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Bill’s Steak House revamps, remodels


Barbara Singh sits in her recently renovated restaurant, Bill’s Silver Buckle Sports Bar in Parkrose. Next to her is a photograph of the original Bill’s Steak House, a converted streetcar. After being general manager for 11 years, Singh bought the restaurant five years ago and recently finished a renovation of the 70-year-old eatery.
Bill’s Steak House longtime customers Paul Meno and Cathy Myers try out the new pool tables at the recently remodeled and renamed Bill’s Silver Buckle Sports Bar in Parkrose.
The statewide ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and public places that took effect Jan. 1 triggered changes: a change in the habits of customers who smoke, a change in the health of employees in these workspaces and a change in many bars, nightclubs and restaurants themselves.

The mandated changes pushed Bill’s Steak House owner Barbara Singh to pull the trigger on a major remodel and renovation of her venerable 70-year-old restaurant in Parkrose. The plan was to keep the good parts of the old place and meld them with what this new century has to offer in the way of sports entertainment and gaming.

Singh said a conversation she had with her accountant, who advised and encouraged such a remodel, clinched it for her. “My CPA came in for lunch, looked around and said, ‘You really need to do this. People don’t like to go into places and feel closed in. This place needs to be opened up.’ “

Subsequently, Singh hired Gary Burgess of BCI Contracting, and, with the unwavering support and capable assistance of her husband, Peter, she plunged into the renovation of an eatery — one that began life as a functional streetcar before it was turned into a restaurant with an attached building; the streetcar is long gone but the original buildings hadn’t seen a major facelift since the ‘60s-into a sports bar.

“From start to finish, it was three and a half weeks of extremely difficult, exhausting and tiring work,” Singh said. “We had a great time doing it, but it put me behind in my paperwork. I’m all caught up now, but I never want to do that again.”

Opened in March 1940, Bill’s Steak House at 10227 N.E. Sandy Blvd. is Portland’s longest continuous running restaurant east of 82nd Avenue. Started by Bill Massua when Parkrose was nothing more than a gasoline and food stop between Portland and Gresham on Sandy Boulevard, Bill’s Steak House, with its classic ‘60s wood paneling, booths you disappear into and a signature western motif, has been owned by only three families in its 70-year history. Father and son team Howard and Mark Budlong took the restaurant over from the original owner in the 60s and ran the Parkrose favorite as it grew along with the community until 1997, when Singh’s father, Gary Jackson, bought it from Budlong and made Singh the general manager from day one. Singh purchased the restaurant from her father five years ago.

Singh grew up in Portland and attended Floyd Light Middle School. Subsequently, her parents moved to Northern California, and she moved back to Portland in 1980. Barbara’s husband, Peter, is a retired Air Force and Marine Corps aviator. The Singhs have two children. Their oldest, 20-year-old Austin recently entered the Air Force following in his father’s footsteps. Their 14-year old daughter, Nicole, attends Central Catholic High School in Southeast Portland.

The major remodel of a business while it keeps its doors open is a daunting prospect at any time, let alone if the business in question is a restaurant that depends on a steady lunch, business and bar trade to stay in business.

“I was scared,” Singh said. “But I had a lot of help from Peter, and I was confident it was the right thing to do. Besides,” she went on, “it was time to pull this place into the 21st century.

“The staff was great in dealing with the challenges,” Singh said. “They were awesome. It was pretty difficult around here but they all stepped up to the plate and delivered. I’m so lucky to work with people like this.” Even though over the preceding months a few longtime employees left, the wait staff of Debbie, Bonnie and Lisa, and bartenders Lorri, Mary, Angie, Jen and Cholla remain; everyone is cheerful the renovations are complete and happy to serve customers in their new digs.

“We finished in time to hold a Super Bowl party,” Singh said. However, there are a few finishing touches of décor to add to the restaurant’s storied western motif, and the new shuffleboard table arrived with a crack in it, but good news for shuffleboard enthusiasts: she swears a brand-new shuffleboard table will be up and ready to use soon.

The other decision to make the renovated restaurant a 21-and-over establishment was easy.
“We didn’t get a lot of families dining in here. Our restaurant is mostly geared toward the over-21 crowd anyway. The neighborhood has aged gracefully and so have many of our customers.”

While remodeling efforts were underway, a new menu was being designed and Kitchen Manager Kim Jorgensen took the opportunity to make changes. Dishes were added to reflect the tastes of the sports bar clientele — pork-pulled sandwich, foot-long chili dog, clam strips, pork ribs, pizza hamburger and homemade pot roast —and a few menu items were subtracted: the 10 oz. top sirloin, liver, halibut steak top sirloin. But no worry, steaks—the different cuts, qualities, sizes and styles of cooking them remains the centerpiece of Bill’s Silver Buckle Sports Bar bill of fare.

Longtime customers Cathy Myers and Paul Meno agree with Singh’s decisions. “We love it. It’s beautiful,” Myers said. “We’ve come here a long time, and I love the way they’ve done it. Barbara (Singh) made all the right choices in redesigning.”

Ten new wall-mounted televisions of varying sizes broadcast every sport imaginable, a Wi-Fi Internet connection is hooked up, two new pool tables are set up and ready for play, video games like Golden Tee and Big Buck Hunter have been brought in, the new lighting is turned on and the new flooring has been installed.

If you can’t imagine the words Bill’s Steak House and Wi-Fi Internet in the same sentence, that’s okay because part of the plan was to change the name of the place, or more precisely, to drop one part of the name in favor of the other. Confused? You see, the restaurant’s registered name with the state of Oregon is Bill’s Steak House and Silver Buckle Lounge. Singh decided to rename and launch the new place as Bill’s Silver Buckle Sports Bar. The old Bill’s Steakhouse is dead; the new Bill’s Silver Buckle Sports Bar has risen from its ashes, clean, lean, smoke free and ready for its 70th birthday party this year — you’re invited.
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