Located on MacArthur Blvd. in Newport Beach, on the border of Newport Beach and Irvine, the shared-concept space Bosscat Kitchen & Libations and Ten Asian Bistro has been a hot spot catering to the palate of whiskey aficionados, providing late-night vibes for locals and out-of-towners for almost a decade. 

For founders Leslie Nguyen and John Reed, it’s been a coming-of-age experience. But with age comes change. Now, with locations in Orange, Houston, and soon-to-be Irvine, the founders are continuing to evolve.  

Still, the road to Irvine was not always chill late-night vibes and whiskey flights for the founders. Reed admitted the journey has become a constant learning experience for him and his partner Nguyen. 

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last eight years is that you have to be innovative with your brand, not just your food and drinks,” Reed said. “To have staying power you need to be constantly evolving and on the ball at all times.” 

Photo by Wales Communications

With the brand’s nine-year lease on MacArthur Blvd. expiring in 2023, and the landowner looking to redevelop, Bosscat and Ten are looking to a new venue located at Lakeshore in Irvine. 

Expected to open later this summer, Bosscat founders spoke with Irvine Weekly about their learning experiences, with plans for expansion in the works. For Reed and Nguyen, the move to Irvine is being considered a graduation of sorts. As they explain, their early expectations of the MacArthur location were pleasantly exceeded by reality. 

Speaking on the genesis for Bosscat, Nguyen, who is affectionately known as Miss Bosscat and the founder of the Miss Mini Donut concept, said Bosscat was created through an inspiration for what they loved and believes that inspiration helped anchor its success across the board.

Photo by Wales Communications

“The brand has evolved so much and we’ve grown up over the last eight years. For one, we are sober, so that is different, but for me, each location has been a stepping stone to what Lakeshore is going to be. We’ve truly grown up,” she said. “‘The ‘Whiskey Room’ has evolved with each location we’ve opened and is now such a staple, and centerpiece, to our spaces.”  

Previously, Reed and Nguyen owned the Daily Dose Sports Lounge in Irvine, but the space lacked a kitchen. 

“We had dreams of owning a place with a real kitchen, serving real food. We were bourbon drinkers at the time and had a love for the brands, the bottles, the stories and the taste. This inspired us to open Bosscat Kitchen and to have it centered around the spirit we enjoyed,” Nguyen said.

Rendering of Lakeshore location. Provided by AO Architects

In the last eight years, Reed said he learned valuable lessons about how growth and approachability in both the dining and cocktail space have become critical components of business, no matter how close to home you stay. 

As an expert in the cocktail space, Reed said he noticed things that hampered growth that he wanted to change through Bosscat. 

“For me, eight years ago the industry – specific to craft cocktails – needed an attitude adjustment. It felt pretentious and was heavily focused on craft mixology – it felt unapproachable,” Reed said. “Our goal was to create a more welcoming environment for the ‘craft cocktail and scratch kitchen’ lover.” 

Still, despite approachability, Reed said it’s even harder to predict the evolving trends of customers.  

“The growth of the business has been the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around. Across the board, people eat differently, dine differently, drink differently. That was obvious once we crossed state lines in 2017 and opened in Houston,” he said. “What I definitely wasn’t expecting was that this would also occur 12 miles away, when we opened our location in Orange. People definitely dine differently in Orange. We didn’t expect this when we chose to grow in our own backyard, so we’re ready and excited to see what will come when Lakeshore opens.”

Photo by Wales Communications