Tours: Culinary Crusade
It's a little known secret of jetsetters, but calories don't count when traveling. It's true! Just like breaking a cookie into pieces makes them all leak out. And it's a good fact to know. Because when hitting up Europe's gay greats, there's an unending buffet of options for getting your eat and drink on whether you're craving haute cuisine, a divey hideout, or chill venue to cruise on the locals.
Start off your carnival of consumption in Berlin, where the once-bifurcated capital of Germany has bounced back as Europe's queer bohemian paradise. In Schöneberg, Raststätte Gnadenbrot is a good intro to both Berlin's past (the restaurant dishes up former GDR faves) and its hipster future (it's modeled after a truck-stop diner on the autobahn). Come for the homoerotic gimmickry, stay for the home-cooked gastronomy! Meanwhile, Cookies Cream melds nightlife and noshing into quite possibly the hippest herbivore canteen on the planet (parmesan dumplings, mmm…) and it adheres to the if-you-can't-find-it-you-weren't-meant-to-be-here entrance policy. Hasir has been operating in Berlin for 30 years specializing in Turkish cuisine. The restaurant started as a small barbecue kitchen and eventually opening six locations (check out gay chef/owners/expat couple Jeffrey and Kevin's must-do picks in the city, here). And no trip to the German capital would be complete without some street meat: currywurst at Curry 36, döner kebab and homemade lamb dumplings at Evim, roast chicken at Hühnerhaus. Post-bar or anytime, dining on the cheap can be sublime.
Nearby in Antwerp, its chefs are rivaling its fashion designers for creative cred. As one of the Flemish Primitives, a culinary movement to reinvent and elevate Belgian cuisine through science and bravado, Chef Dave De Belder has been keeping De Godevaart a buzz with what fans call a "catwalk on a plate." Meanwhile at Graanmarkt 13, high-powered hipster locals bring the scene—as well as hearty French/Belgian fare like ox, pigeon, and pig's cheek—to a fashion power couple's grand manor house turned über-trendy shop-cum-gallery-cum-restaurant. For fine dining alongside Antwerp's fashion elite, there's no better address. Unless of course you're above it all, literally. The double Michelin-starred restaurant 't Zilte crowns the city's coolest new museum, MAS in the heart of Antwerp's trendifying docklands area. The view is almost as sumptuous as the scallops served with cauliflower, haddock, khorasan wheat, and East Indian cherry. If you are looking for a smaller, intimate place, don't overlook De Pottekijker which is centrally located just south of Grote Markt. But when all that haute has you craving the comfort of fish 'n' chips or a burger, pack it in with the locals at nearby Felixpakhuis, especially during their Sunday all-you-can-eat brunch. The multi-functional cultural complex includes a concert/recital hall, living room/library, and a massive outdoor terrace with great views of the marina.
Summers in Stockholm mean skinny dipping in the city center or sunbathing on Djürgarden, so you might want to try out a liquid diet while here. And the floating Mälarpaviljongen is the place to do it, with nibbles, too, should the solid hunger strike. Warning: it's packed from 6 p.m. till midnight, so play the tourist card and trans hostess Natasha will take great care of you. If you want to be close to the club action, specifically Wednesday's Hump party at the F12 Terrassen, book a table at its Michelin-starred namesake, Fredsgatan 12. The sensational cuisine has been keeping other restauranteurs on their toes for years. For downmarket deelish, join football fans (and the occasional Skarsgård) pounding brews and traditional Swedish fare like meatballs and Biff Rydberg at Kvarnen. Or D.I.Y. a picnic from a visit to the Östermalms Saluhall, its stalls bursting with ready-made meals, breads, cheeses, meat, fruits, and, of course, a hundred types of home-cured herring. For a brasserie-meets-fish market twist, pick the fish, sauce and sides in personal consultation with the chef at B.A.R., super-fresh simplicity being your muse. Think fennel, salty langoustines, and haddock with caviar sour cream sauce. If you fancy some drinks and food in the oldest gay restaurant in Stockholm, make a stop at Torget open till 1 a.m. daily. On Fridays and Saturdays, this restaurant, located in the Old Town Center comes to life with DJs.
Finish off your culinary love affair in Copenhagen, where the city's white hot grastronomic landscape continues to secure headlines. If you can't score a reservation at Noma — voted "Best Restaurant in the World" winner 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 for chef René Redzepi's innovative riffs on authentic Nordic cuisine (sweet shrimp with ground starfish "sand," anyone?) — then skip the 12-course tasting menu and head to Restaurant Radio instead. Young guns Jesper Kirketerp and Rasmus Kliim worship at the New Nordic trinity of seasonal, local, or organic — even growing some food themselves — but in unpretentious surroundings and reasonable prices. If you're craving after dinner cocktails, try a cocktail at the new KB3 club. And if you're craving a taste of Denmark's iconic ‘smørrebrød' (open-faced sandwiches on dark rye-bread), the gay-owned Schønnemann (pictured above) plates 'em up with passion. You might even spot Redzepi bringing out-of-town friends by to introduce them to the Danish classic. But whatever you eat, the city's best dessert is its robust bike share system, the way to cruise like a local. Calories might not count while traveling but it doesn't hurt to hedge your bets. For a cozier atmosphere, be sure to pop into Kronborg which proudly boosts a welcoming and warm environment specializing in handmade foods such as the famous smørrebrød (open-faced sandwich) and other traditional Danish cuisine.