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Monday, April 22, 2013

A Virtual Visit to Mogul's LeGourmet Restaurant in Portland (and a side trip to Sidney's)

(Updated 4/24/13 to include Mogul's actual menu)

There is a new light-rail line being constructed in Southwest Portland.  If you stroll down to the corner of 5th and Lincoln, you can stand in the open space next to this rather bland looking boxy brown brick building next to the Portland State Art Building.
Photo courtesy of Portland resident, Aliza Earnshaw


People of a certain age who visit this site will, no doubt, hear a piano playing faintly.  Perhaps they will start humming "Satin Doll."  This was the location of Sid Porter's restaurant, Sidney's.  From the mid-1950s through the summer of 1966, Sid and his trio could be found here entertaining Portland's small band of live-jazz aficionados.  In the later years Sid was joined by vocalist Nola Sugai, who would become Nola Porter. Fortunately, if you remember the place, and you hurry, you can still go to Google and see this street view of what was the old gray building.

I'll leave the reminiscing about Sid, the Sid Porter Trio and Nola to a proper musical blogger.  Surely, someone else will be inspired to revisit this era of Portland musical history.  The building, however, has its own interesting story.

Moe Gollock, the Mogul

Moe Gollock was born in Odessa, Russia (now a city in Ukraine) in 1898.  After his father died, his mother Sarah with 5 small children, immigrated to the United States and headed for St. Paul, Minnesota, where her brother, Meyer Halperin, had a small cigar making business.  By 1920, the family had moved to Portland.  Moe worked at some clerical jobs before spotting an opportunity in the rapidly growing motorized transportation field.  Soon he was driving fuel trucks between California and Oregon.

When Moe first arrived in the United States, his name was recorded as Moische Goljak.  Although it had been simplified to Moe Gollock, he preferred to be known just as "Mogul."  By 1936, Mogul Petroleum & Transportation Co. was operating a profitable business throughout Washington and Oregon.  Moe operated as a contract carrier for Signal Oil.  (There is a well preserved Moe Gollock service station building in the Pendleton historic commercial district.)

Moe wanted to expand into Idaho but the 1935 Interstate Commerce Commission act had put the trucking industry under a lot of controls.  Needless to say, the competing Union Pacific railroad thought it would be too dangerous for Moe to operate his trucks over the very curvy Columbia River highway between Portland and Huntington.  Another trucking company that already operated in the area thought there was no need for a competitor.  Both filed objections to Moe's expansion plans with the ICC.

If regulatory issues weren't enough frustration for Moe, there were labor issues too.  On July 4, 1936, the Oregonian reported: 
Someone cut a hole in the side of the tank of a gasoline truck belonging to the Mogul Transportation company, 9500 Northeast Sandy Boulevard, officials of that concern reported to Deputy Sheriff Wilson yesterday.  The vandal apparently used an ax, the deputy said.

The next spring, the Oregonian reported another incident:
Moe Gollock, operator of a fleet of oil trucks with headquarters at Northeast Ninety-fifth avenue and Sandy Boulevard, reported to Deputy Sheriff LaMonte yesterday an act of sabotage, apparently as the outgrowth of a labor dispute.
He said that one of his trucks, which had started for Hood River, became stalled, and on investigation he found that a large quantity of sugar had been poured into the oil filler cup, putting the motor out of commission.

Portland was a tough town in the 1930s.

In 1938, Gollock sold his small fleet of tanker trucks and trailers to what would become The Greenbrier Companies.  Moe retreated to operate an auto service business on Union Avenue.

Mogul's LeGourmet Restaurant

The years that Moe had spent on the road had introduced him to many restaurants, some good, many bad.  In the back of his mind, Moe had long harbored the desire to open a restaurant that did everything just right.  During the war years, he met and married Belle Sharp, an Oklahoma-born lady who grew up on a farm in the very southwest corner of Colorado.  It was the second marriage for both of them.

In August of 1944, Moe and Belle obtained their beer and wine license and opened Mogul's, "Where Good Friends Get Together," at 5933. N.E. Glisan.  They had one employee.

The restaurant thrived as Moe was, indeed, a genial host and Belle was a wizard in the kitchen.  Serving what was then considered "exotic" fare, they built up a loyal following and in a few years they had outgrown their East side location and were looking for new quarters.  Meanwhile, downtown at the corner of 5th and Lincoln, Victor's Restaurant had tried a couple of ideas.  They advertised "Delicious English Style Fish and Chips" for 60 cents.  Then they offered "Kosher Salami and Eggs" for 75 cents.  Both were accompanied by deep apple pie, but apparently weren't what that corner needed.

In 1949, the Gollocks redecorated the building at 5th and Lincoln and moved in, proudly renaming their place "Mogul's Le Gourmet."  The American Weekly was a Hearst Publishing Sunday supplement magazine that had widespread circulation in 1950.  Their June 25 issue featured Mogul's in The Epicure column.
Mogul's Le Gourmet is one of the outstanding dining rooms of the Pacific Northwest.  Mr. Gollock enjoys serving foods that are unobtainable in the ordinary restaurants or markets.  English partridge and quail, Missouri guinea hen, South Dakota pheasant and Colorado trout are an everyday event at Mogul's.
The article goes on to share Belle's recipe for Chicken Curry-Bombay.

LeGourmet became a place to see and be seen.  Ads no longer ran in the Sports Pages, they ran alongside the ads for the season opening of the Portland Symphony.  Mentions can be found in the thinly disguised gossip columns of the Oregonian.  From December, 1952:
Edgar Eisenhower, president-elect's brother, entertained party at Mogul's in Portland Monday night ...
 From a November, 1957 article about legendary movie star, Gloria Swanson:
It seems like only yesterday that she was here in person and delighted the press by turning up her pretty nose at the choices viands proffered by Moguls, then the most expensive restaurant in town, and pulling from her handbag a tired lettuce sandwich, which she ate ...
That last quote undoubtedly refers to a 1954 visit to Portland by Miss Swanson who was, at that early date, advocating an organically-grown vegetarian diet for good health.

Mogul's Menu

At its peak, Mogul's LeGourmet offered their entrees at either $5.00 or $7.50 ($44 and $66 in today's prices) depending on the accompaniments. Wouldn't it be interesting to look at the actual menu?  Thanks to the Clementine Paddleford Papers, Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, we can!

Let's take a closer look at the "gourmet" side of the menu:
Menu photos courtesy of
 Clementine Paddleford Papers, Department of Special Collections, 
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

1954 - A Bad Year for the Moguls

The Clover Club at S.W. Tenth and Taylor had remodeled and opened in late February of 1954.  When the Clover ran an ad for the opening of "famed singing comedienne, Beatrice Kay" in person on March 24th, some readers were surely jolted by the note, "Dinners by Belle Gollock, formerly of Mogul's."  Belle and Moe had separated.

On November 27, 1954, The Oregonian announced that Morris Gollock, 55, had been found dead the previous day in his apartment.  Adding insult to injury, the article manages to double-mangle Belle's name as, "Delle Mollock, Beaverton, from whom he has been estranged."

For Mogul's, the End.  For Sidney's, the Beginning.

Belle's departure from Mogul's probably doomed Mogul's, which closed at the news of his death.  But Moe, in his will, directed executors "to continue to operate Mogul's restaurant in a manner that will be a credit to Portland."  The restaurant was quickly reopened.

With neither Gollock present, Mogul's struggled for an identity.  They offered a $2.95 tenderloin dinner, then a lower priced $1.75 Prime Rib.  Both were accompanied by Mogul's Caesar Salad.  Finally, on August 20th it was announced that Belle would be reopening Mogul's.  An October ad asked, "Where else can you dine so well?" At the bottom, was the note, "Chef: Mrs. Mogul."

Entrees included Lobster Thermidor, Parmesan at $3.75; Frog Legs, Parisienne at $5.00 and, of course, Chicken or Shrimp Curry Bombay, Major Grey Chutney at $4.00.  Was Mogul's Caesar Salad included?  Of course. (The five dollar charge for the Frog Legs would translate to $43.43 in 2013 dollars if you believe the BLS inflation calculator.) 

I don't know the date when Belle finally threw in the towel and decided to sell the restaurant, but the earliest reference to Sidney's that I have found is from October 7, 1958, in the caption of a picture that shows Sid and the trio performing at:
...Sidney's, a southwest restaurant and nightclub, features not only one of the hottest combos in town but the singing of bartender Wayne Keith and waitress Barbara Helzer.  They are shown with Jobie Rucker at the bass, Sidney Porter at piano and Earl Garnett at drums.  The trio played for Vice President Richard Nixon during his visit in Portland last week.  The vice president was entertained at the Masonic Temple.
So, if you do venture down to stand in the midst of that light-rail construction site and you can hear "Satin Doll" playing faintly, pay attention.  You might just notice a trace of the fragrance of chicken curry in the air, too.

  • Many thanks go to Portland resident, Aliza Earnshaw, who was kind enough to take time from her schedule to photograph this former restaurant site for me.
  • Both Moe and Belle Gollock will live on for many years, if only in legal texts.  Moe and Mogul Transportation can be found in several cases involving the ICC and other transportation lawsuits. Belle passed away in California in 1985.  Her name is probably familiar to many lawyers and judges resulting from a legal case involving her son by her first marriage.  You can Google the phrase, "Good to see you, Mrs. Gollock" to get that story.


Aliza said...

Wow! That is quite the history....Thanks for making this little downtown corner rise from obscurity.

Ralph Johnson said...

Adventurous story to read, I was wondering what happened to his present business after he was gone? I mean his individual businesses.

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