INWOOD — This ain't your grandma's bingo night — though you may want to dress like her.
Indian Road Café, known for its popular events such as a monthly Inwood History night and weekly knitting circle, is branching out into new territory with its inaugural "drag bingo" event planned for this Thursday.
Hosting a gender-bending bingo game at Indian Road has been a longtime goal of Nicole Zernone, who is married to the café’s owner, Jason Minter.
"I think it’s really fun and thought we could do it in a way to give back to the community,” she explained.
The event, which will by presided over by first-time drag performers Kitschy Kugel and Bridget Bishop, will run from 8 to 10 p.m., with all of the proceeds from the sale of bingo cards going to benefit a local charity.
Money raised from this Thursday's event, which the organizers hope to make a monthly occurrence, will go to benefit the Northeast Two Spirit Society, a nonprofit that provides support to LGBTQ members of the American Indian community. The organizers noted that they will choose a new charity to benefit each month.
Zernone, 42, has made plans to start the event several times in the six years since the restaurant opened, but was never able to find reliable performers. Ultimately, she didn’t need to look much further than her own backyard.
“I met Phil [Cohen] at our kids’ soccer practice in the park,” Nicole said, referring to Kitschy Kugel’s non-drag identity. “We started chatting about it and he said, ‘I would love to do that,’ and he followed through.”
Cohen, who has lived in Inwood for 12 years, has never performed in drag before but sang in a choir as an adult and helped out with fundraising in the past, he said. He added that he jumped at the chance to try something new and enlisted his friend Jonathan Paul Hamilt (aka Bishop), also a drag newbie, as the other performer.
Cohen developed his alter-ego, named for the traditional Jewish dish, after trying out different personas.
“At first I thought I would go more 'Steel Magnolias,' which is the opposite of my personality,” the 35-year-old said. “Then a friend of mine said, ‘You’re really good at the whole Jewish humor shtick.’ That’s how I grew up, so it felt more natural to me.”
He described Kitschy Kugel as a social butterfly and a jokester, noting that Hamilt’s persona is edgier.
The night will consist of four rounds of bingo with an intermission and a possible musical performance by the hostesses. Participants are welcome, but not required, to dress up. Indian Road Café will create cocktails to match each character’s personality and also offer prizes for bingo winners.
Cohen and Hamilt plan to develop each month’s event around a theme, with the initial night boasting a retro beach party. In the future, they may hold special contests, such as wildest hat or best disco look, to encourage audience members to don their finest drag outfits, Cohen said.
With drag bingo already a popular event at some Downtown venues, including Le Poisson Rouge and Lips, Cohen is hoping to build a similar following uptown, where he said there is a growing LGBTQ community that needs spaces where it can come together.
“I do think there’s a big community here, and that we should embrace it and have a place to celebrate it,” he explained. “We don’t really have that yet. Often, people from this community will go to Hell’s Kitchen or Chelsea where there is an established scene when they want to go out.”
You can find out more on Facebook or by following @kitschykugel and @bridgetbishopnyc on Instagram.