cheese” conversation from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and what could be more appropriate for our group than that? We packed up some of our finest pulp fiction reading material–

–and trekked down to Alphabet City in lower Manhattan on an afternoon that promised to be less than freezing and that wound up, semi-miraculously, actually being sunny and warm.

Royale is your typical downtown bar, with a narrow entryway and tight seating along either side. But what sets it apart is that once you pass through that entry you reach a private outdoor back yard, with an overhang shading a wooden deck and a scattering of metal two-tops down a small flight of steps at the far end.

Did the neighbors mind our eating topless? We don’t think so. We spotted one or two at the windows overlooking the space but none ran and got binoculars, or a cellphone. (Or a shotgun.)

And what could be more natural on a sunny day than dining al fresco without a top on? Royale’s burgers are juicy and delicious, and if you haven’t got a top on, that’s one less thing to accidentally stain.

We shared tater tots and truffle fries, downed hot cider to keep any remaining chill at bay, and regaled each other with stories of our pandemic summer. It was joyful and a relief — to be with other humans, to laugh together again, to share each other’s company. And to do it outdoors, where it was relatively safe. (You will be happy to hear that more than two weeks have passed and nobody got sick. So, whew.)

Now, December is colder than November, and January will be colder still. But if the gods of temperature shine favorably on us, we’ll keep meeting, where outdoor space makes it feasible. That said, how many of New York’s restaurants will be able to make it through this dark winter on the back of outdoor dining alone? (There’s takeout and delivery as well, for many. That might be the season’s saving grace. Anytime you pass a restaurant, make sure to grab a takeout menu.)

But outdoor dining is important, and as long as any of them keep at it, we’ll do our best to find them and do our part to keep them going.

We also wish the best to those restaurants we’ve contacted who, heaven knows, could use the business we were offering but as a matter of principle or out of fear of the unknown declined to have topless women use their outdoor space. (Even Ayza, a place that welcomed us twice before in previous years!)

We respect their decision, and hope they find some other way to stay afloat. It takes a powerful commitment to the premise that breasts must always remain covered to turn down a group of paying customers during a pandemic. But we are happy to give our trade to those that welcome it, and we are pleased by how many of NYC’s eateries do.

If you’d like to join us at one of these events, email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’d love to feed you on a chilly winter day.

Twice before, we’ve visited the good folks at Cowgirl Seahorse, a restaurant down by the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge (on the Manhattan side, if you’re wondering). But both times it was for dinner, and both times it was indoors. That was before a pandemic flattened New York City, and New York’s restaurants responded by moving their tables outdoors onto the sidewalks for healthier open-air dining. We decided it was time for a return visit. And since the weather had turned coldish, we figured lunch was a better option than dinner.

Of course it rained.

But by the time we got to the table and its two helpful umbrellas, the downpour had lightened to a drizzle, and then to a mist. Still chilly, so we waited until we had warm beverages before unbuttoning.

Even then our toplessness was initially more a frontal thing than an all-over thing. This wasn’t about modesty — it was purely about comfort.

But mugs of hot tea for some and hot toddies for the rest of us warmed us up, as did plates of lower Manhattan’s yummiest comfort food. Nothing like whiskey, cinnamon and honey to chase away a chill, and nothing like fried pickles or shrimp and grits to warm the soul.

You’ll recall that Cowgirl Seahorse has a signature drink, the Sharkarita, which comes with a plastic shark full of “blood” that you pour into the blue beverage before drinking it. We had one of those too, and afterwards the shark enjoyed its proximity to our books and our nipples.

We also carried our drinks out into the street, where a rain-spawned dearth of traffic meant we had the cobblestones to ourselves for a bit.

It felt like the best sort of New York moment. A Sex and the City lunch out with the girls, in defiance of whatever life has thrown at us lately. We’re strong, we’re proud, and to quote another Sondheim song — we’re still here.

We usually save indoor events for colder weather — when it’s no longer feasible to gather in a park, the likes of a warm yoga studio, spa, karaoke joint, or restaurant presents an appealing alternative. But who needs indoor events in the summer?

On the other hand, when we were contacted recently by the good folks at Cowgirl Seahorse, who’d hosted us a few years prior and were inviting us to come back, we thought, Why not? We had a friend visiting from the West Coast, and a topless dinner with her sounded like just the thing.

So off we went. We took advantage of the season first by gathering in front of the restaurant before the sun went down and watching it descend.

Then we headed in. Cowgirl Seahorse is a happy little spot down by the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan side. They serve basic Tex-Mex fare in a lively, colorful and welcoming atmosphere. One interesting feature of the place is that it’s basically one large room, so when we come we’re not tucked away in some closed-off private space where no one can see us. We’ve got our own table, but it’s out in the open like everyone else’s.

Did anyone object? Far from it! We were greeted by a warm round of applause when we entered, and no one at all seemed put out by our presence. In fact, a few of our fellow diners stopped by our table to say how much they admired what we were doing, and some staffers even invited their kids to meet us.

The place is female-owned and -run and queer-friendly — live events include drag brunches and the like. While we were there, we watched the staff hot-glue flowers to a giant 1960s-style peace symbol. The spirit of acceptance is as pervasive as the spirits fueling the shark-themed drinks.

There was even a marriage proposal before the night was out, although we’re pretty sure it was the result of the overflowing good spirits of both varieties. ūüôā

And when dinner was finished, the fact that we exited into a balmy summer night meant there was no need to put our tops back on while we hunted down some dessert.

Big Gay Ice Cream is just a few blocks away,

…and the plaza outside made a lovely spot for hanging out–

–for meeting new friends (the woman in the middle of this photo is a total stranger who ran over to us and enthusiastically took her top off when she saw us doing it)–

–and for an impromptu flute performance from our very own Pied Piper.

All in all, a filling and satisfying evening, not just because the food and bev were good (though they were), but because everywhere we went, we felt like we belonged. Like our self-confidence and lack of shame about our bodies were not misplaced.

And we relished the chance to pass a lesson about not being ashamed of your body along to the next generation. Hopefully those girls will grow up with a touch more self-confidence because of it. The world will be a better, freer place for it.

Would you like to exercise your equal rights by joining us the next time we plan a topless meal, or a moonlit topless stroll? (The summer isn’t finished yet!) Whether you’re all over it or just curious, we’d love to hear from you. Email toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com, or find us on Insta at @topless.pulp or Twitter at @ToplessPulp.

IMG_0864Today, our blog topped 22.5 million views — a random number, but also sort of an astonishing one when you consider that we’re just one small group in one city, quietly going about our business. Granted, it’s a big city and what we’re doing is eye-catching. But still. It’s gratifying to know that our message has peacefully spread to so many readers in so many parts of the world. (Fewer than half our views have come from the United States; the rest have come from everywhere from Europe and Australia to Micronesia, Vatican City, even North Korea.)

People across America and throughout the world have seen that in New York it’s possible for women to enjoy the same freedom as men, and for women’s bodies to be treated as normal and ordinary and healthy, rather than shameful or provocative or in some other way deserving of being forcibly covered up or hidden away.

0713-jWe’ve flown the banner of freedom in parks and plazas,

park-jMadisonSq-eOn rooftops and in restaurants,

IMG_9479IMG_5605IMG_6824IMG_4327At landmarks and monuments,

octpfas_081513-9618AS_2382In front of audiences of hundreds and alone in privacy of our little inflatable pool,

IMG_5038IMG_9556In bikini bottoms and in nothing at all.

IMG_3009IMG_2965IMG_2887And through it all we’ve maintained our sense of humor and patience and our conviction that in the end the world will come to see things our way.

Would you like to be part of our grand adventure? Whether you’ve ever done it before or are a nervous first-timer, we welcome all women. Just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and let us know you’re interested. You’ll be bare-chested under the sun before you know it. And we have a feeling you’re going to love it. ūüôā

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IMG_4004We read in the paper where it reached -100 degrees in New Hampshire the other day. Negative one hundred degrees. By comparison, New York City is in the midst of a tropical heat wave at positive 8.

But outdoor toplessness is off the menu for now.

What does that leave? Finding interesting hidden spaces in this mysterious city of ours, and one of our members tipped us off to a doozy: an underground cocktail bar that is literally underground. You enter it through a fake bookcase in the entry hall in a Brooklyn bistro called Chez Moi.

IMG_3787IMG_3796Descend a twisty staircase past a suit of armor and you emerge in a cozy, colorful room appointed with a Steinway piano, a full bar, luxuriously upholstered furniture, a red and gold color scheme, and art on the walls depicting classic courtesans. You have entered Le Boudoir.

IMG_4082We called in advance, of course. Could we enter Le Boudoir wearing no more than ladies generally wear in a boudoir? The owner kindly said we could. So off came the down coats, the gloves, the scarves, the knit hats, the heavy sweaters–

IMG_3989–and what was left was little indeed.

IMG_3836Though in at least one case some gloves went back on.

IMG_3860-FIMG_3942The rest of the evening was a marvelous combination of drinking (exceptional craft cocktails courtesy of Ms. Franky, the evening’s inspired bartender)…

IMG_3881IMG_3900,..dining (smoked salmon, charcuterie, creme brulee, chocolate mousse….

IMG_4497IMG_4504IMG_4482…books (new comics from Hard Case Crime, crosswords from the¬†New York Times)…

IMG_4533IMG_4032-F…and more drinking. (It’s a cocktail bar. When in Rome.)

IMG_4449One of our members is moving to Florida, so it was both a sad and a fond farewell for her, though she’ll surely come back to visit, and who knows, maybe we’ll arrange a road trip to visit her. (She says she’ll be near a nudist resort down there.)

IMG_4379Nor was that the only revelation of the evening. Did we know that one of our members is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do? We did not. Now we’re readier than ever to kick ass and take names should it ever prove necessary.

IMG_4106This is us being surprised:

IMG_4325IMG_4166But no ass kicking was required this night. While winds howled aboveground, we retired to the secretest spot of our subterranean lair, a cave carved out of the rock of a century-old subway tunnel…

IMG_4130IMG_4475IMG_4402…and plotted world domination. Well, something like world domination, All those cocktails make it a bit hazy. But there was plotting done for sure, and many hugs,

IMG_4492…before we reluctantly bundled up and made our way return-from-Narnia-like back out through the bookcase and into the mundane world.

Where now it’s 8 degrees and we’re wearing clothes.

Can we go back to Narnia, please?

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IMG_0880“I just want to tell you,” the man in the dress shirt and necktie said, “I love what you’re doing. You’re bringing back the 1980s. Back then, everyone here was completely naked.” The smile on his face was warm and genuine, though it was hard to imagine the fond memory he was describing was accurate. People went completely naked on the piers at the Hudson River? Well, they hadn’t been developed yet; they were just rotting spurs of wood sticking out into the water; so, maybe. And yet…really?

“Yes,” he said. “You’d come here and everyone would be naked. It was free and wonderful.”

Free and wonderful: two words we could relate to, even if we still had our bottoms on. The wonderful part, especially, since it’s a wonder that in the middle of October it was still warm enough to go bare outdoors. Later, when the sun had set, we went online to search, and sure enough found this:

slide_218857_843458_freeThe Hudson Piers were once home to a flourishing gay and lesbian scene, which included nude sunbathing, until gentrification arrived and chased the sunbathers away.¬† Needless to say, we’re proud to be doing our part to bring it back, even if we’re only taking baby steps by comparison.

IMG_0827IMG_0814IMG_0824These days, the piers have been developed, with artful, asymmetrical grass swards and metal sculptures dotting the grounds, and the sun worshipers lounging about look like this–

IMG_0568IMG_0714But the day we came, they also looked like this:

IMG_0618IMG_0677IMG_0664And we saw the gentleman’s handstand and raised it three cartwheels.

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We certainly felt free there — no one bothered us or complained, or even gave us a dirty stare. In fact, when we saw a bare-chested man enjoying a beer at the outdoor bar at the end of the pier, we figured we’d be welcome that way too — and we were.

IMG_1023IMG_1065IMG_1077New York may not be everything it was 30 or 40¬† years ago, but in at least one respect it’s been freer and more wonderful since 1992, the year a state court established that it’s legal for women to go topless anywhere men can. Back in the day, maybe people went naked, but they were all breaking the law by doing so. Today, we can do what we do in total comfort and confidence.

IMG_0951IMG_0857IMG_0763Of course, the balmy temperatures won’t be around for much longer — already it’s turned colder.

But the flame of freedom? That burns all winter long.

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IMG_4327The third part of our day in the sun — exploring lower Manhattan with Chelsea Covington, blogger supreme ¬†and hero of the Maryland equal-rights case¬†— didn’t actually involve much sun. Or it did at the start, but less and less as time wore on. Because having begun the afternoon in a downtown park…

IMG_3987IMG_3822fAnd continued it with a walk through the esplanades and alleyways of the city’s southern tip…

IMG_4181IMG_4135IMG_4112…we eventually washed up on the pilings of the Brooklyn Bridge and found ourselves welcomed indoors for dinner by the wonderful staff of the¬†Cowgirl Seahorse¬†restaurant.

IMG_4195Had the restaurant ever hosted a dozen topless diners before? Not likely. But they didn’t bat an eyelash when we contacted them in advance and asked if it would be okay for us to end our day there. In fact, they enthusiastically invited us. And god bless them, they didn’t bat an eyelash when they saw us either, neither the female nor the male waitstaff, and impressively, not the other customers either! No one asked what we were doing or why we were doing it, no one gawked or took photos, no one looked disgusted or appalled (or, what might have been worse, turned on). Everyone just went on smiling and chatting and eating like it was the most normal thing in the world to dine shirtless on a hot summer day.

IMG_4200IMG_4264We dived into the restaurant’s neo-Southern menu…

IMG_4203…trying their shrimp and grits, their catch of the day, their bacon-wrapped scallops, their Paul Bunyan-sized salads.

IMG_4527IMG_4461IMG_3014Each dish tastier than the last, although the hot sauce was merciless and Robert Shaw kept staring down at us from the wall.

IMG_4198The rest of the decor was charming in the extreme, right down to the cutely labeled conveniences.

IMG_4381We sadly didn’t get a photo of the little plastic mermaids perched on the edges of the beer glasses. Those were cute too. (Though they weren’t topless! #FreeTheMermaidNipple) But we did get photos that we hope convey just how casual, natural, and wonderful the night was.

IMG_4222IMG_4199IMG_4277Finally, when weariness caught up with us…

IMG_4543…we bid the place adieu and hit the sidewalk to wait for Lyfts or find the nearest train station. The no-longer-sun-baked air was bracing. If anything could’ve told us our adventure had come to an end, that was it.

IMG_4544IMG_4547But what an adventure it had been! Hours of relaxation, a meal with friends, and no problems at all due to our chests being uncovered. It’s a model for how things should be: live and let live.

Which calls to mind a Cole Porter lyric, and maybe that’s as good a last word to end on as any:

Live and let live, be and let be
Hear and let hear, see and let see
Sing and let sing, dance and let dance
You like Offenbach, I do not —
So what, so what, so what?

Read and let read, write and let write
Love and let love, bite and let bite
Live and let live, and remember this line: 
Your business is your business
And my business is mine.

Live and let live, be and let be
Hear and let hear, see and let see
Drink and let drink, eat and let eat
You like bouillabaisse, I do not —
So what, so what, so what?

Talk and let talk, quip and let quip
Dress and let dress, strip and let strip
Live and let live, and remember this line: 
Your business is your business
And my business is mine.

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IMG_6092What are the French known for? Yes, existentialist philosophy and admiration¬†of Jerry Lewis, but those aren’t the things we’re thinking of. Fine food, that’s one; fine wine; and a liberal attitude toward nudity.

We’re happy to report we got to enjoy all three this week at¬†the venerable Les Halles restaurant down on John Street.

IMG_6105IMG_6067IMG_6023Just a stone’s throw from the World Trade Center but tucked away discreetly, they’ll serve you the classics —¬†escargot, soupe a l’oignon, vin rouge, creme brulee¬†— and if you ask to be seated in the tiny private room in the back, they might even let you enjoy it in the altogether.

IMG_6118Now, it’s still fitfully winter outside (it snowed again this morning), so¬†in deference to the temperatures (and the furniture), we kept our bottoms on, along with the occasional sweater or scarf.

IMG_6054IMG_6097But our indefatigable waitress made it clear she wouldn’t have been offended¬†if we’d stripped off the rest. And you know what? French food works¬†better when you eat it with a roomful of naked friends. (What food doesn’t? Okay, fondue. But that’s about it.)

IMG_6041Several bottles of wine made a fine foundation for some intense conversations–

IMG_6093–and much kvelling over flavors.

IMG_6058Want to join us for a decadent, delicious, liberating naked dinner sometime? Or maybe, when it warms up properly, a topless dejeuner sur l’herbe¬†in the park?¬†Drop us a note at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. Women of every description welcome¬†— just bring an adventurous appetite.

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IMG_4647We rarely stump for individual books, but there’s a speculative fiction anthology in the works called PROBLEM DAUGHTERS that we’re very excited about, not only because it promises to collect fiction and poetry from female authors writing on the theme of intersectional feminism, and not just because the title is so great, but because one of the book’s editors, Nicolette Barischoff, is a member of our group!

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IMG_9168You’ve seen Nicci at any number of our events; even though she lives in California, she makes her way to NYC as often as she can. And this latest project of hers promises to bring her east several more times this year. So: yay. Plus we’ll all have good reading material to dive into as soon as advance copies get printed.

IMG_9626But before any of that can happen, the project (which is up on IndieGoGo) could use¬†a bit more funding — not a ton, but some, and if you’re inclined to help out, we know Nicci would be thrilled. You can find more info at¬†https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/problem-daughters-fantasy-feminism#/. Check it out soon — the campaign ends Valentine’s Day.nicci-4nicci-5