IMAGE: Darryl James
That old inner-eastside Portland credo of “nothing good can happen past 39th Avenue” needs some serious revision—particularly for those of us who want Vietnamese food and karaoke at the same time. The Utopia Lounge (1125 NE 82nd Ave., 261-9370), which sits just a couple blocks from that shady 82nd Avenue MAX stop on the freeway overpass, fills both desires with a smile. The food—authentic Vietnamese fare right down to what our super sweet, non-Vietnamese hostess described lovingly as “all the weird meats”—is cheap and beautifully prepared. Most of the $6-$10-ish menu items contain at least two animals, but the well-spiced pork and vermicelli noodle bowl (No. 5, $6.95) is great for the less adventurous carnivore. The bar’s run-it-yourself karaoke, which looms large over a comfy side room, offers a book full of dated English-language pop songs played with a Far East twist (turns out trembling synthesized flutes give clichéd guitar solos a new lease on life) and questionable captioning. We shared Céline Dion duets with a regular, then tackled the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” which is the worst song you ever forgot existed but still know all the words to. Oh yeah, and you can eat and sing at the same time. Utopia, indeed.