This Saturday’s Pride celebration at El Big Bad—just a block away from the gigantic parade itself on Milam—is something of an encore. A mashup of last year’s informal Pride gathering and this past New Year's Eve unicorn-themed celebration, this weekend's event is El Big Bad's first full-out Pride fête.
Last year, El Big Bad’s informal Pride celebration was an open-door invitation for partiers to swing by for a margarita. It ended up being their busiest day of the year outside of Cinco de Mayo. This year, the Tex-Mex restaurant and patio bar is holding a big bash, complete with a pageant judged by Dutch Small, Free Press Summer Fest director and self-identified “Gaystonian.” In addition to the pageant, Small and El Big Bad owner Steve Sharma will also be judging unicorn-themed costume.
Sharma opened El Big Bad in 2013 with a small handful of infused tequilas that paired the spirit with everything from popular flavors such as strawberry and vanilla to off-the-wall combinations like chorizo and beef jerky. Now, with over 50 varieties, it's the largest infused tequila bar in the world.
Among other drink specials this weekend, Sharma is featuring a drink he's calling “The Unicorn”—a margarita and champagne combo he compares to a Dos-a-rita. The Unicorn is made with Weber's blue agave tequila and a tiny champagne bottle upside-down inside that gives the drink a light, bubbly kick.
Most of the popularity, Sharma says, comes not from the delightful gimmick of a tiny, upside-down champagne bottle but rather from the name of the drink itself; sales soared once they changed it to The Unicorn, from roughly 12 a week to over 140. The drink will be El Big Bad’s signature during Pride, with its regular $16 price point knocked down to $11.
And while Sharma’s happy to host an event honoring the downtown—and greater Houston—LGBT community, he’s well aware that after the Orlando shooting only two weeks ago, this year's atmosphere might be different.
“You don’t want to let something like this change how you are living your life. That’s part of the message that Pride Houston is putting out, that they’re still going on,” Sharma says. “They’re going to still have their celebration, and we want to lock step with them and stand with them and support them and follow behind them in their decision to continue having this event.”
At the same time, he says, the mood may be more somber, and they're prepared for that too. El Big Bad's shrine, which is kept up year-round so that customers can leave pictures and mementos of loved ones, will also serve as a gathering spot of sorts this year. For Pride, the large altar will also be used to pay respects to the victims of the Orlando shooting.
“We’re showing our solidarity [with the community],” says Sharma. “There are people in all of our lives that are part of various communities and we want to stand behind them and with them.”
The Pride Houston parade kicks off Saturday, June 25 at 8:30 p.m. El Big Bad's Pride Celebration will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.