An Oasis for All: Finding Pride in Paradise
Hannah Black and Carla Perez-Gallardo couldn’t have guessed their restaurant would become such a cult favorite. But they love what Lil’ Deb’s Oasis has grown into since they took over the space three years ago from Debbie Fiero, the restaurant’s namesake. What used to be an old-school diner is now a top-notch restaurant and a gathering spot for Hudson’s queer community.
“I remember in our first few months looking down the bar and being, like, ‘Oh my god, everyone here is queer right now,’” recalls Perez-Gallardo, a smile lighting her face. “It felt so good! Our highest aim is inclusivity—not just to queer people, but to everyone in our community.”
A waitress sporting a necklace fashioned from a shoelace welcomes you in. Both owners are as much artists as chefs, and the walls of their restaurant, vivid pink and orange, are covered in paintings done by friends. A bag of tennis balls swings mysteriously from the ceiling, a whole pineapple sits on the counter and an array of real ferns and fake flowers fill any empty nooks. A line cook, her hair tied up around what appears to be a ripe banana, stands over a fryer basket cooking an order of yucca fries. Black describes these cooks and waiters as their “freaky family.”
But if you aren’t in it for the art, the music and the vibe, you’ll still want to come for the whole fried fish dredged in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette, served with a side of rice and greens. A wildly delicious menu of tropical comfort food inspired by Perez-Gallardo’s Ecuadorian background and Black’s Alabama roots has brought the restaurant a loyal following of young queer locals and even some old-timers from Debbie’s original restaurant.
If you’re in the area, searching for a place to shake, shimmy and be unabashedly proud, look no further. In this oasis, everyone’s welcome.