When you’re talking about the best part of CLE, our own drag artist Dusty Bucket — aka Cassandra Harner — makes quite the case for our city’s vibrant and glamorous drag scene, which has been going strong for much longer than you know.
“I love having something I can create,” she said of her art, “seeing how far I can take it and then physically bringing it from my mind into the world."
For two days in The Land that are as colorful as the one and only Queen Dusty, check out this CLE itinerary curated by Cassandra herself.
Goodkind Coffee in Lakewood is a warm and inviting coffee shop that invites you to be a part of their family, that’s why you see pictures of their relatives all over the shop.
“It's the best coffee I can find anywhere in Cleveland,” she said. “They have coffee soda, which is important to me, plus other things you can only find on their menu. Think craft cocktails, but coffee.”
Go light on the pastry, you don't want to be too full for the next activity …
According to Cassie, you’ve got to pack a sports bra and some hot pants, and then head to Cleveland Eclectic Dance to work up a sweat and get some good vibes flowing.
“I took a burlesque class and a pole class there. I totally failed at lyra once, but loved the ‘dance like a stripper’ class. It's the only way I really enjoy exercise, to be honest,” she said.
A good bakery can make a neighborhood, and AsiaTown hit the jackpot with Koko Bakery.
“They have the best buns! Authentic and Chinese-owned, they have bubble tea and ‘cheese milk tea’— just trust me,” she said. “Plus, I'm a sucker for desserts and they have some of the most beautiful, irresistible and affordable.”
Head to the east side for shopping at Sunshine Headquarters Too and Avalon Exchange in Coventry.
“Sunshine has to be a thoughtful purchase, putting away a dollar a day for that sequin jumpsuit, embroidered jacket or beaded corset. There are some fantastic, unique pieces that would be great for your next statement drag look,” she said.
“Avalon is secondhand, so I can get a bit more bang for my buck. I've had great luck with shoes, but Lord knows I don't need more of those.”
Vegetarians, vegans, meat-eaters, gluten free or just plain hungry, Tommy’s in Coventry can take care of anyone’s cravings.
“There's this one thing I always get, called an MR4. I can't tell you what that even stands for, but it's like a pocket of curry, falafel and bananas — and damn,” she laughs. “It’s not too big either, so you'll have room for one of their famous milkshakes.”
If the calendar is kind, you might be in store for some Cleveland Drag magnificence. Glam Gore, featuring Anhedonia Delight, is held at the Grog Shop on Fridays once a month.
“Cleveland’s sweetest little bar” is the carnival-themed Funhouse in Lakewood. “It's where we usually unwind after a show, or we just happen to show up randomly in the middle of the week.”
Head to Blackbird Baking Company in Lakewood, where they specialize in rustic European pastries and artisan breads, all made by hand from scratch.
Cassie is a big fan. “After traveling to Paris, it's the only spot that boasts a worthy enough baguette. There's also plenty of power outlets, so I can camp out with my laptop and work for hours and hours. They check up on me and make sure I'm still alive.”
Do your morning right and hit up one of the Drag Brunches in Lakewood, like the one Sassy Sascha hosts at The Winchester. “You can get bottomless mimosas and some dank food, too. Why stop eating? Brunches are all ages, so bring your kids! I did a lip-sync to Lady Gaga's rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose.’ Obviously." Also, check out regular brunches at Studio West 117, Lakewood's neighborhood of inclusive and affirming spaces that are dedicated to helping connect and support the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.
The Root Cafe is a beloved Lakewood hotspot where everything served is local.
“If you're not still too full from brunch, the Root has a beans, kale and rice bowl I love to slap a fried egg on. They have lovely tea and coffee too, of course. Maybe you'll catch an open mic,” she said.
Coven caters to modern, new and experienced witches in the Cleveland area.
Cassie suggests a level-up on the experience: “Sometimes they have drag queen tarot reading!”
As Cleveland taquerías go, Barrio is definitely a favorite. Cassie recommends checking out the nearby location in Tremont:“Barrio has build-your-own tacos, and you know I love a fried egg on anything.”
Time to get to a show from either Cleveland Kings and Girls (CKG) or Cleveland Kings Action Pack (CKAP).
“CKG is a troupe that's been around for a long time, combining drag kings and burlesque performers that do adorable and sexy group choreographed numbers,” she said.
“CKAP gives a platform for newer performers to cut their teeth and get to know other drag kings. They also focus on building up minority performers including trans/nonbinary people and people of color. Plus, they are fundraising for important causes.”
You can find their shows all over The Land, from the Grog Shop to Mulberry’s after a Stonewall Sports volleyball game.
“My drag family Black Mass might be on at The Five O’Clock Lounge on Saturdays once a month, featuring conceptual, punk rock drag & burlesque. Shows start at 11 p.m., and they're usually 21 and up but there's no cover,” she said. "No Class is always having queer events. Around 3 times a year or so, there's a big drag and burlesque show called Trash. And, coming up, Issa Vybe is producing a festival called "Good Vibes Fest" in October! Be prepared to scream and kill your phone battery from trying to capture all of it on your Instagram story.”
Cassie has even started producing her own events, including "Berghain't," a trans-forward techno party based on Berghain in Berlin, and "Sapphic Night," a dance party for lesbians and those who love them, on alternating months at No Class.
The Best Part of Cleveland
We asked Clevelanders, “What’s #TheBestPart of Cleveland?” The answers showed the world that this city is one filled with passion and excitement. Watch to learn more at ThisisCleveland.com/thebestpart.