Rainbows in the 39th Street District are a dime a dozen, but bistros are another story. The historic northwest side neighborhood has long been noteworthy for its gay bars and nightclubs, but until recently, its food scene was limited to drag brunch and a taco truck. Which is what makes Rainbow Bistro such a breath of fresh air — and a panacea for anyone looking for sustenance on a bar crawl.
Rainbow Bistro marks the first new dedicated dining establishment in the district in decades, providing much-needed nourishment and an all-ages daytime option, courtesy of owner Burl Beasley. Opening just before the district’s Pride celebrations earlier this spring, the bistro beckons with Pride flags, colorful patio umbrellas and rainbow regalia in an eclectic diner-like space, along with rainbow cake, Pride-themed beers and most particularly, sandwiches with snarky names that would be right at home at any given drag performance.
Along with charcuterie, pretzels and “Happy Endings,” aka cake slices, sandwiches form the heft of the menu and riff on comfort food classics with names like Sloppy Seconds, a foot-long sausage with pimento cheese, diced onions and “unicorn sauce” — essentially a spicy Thousand Island. A menu signature is the Hot Mess, a muffuletta variation that stacks toasted focac- cia with a meaty medley of salami, ham, mozzarella, provolone and Italian olive salad — all with a sidecar of pink unicorn sauce for dunking. Reuben sandwiches are well-represented as well, via the more classic Big Helga or the more vibrant Drama Queen, which adds red cabbage and unicorn sauce to the mix. Both feature hot, meltingly tender slices of pastrami and Swiss cheese on rye bread, achieving new levels of buttery bite with a press on the griddle.
All sandwiches come with sides, most of which skew Eastern European: think potato soup, sauerkraut and German potato salad. Drinks include mimosas, beer, wine on tap and some aptly sassy cocktails like the Prancing Queen (sparkling wine, sake, cranberry juice and prickly pear).
Surrounded by bars, Rainbow Bistro provides a much-needed dining option on weekend evenings, in addition to a relaxed brunch vibe on Saturdays and Sundays. Following a slew of recent street enhancements along 39th Street, new bars and upgrades at the adjoining District Hotel and the year-old Indigo Lounge next door, Rainbow Bistro is the latest beacon in an evolving neighborhood.
Still have sandwiches on the brain? Check out Pick Your Pastrami here!