|Lounge opens with new attitude, food
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Thirteen years ago when Vietnamese immigrants Tony Truong and Yung Nguyen engineers by education, friends and business partners by choice first met at their Northeast Portland church and decided to open a nightclub together someday, they knew they wouldnt realize their piece of the American dream right away. Education and career took priority. Truong, college-educated at university in Vietnam with a business degree who spoke little English when arriving in America from Vietnam 13 years ago at age 22 but is fluent now graduated from Portland State University also and had career stints as both an electrical engineer and a real estate broker since migrating to America.
Nguyen, who arrived in America in 1982, graduated from University of Portland with a degree in computer science, and went to work at Intel where, after more than 20 years, has risen to marketing manager.
Finally last year, both men sought a career change with new challenges. They began lease negotiations for a space in downtown Portland for their dream nightclub. Having modified some of their original ideas, they came up with a contemporary, ultra-modern design; a motif; a menu and ambience designed to compete in the hurly-burly downtown Portland night scene.
For Truong, the mid-career course correction in the middle of a recession was a challenge. Nguyen continues to hold down his day job at Intel, working double-duty nights at the sports bar. How many people would have the courage to make a similar move? Not many, but these two relish challenges. According to Truong, A lot of people were surprised by the switch. It was a 180-degree switch from engineering and real estate, but I love to try. I love challenges. Yung has the same point of view on life.
When negotiations for a building lease in Old Town went south (over video poker vagaries), they cast their eyes westward, northward, anywhere, looking for a spot to land, before finally finding a home for Gossip Restaurant & Lounge in east Portland.
They took six months cleaning the place up, installing new fixtures, upgrading and remodeling the space, and creating the contemporary, modern, upscale design and sleek, clean, blue-lit look.
Gossip Restaurant & Lounge opened in March, the partners piece of the American dream come true, and has been attracting neighbors and nightlifers ever since. As described on the Web site, Paramount services ... unparalleled entertainments ... unleashed inhibitions ... the ultimate apparition.
It was incumbent on the new owners to establish a new dynamic atmosphere and, according to its new patrons many also longtime neighborhood residents theyve succeeded.
Hazelwood resident Bill Westover said when he and his wife first started coming to Gossip, he liked almost everything about the place. He liked the people, the food, the atmosphere, the killer TVs and the owners. What he didnt like were the bar stools. Matching the bodies of downtown nightspot patrons chic and thin on foundation the backless bar stools were too flimsy for Westover, a large man who broke a few chairs. Before long, though, Truong happily bought new stools to support his customer, a move that impressed Westover. These guys are great, the food is good, the people are nice, we get good service, (which is) rarer every day. Tony downloaded the music we like. Michelle (the daytime bartender) plays it for us while were here. We love it.
The upscale feel, the change in atmosphere and the work Truong and Nguyen put in to clean up the space shows. Best of all, in these down times, the sports bar prices create an atmosphere where customers can lounge in one of the cozy horseshoe booths, watch the latest game on the high-dollar televisions placed throughout the bar, play Oregon Lottery games, listen to some great live music or karaoke, and enjoy a nice cocktail while eating lunch or dinner on plates and dishes not usually seen in east Portland eateries.
This eclectic mixture of a sports bar and ultra-lounge will be sure to please. Originally opening with a diverse menu featuring classic favorites and authentic Pan-Asian cuisine, it evolved as Chef Antoine Golden, late of Cucina Cucina and Stanfords, retooled the menu to match the neighborhood with something for everyone. Featuring reasonably priced all-you-can-eat nights Monday through Thursday (spaghetti, meat loaf, prime rib and fish & chips, respectively) Gossip is attracting the budget-conscious yet discriminating neighborhood customers.
Knowing where we are (on highly competitive Halsey Street), we wanted to offer a balance of restaurant and sports bar: 50 percent restaurant, 50 percent sports bar, something (that) we saw was missing, Truong said. During the day, we focus more on the restaurant end of the equation. To this end they hired Golden to dedicate more to the menu, not only for the quality of the food, but also the presentation of dishes. Besides grilled and fried foods, like most sports bars, Truong went on, we have steamed and fresh foods too. Where else in Mid-county does the house salad come wrapped in a peeled cucumber?
At night we try to focus more on the sports bar part, Truong said. People come out, sing karaoke, have cocktails, watch a game, listen and dance to music: all activities we cater to.
Matt Havlik, a Lorene Park local and denizen of more than one Halsey Street hangout, had patronized the two previous bars at this location and gave this one the thumbs up. Theyre doing a real good job. Tony is trying to please his customers. What more can you ask for?
Carl Janz, an area carpet installer and seller, had patronized the bar in its previous incarnations for years and remarked on the difference. The atmosphere is completely different now, no trouble; the new furniture, people, bar equipment. I cant say anything bad about it. He recommends it to his friends, and brings his (adult) son and wife in for dinner. The Wednesday All-You-Can-Eat Prime-Rib Night is the Janz familys favorite. The food is outstanding and the service is good, he said.
Truong and Nguyen have insisted on running the safest environment possible for guests and employees and will rely on some of the most experienced nightclub security professionals in town to help create a fun, secure atmosphere at night.
Gossip Restaurant & Lounge is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and offers happy hour specials from 3 to 6 p.m. There is karaoke on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, no limit Texas hold em on Tuesday, live music on Wednesday and free pool on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Patio dining will be available when weather permits. Gossip already has its own team in a local pool league, and Truong is considering starting a Gossip Restaurant & Lounge softball team next season.
If you need more information, call Truong at 503-719-7033. The Web site, www.gossipbarpdx.com, features the restaurants menu and shows images of what Mid-countys newest restaurant/sports bar looks like on the inside and out. Gossip on the street says youll be pleased.
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