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Bites brings fusion cuisine to Main Street as couple expands repertoire



NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: MICHAEL SPROLES - Pac Thai owners Thomas Gilstrap and Fon Khunsamart combine Eastern and Western dishes at Bites Restaurant, their new eatery in downtown Forest Grove. Bites opened Monday, DATE.East flavorfully meets West in the dishes served in downtown Forest Grove’s newest upscale fusion eatery, Bites Restaurant, which is now open in the spot formerly occupied by Stecchino’s at 2014 Main St.

The new restaurant is a vision of Thomas Gilstrap and his wife Fon Khunsamart, the owners of Pac Thai, a popular dining destination just a block or two away.

The idea for Bites was five years in the making — nearly the same amount of time that Pac Thai has been running — yet Khunsamart and Gilstrap say there are some differences between the two locations.

Pac Thai focuses on Thai food while Bites has a wider range of entrees. And Bites boasts a fancier atmosphere than its not-so-distant cousin.

The couple officially opened Bites Monday, Feb. 15, but had a soft opening over the weekend, serving any curious people who stepped inside to see what was going on. That served as a “final exam” for Bites employees.

“One of the popular dishes we have is the Udon Carbonare,” said Gilstrap. “It’s an Italian inspired dish using Japanese noodles.”

Bites features some other intriguing fusion dishes, such as Wagyu beef patties, spaghetti naporitan, miso butter pasta, bulgogi burger and much more — some of which diners have never seen before, Gilstrap said.

Tapas-style dishes featuring the likes of kimchi fries, ahi ahi bites and tuna tartare are also available.

“People have been trying out everything and they love it so far,” said a relieved Gilstrap, who noted he and his wife have been running back and forth between the two hot spots.

For the last five years, the Forest Grove duo has been working tirelessly to craft the menu of 42 items, by studying flavor profiles and taste-testing tons of dishes.

“We were basically guinea pigs for them,” said Heather Finnigan, a neighbor of the couple. “They’ve been constantly having us try things, especially since last summer.”

Finnigan helped the couple with decorating and penned the chalkboard on the back wall of the restaurant with sayings about food, their social media information and words Gilstrap felt accurately represented the Bites vibe. Finnigan’s husband, Mike, bought materials for the lights and installed them.

“This is a welcome addition to the neighborhood,” he said. “And they have fried chicken I’d put up against any southern fried chicken in a competition.”

“It’s well decorated. It’s modern but also cozy,” said Kaela Jenkins, a senior at Pacific University. “It’s also very well priced and you get big portions.”

Despite the upscale look, the price point for entrees clocks in at around $9 unless fancy fish or lobster are involved.

Bites also sports a full bar, complete with signature cocktails.

“Simplicity is not my goal — I’m aiming to keep that ‘wow’ factor,” said Rocky Wilson, a bartender from Aloha.

The end goal in Gilstrap’s and Khunsamart’s minds was to deliver something stellar and new to Forest Grove residents. Even if people look at an entree and think they’ve had it before, the owners wanted to add unique twists to ensure a brand new experience.

Bites is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dishes can be enjoyed in-house or as take-out. For more information and to view the menu, visit bitesrestaurant.com or call 503-746-6812.

Michael Sproles

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