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March 16th, 2005 KELLY CLARKE | z-Bite Club
 

Let Me Call You SoBu

     
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Garbero's Gina Hansen
IMAGE: MICHAEL RUBENSTEIN
Bite Club hates the thought that hanging a name like "TriBeCa" or "SoHo" on a neighborhood will magically turn it into a trendy destination. Sure, The Oregonian's insufferable idea to tag East Burnside's burgeoning nightclub/restaurant row as "LoBu" might catch on-but we hope it's just with nimrods who also shorten "postmodern" to pomo.

That's why a recent press release nearly caused us to pass out from the stench of marketing manure: "'SoBu,' or 'South of Burnside,' is what the small group of up-and-coming business owners have dubbed their small section of 13th [Avenue] just south of the Pearl District," wrote self-styled SoBu business owner Gina Hansen.

"SoBu"!? Isn't that a crappy bottled tea drink? Hansen owns Garbero's, a new electric blue-and-orange coffee shop/wine bar decorated with a Van Gogh-cribbing graffiti mural lurking under Masu, that chic newsushi-'n'-sake spot. Now, we applaud the moxie it takes to decide to christen a city block, but isn't it a bit premature to jump on the lame-name bandwagon? After all, drug treatment centers and sex clubs still outnumber hip tenants on this street like American Apparel.

"We're still the meth-/heroin-addict hangout of choice," says perennial Bite Club cohort Merida Damewood, who works next door to Garbero's at Rumblefish, a music marketing company. She does admit she has seen less of the city's CHIERS drunk van, "cops with rubber gloves" and "guys having sex with parked trucks" on the gritty block lately. SoBu, how about ReHab?

Armed with Damewood's intel, Bite Club was eager to burst Hansen's fad-chasing bubble. Until we called her, that is.

"People come in, laugh and say, 'You guys are on Vaseline Alley," Hansen told us, using the name straight Portland bestowed on the racy strip of gay clubs along Southwest Stark Street decades ago. She says the SoBu label was a joke that the Masu crew upstairs started last month. Hansen says she has never heard of The Oregonian's LoBu ploy. She just wants people to stop equating her block with glory holes.

Bite Club understands the desire for a neighborhood name makeover, à la "the Pearl," but we just wish people would let it happen naturally. And Garbero's needs some fine-tuning before it's a moniker-worthy neighborhood hub. Psst, ditch the crappy Costco muffins and keep that Stumptown brew flowin'.

Still, Hansen's infectiously positive attitude can't hurt. Maybe in two years even Bite Club will be swallowing our words and heading to GarBu, the hottest block in town.

Add "sports bar" to the list of descriptors for Lucy Brennan's cocktail palace Mint and adjacent sister bar 820. Bite Club was in shock when we dropped by the North Russell Street spot last Thursday for happy-hour cocktails and a taste of new head chef Lyle Jost's eclectic spring menu (rich venison filet and fried oysters, anybody?).

By 5:30 pm, 820 was already packed sardine-tight with rowdy Rio revelers "pre-funking" for the Duran Duran concert. Ever since the Yellow Line started running on North Interstate Avenue, it seems Mint/820 has become a swanky-hot pre-event pit stop for its MAX-line neighbor, the Rose Garden. "You should see this place when there's a Blazers game," one staffer told Bite Club.


Garbero's, 414 SW 13th Ave., 225-4400.

Mint/820, 816 N Russell St., 284-5518.

 
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