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March 12th, 2014 WW Staff | Strip Club Guide
 

Strip Club Guide 2014: Our Favorite Clubs from A to Z

SCG2014_(favorites)UNION JACK’S - IMAGE: Leah Nash





Acropolis

8325 SE McLoughlin Blvd., 231-9611, acropolispdx.com. 7-2 am Monday-Saturday, 11-2 am Sunday.

Acropolis is a Portland institution. This giant Sellwood club is famous for steaks from its own ranch, 65 tap beers, a big salad bar (“Please use utensils,” a handwritten sign requests, “not your hands”), and, of course, three stages of pole-chritudinous dancers who entertain crowds of first-timer college kids and couples with a combination of sophisticated pole work, sexy over-the-bar cat crawls and good-humored nipple play. The music selection is classic—“Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Welcome to the Jungle”—and the décor sits just this side of classical, as an entire corner is taken up by a sculpture of Zeus and two beautiful maidens staring into a crystal ball. Whatever they might see can’t possibly compete with girls like Trouble, who, in her short plaid skirt and Catholic schoolgirl glasses, is so popular you’ll struggle to find an empty seat at her stage. DEBORAH KENNEDY.


Black Cauldron

16015 SE Stark St., 265-8929, blackcauldronclub.com. 11-2:30 am daily.

Black Cauldron, the second club from Casa Diablo proprietor Johnny “Diablo” Zukle, opened last fall in a pointy-roofed barn of moldering wood shingles that previously housed a family restaurant. Interior walls are painted the musty gray brick of an old castle, looking like a haunted house constructed by high-school theater geeks. In the middle of the room, behind the pole, sits a “cauldron,” a round bed of green faux fur that glistens with stripper dew. Unless you’re vegan, you’re probably better off with a beer and a stack of the house’s standard $2 bills than a soy burger or vegan “mac and cheez” made with nutritional yeast. It’s $2 per song to sit at the rail, but the early evening dancers don’t mess around—everything comes off by the end of the first song, and the third is all twerks and jiggles. MARTIN CIZMAR.


Blush

5145 SE McLoughlin Blvd., 236-8559, blushgentlemensclub.com. 11-2:30 am Monday-Friday, noon-2:30 am Saturday, 4 pm-2:30 am Sunday.

You know that little shack you pass on the way to Acropolis? The one next to the Shell station that’s decked out in pink neon trim? You see it in the corner of your eye and say to yourself, “This is it. Tonight’s the night I stop in and see how this place is still in business.” It would only be prudent, right? Well, yes and no. Blush’s steak special—$4.95 for a gargantuan 16-ounce sirloin—is twice the meat for a buck less than what A-crop has on offer, validating any David and Goliath scenario you may have concocted to justify the U-turn. But that steak and the plucky bar staff are the club’s best characteristics. The music teeters between cacophonous EDM and outdated stripper-rap standards, the audience is apathetic, and the tap handles have been decommissioned and draped in Crown Royal bags. The entertainment is chipper, albeit entry-level, leading to the conclusion that this is not exactly the major league for local dancers. As for your quest for the finest flesh on McLoughlin, this is a detour. PETE COTTELL.


Boom Boom Room

8343 SW Barbur Blvd., 244-7630. 11:30-2:30 am daily.

In every way save one, the Boom Boom Room doesn’t give a fuck. Its staging area’s fitful renovation—leather banquettes, framed burlesque bills, swaths of rococo chintz—peters out well before reaching a drearily workmanlike bar. Early one Friday evening, both were largely ignored by lumpen commuters bound for lottery games. Our designated dancer shrugged off a threadbare bathrobe after a few amiable pensioners sat down before an otherwise deserted rail, but, clambering onstage, she immediately threw herself into a bodily twerk of unnerving ferocity and undimmed motor. Snapback-capped proto-bros approached the stage, hesitated, and retreated before she finally broke rhythm, gathered up her sweat-drenched locks with wide grin, and then repeatedly launched nether regions upon the pole—each lunge scissoring higher and harder with lunatic abandon. This wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of sexy—it wouldn’t even be everyone’s idea of dancing—but, as physical manifestation of the life force in all its unbridled majesty, this was sex. Some bars have greatness thrust upon them. JAY HORTON.


Casa Diablo

2839 NW St. Helens Road, 222-6600, casadiablo.org. 11-2:30 am daily.

Casa Diablo sits all by itself on a sparsely populated stretch of the Northwest Industrial District. The location reveals itself to be an asset if you stay awhile. Or at least that’s the rumor. “Stick around late enough and shit gets weird,” says Persephone, the young lady who took the seat beside me before I even had a chance to order a beer. “Things go into things, if you know what I’m saying.” After a shirtless cocktail waitress in cut-offs and Chuck Taylors took our drink orders, I knew Persephone was here to sell me a lap dance. I admired the sloped chalet-like ceiling and wondered what this weird cabin at the base of Forest Park was before it became a must-hit spot along Portland’s strip-club circuit. “They’re 40 bucks, but you can do whatever you want,” she says with a wink. “Well, almost. Are you into Burning Man?” I ignored her and marveled at the long, square room as the girl on the northernmost pole cast her clothing aside no more than 30 seconds into the first song, a heady mash-up of British breakbeats and a punk song from the ’80s. I devoured a piping hot plate of fresh hummus and pita, plopped down some $2 bills (there are no $1 bills at Johnny Diablo’s clubs) and paid my bill before things spiraled out of control. Weirdness, I suspect, doesn’t come cheap. PETE COTTELL.


Club 205

9939 SE Stark St., 256-0527, club205live.com. 10:30-2:30 am daily.

Club 205 would be just an average wood-paneled strip club sandwiched between a mall and a freeway if it weren’t for happy hour. Club 205 has three specials per day, including $1.25 drafts and well drinks from 10:30 am to 5 pm. Other specials come from the extensive menu of sandwiches, fried food, steaks and seafood, offered from 3 to 6 pm and again after dinner hours. Inside, the club boasts three octagonal stages, the smallest of which has a swing instead of a pole. You can easily watch all three from the tables next to the bar. The girls are young, fit, lightly tatted and consistently attractive, but use their entire three-song set of modern club hits to take it all off. In the process, they aren’t afraid to hop over the rail for an impromptu lap dance, and most possess some impressive stripper tricks—balancing $1 bills on their nipples, for example. The audience ranges from greasy 20-somethings in Diamond Supply apparel to aging locals who definitely know the names of every girl. There’s also a smattering of “just here on business” types, who’ve probably heard about the club’s “hotter than average” pole humpers. For twice the fun, stop by on Two Girl Tuesdays. BROOKE GEERY.


Club Skinn

4523 NE 60th Ave., 288-9771, clubskinn.com. 10-2:30 am daily.

At this shotgun shack past where the sidewalks end in Cully, the six lottery machines in the back get a lot more action than the dancers. No one’s at the rail, but a regular in a tracksuit watches a stripper from the bar a few feet away. “You don’t like me today?” asks the dancer, wearing a tight black dress with a ripped back. “You didn’t take anything off,” the man replies. “Look, I’ve been sweating my perm out!” she yells, stepping defiantly out of the pit. The next girl is already naked as she wipes down the pole, but she never dances on it. Godsmack is playing as she crawls over the rail and sits on a bald guy’s lap at a table. A third stripper, this one in a schoolgirl outfit, begins her set, but she only stands in the corner of the pit looking off into space. Finally, the bald guy tosses her a few singles and she squeals. AARON SPENCER.


Dancin’ Bare

8440 N Interstate Ave., 285-9073, georgesdancinbare.com. 11-2:30 am daily.

Among the workingman bric-a-brac lining the walls of Dancin’ Bare hangs the North Portland club’s statement of purpose: “Portland’s Premiere Blue-Collar Strip Club.” It’s a suspicious proclamation for a joint that lies on the frontier of northbound gentrification creeping up the MAX Yellow Line. This ain’t Mississippi Avenue, though. Mustachioed members of the young broletariat take the MAX here to swill Colt 45 and Old Crow with a wink. They sit at the bar next to your dirty uncle with the IROC Camaro and get a panoramic view of all three stages. The tap selection is modest—a few mainstay micros among the light beers—but the entertainment is not. Grab a $3 PBR any time of day and saddle up at the rail next to a posse of dock workers in cholo flannel and Dickies while a young lady with a feathered neo-mullet and Pokémon tattoos bares it all just one cut into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s greatest hits. The parking lot, always packed with monster trucks with Washington plates, indicates it’ll be a while before the Dancin’ Bare is wrested from the grease-stained hands of Old Portland. PETE COTTELL.


Devils Point

5305 SE Foster Road, 774-4513, devilspoint.net. 11-2:30 am daily.

There are plenty of “rock-‘n’-roll strip clubs” in Portland, but only Devils Point doubles as rock fantasy camp. At Stripparaoke, held every Sunday, patrons can live like Vince Neil, singing “Girls Girls Girls” while dancers writhe around them, just like in the video. (And the best part is, when the song’s over, you can go back to not being Vince Neil.) The rest of the week, this popular Foster-Powell dive plays up its greaser bona fides, with deep-red lighting, a framed Bettie Page poster, Nick Cave and Link Wray on the house speakers and a roster of Suicide Girls-next-door hanging off both the pole and the two thick chains that look lifted from a fishing barge. That’s most nights, anyway. Show up on a Tuesday around, say, 7 pm, and you might find a girl in sexy-receptionist glasses mouthing the words to Bloodhound Gang’s mook-disco touchstone “The Bad Touch” as the barflies stay glued to the plasma screen playing Titanic sans subtitles. Maybe Celine Dion would’ve been a better choice. MATTHEW SINGER.


Dolphin II Gentlemen’s Club

10860 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 627-0666, dolphinpdx.com. 11-2:30 am Monday-Saturday,
4 pm-2:30 am Sunday.

There aren’t many places in the Portland area that would deign to put a “Dress Code Enforced” sign outside despite there not being any obvious dress code. Fewer still are the number of strip clubs that would forgo a cover charge because “there’s some [NBA] All-Star shit going on.” That’s just a taste of the hodgepodge of styles that is Dolphin II, which exists in some middle ground between a classy night club, a strip club and the neighborhood sports bar. Smoke occasionally spews from an awkwardly placed orifice above the bar, showing off the lighting system as casually dressed patrons rotate from the rail to smaller, pole-topped tables on the periphery. There’s a fireplace with a shiny, blue dolphin trophy above it. Dolphin II isn’t sure what kind of club it wants to be, and has the dancers to match: There’s a girl next door, a brunette with a jiggle-proof chest every bit as immobile as a Barbie doll’s bumps and a dancer in a tiny G-string underneath white panties who never fully undresses and has lengthy conversations with patrons but doesn’t do any private dances. But as you recline in a leather chair watching the girl next door dance to War’s “Low Rider,” while catching a basketball game out of the corner of your eye, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing after all. JOHN LOCANTHI.


Dv8

5021 SE Powell Blvd., 772-2907, dv8.cc. 2 pm-2:15 am daily.

Amber is mysterious. Even if you ask nicely, the guy behind the bar at Dv8 won’t tell you anything about her. In the dark light, you can tell she’s a little heftier than she should be, and not quite as sweet as you’d expect. “We can’t say anything,” the bartender says. “It’s contract brewed.” Amber is, of course, the house beer at this homey club at the corner of Southeast Foster Road and Powell Boulevard. Dv8 prides itself on being free of “nagging” and is, in fact, wonderfully low-key. There’s a sit-down Ms. Pac-Man game, Monopoly pinball and a few well-used pool tables spread around the red zebra-print carpet. Onstage, a slender dancer with a pixie cut, a low-hanging pendant necklace and a big bracelet that sparkles like the window of the Swarovski store dances to the Black Keys’ “Ten Cent Pistol” and the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” A man with a gray beard still wearing his Gore-Tex rain jacket sips his just-refilled soda and smiles appreciatively. Next up is a dancer with her pubic hair shaved into a point-up pyramid. It’s a little odd, but you know better than to ask.
MARTIN CIZMAR.


Exotica

240 NE Columbia Blvd., 285-0281, exoticaportland.com. 11-2:30 am daily.

Somewhere between being scanned by a bouncer in a pinstripe vest and seeing the naked dancers dry-hump patrons in the open VIP section, I felt a little out of place at Exotica. It’s not me, it’s them. Exotica is the kind of generic, divey strip club you’d see in the movies or on TV, and thus very different from the typical Portland club. Sipping on a $5 Ninkasi while watching a petite dancer with a Betty Boop tattoo on her back shoulder, I half-expected Tony Soprano to come in and start talking shop. Instead it was the usual mix of 20-somethings and loners enthusiastically tossing dollar bills on the rack. A few uninterested slot jockeys were holed up in the corner. Outside of the neon-lighted main floor, the dancers wandered from the two anterior dance floors and lounge. “Let me know when you want a good time,” asks Betty Boop as she sat on the arm of my chair, her bright yellow underwear taking on an unearthly glow in the lighting. From the looks of the VIP section, Andrew Jackson would have a very good time around here. JOHN LOCANTHI.


Glimmers

3532 SE Powell Blvd., 234-6033. 11–2:30 am daily.

As the first ukulele chords from Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” play overhead, a dancer in a black bustier and neon striped knee-highs looks at the bartender in horror. “I love this song!” screams a girl at the bar, leaping out of her chair with her hands in the air. A second dancer, this one with a bleached-blond pixie cut, approaches the bar to intercede. “But this is a weird fucking song to dance to,” she says. The first dancer accepts her fate and goes to the corner of the pit to straddle a goateed man. Three guys in cargo pants push back their chairs, take their beers—PBR and Coors Light are both tapped out today—and head to the red vinyl booths on the other side of the room. The song ends, mercifully, and a dancer with a “My Little Pony” tattooed on her shin steps into the pit in clear plastic platforms. One of the guys returns and dances drunkenly by the rail before tossing her $10 and tipping the bartender $15 on a $3 tab. AARON SPENCER.


Golden Dragon

324 SW 3rd Ave., 274-1900, goldendragonpdx.com. 6 pm-sunrise daily. $5 cover on Friday.

Not one soul of legal drinking age understands why juice bars exist. But they aren’t meant for those of us who can drink. Rather, Golden Dragon is for the high-school senior in all of us. The Asian-styled decorations and intricate tiled ceiling lends the image of a refined gentlemen’s club that stands at odds with the T-shirt crowd and young couple making out by the pool table. Fit, young, natural dancers rotate on and off the dance floor, sipping the ubiquitous energy drinks between sets. Beyond the drinks, there is one 18-plus specialty you won’t find at many other strip clubs or, indeed, bars in the city: E-hookah. For $5, you get a temperamental flavor canister and cobra to hook up to one of the electronic hookahs stationed in the corners. Smoke and strippers are a natural fit. You can blow rings—or hearts, if you’re particularly skilled—at your favorite dancer. Or, then again, you could just fork over $50 for three lap dances and imagine how impressed 18-year-old you would be between drags. JOHN LOCANTHI.


Hawthorne Strip

1008 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-9516, hawthornestrip.com. 2 pm-2:30 am daily.

With an aspirational address and no neighborhood competition from bars that cater to sports fans, dog owners and circus folk, Hawthorne Strip has pressed its advantages since taking over for Dino’s, a fetid hole prowled by dancers more velociraptor than Volare. The Strip doesn’t really need strippers to pull an enviable assemblage of well-groomed regulars, but the bohemian-luxe environs and pleasantly slackened, female-friendly vibe also attract top talents who’d ordinarily avoid working a room so small. The cramped confines that relegate lap dances to a confessional-styled enclosure would seem unbearably creepy in any bar less brimming with bonhomie. Accomplished performers of gymnastic prowess and otherworldly beauty share the rotating pole with an eclectic alt-trending roster long on personality. After trading video poker for pinball machines and forgoing a DJ altogether—dancers select songs from a jukebox they’ve helped fill—the architectural constraints help foster the illusion of a small, tastefully raucous party thrown by like-minded strangers to honor stunning women soon to undress. You’d go to that party, right? JAY HORTON.


Heat Gentlemen’s Club

12131 SE Holgate Blvd., 762-2857, heatgentlemensclub.com. 10:30-2:30 am daily.

If you like your exotic dancing served with a side of hand-dipped corn dog, Heat is your place. Customers come as much for the food—mostly deep-fried, though there are also steaks, Reubens, spaghetti and soup—as the artistry of dancers like Atlanta, Mary Jane, Britney and Rain (who when she took the club’s main stage, did indeed bring it). That’s not to say the performers, who come out in bathing suits and invariably end their routines with a naked face-twerk, don’t get their fair share of love, especially when they work the club’s silver hoop and elevated cage. (Did you see Behind the Green Door?) Despite those touches of deviance, there’s something very Cheers-esque about Heat. The drink of choice is beer; the bartenders are friendly; the patrons, many in paint-stained work clothes, know each other by name. All that’s missing is Diane treating Sam and Frasier to a little face-twerking. DEBORAH KENNEDY.


Jag’s Clubhouse

605 N Columbia Blvd., 289-1351, jagsclubhouse.com. 11-2 am daily.

In the big red barn formerly known as Rooster’s, Jag’s Clubhouse is a place that feels oddly familiar. “It’s the same damn people as before,” assured one customer I remembered from when I visited Rooster’s a couple years ago. The most notable—and welcome—change is that it now takes cards. Two blue-collar regulars duck out for smoking breaks during their Sisyphean efforts to knock in the 8-ball at the pool table. The lone dancer, wearing a crotchless mesh onesie, grows tired of dancing without an audience and wanders over to the bar, cheerfully singing along to “Let’s Get It On.” Jags is more of a neighborhood watering hole than a strip club. “Y’all have to exorcise me!” jokes one regular after the blonde bartender makes a crack about how long he’d been stopping by. He cracks open another $3 Busch pounder. In other words, Jag’s Clubhouse is Rooster’s without the peanut shells on the floor. JOHN LOCANTHI.


Jiggles

7455 SW Nyberg St., Tualatin, 692-3655. 3 pm-3 am Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 3 pm-4 am Friday, 6 pm-3 am Sunday.

A $10 cover for a soon-to-be-razed topless-only juice bar in the suburbs may sound like a hard sell, but let me ask you this: What were your recreational opportunities when you were 18? Was a wild night of drinking stolen vodka with your buddies usually bookended with a trip through the Taco Bell drive-thru for a lack of better options? Did half of your posse wonder out loud what a naked girl looked like IRL while a scratched Incubus CD crackled through the stereo of your busted Cavalier? Jiggles would have been the perfect backdrop for the halcyon days of unadulterated boredom, so you best make the pilgrimage before they pave post-pubescent paradise and put up a parking lot (and, rumor has it, a New Seasons). The “bar” looks like a neglected snack counter at a municipal swimming pool, and the juice itself is of the high-fructose bar mixer variety (cranberry, OJ, “passion guava”) that no parent in their right mind would serve to a child. The awkward moves of the ladies onstage suggest they were plucked from the ranks of Hollister clerks let go because they kept showing up with red, glassy eyes, but there are definitely some stars being born here. The gang of gawky teens and Lewis & Clark freshmen chilling in the shadows are clearly entertained, which leads us back to the whole point of this place: something to do when you’re 18 and bored out of your mind. There’s even a Taco Bell across the street. PETE COTTELL.


Jody’s Bar and Grill

12035 NE Glisan St., 255-5039, jodysnuthinbutfun.com. 7-2:30 am daily.

Jody’s looks from the outside like an IHOP that has swollen into a ramshackle, purple-capped East Portland chalet, with brightly incandescent bulbs lining just one of its A-frame crests. The marquee advertises three things that are hot: GIRLS, FOOD and DAMMM. Once one of the city’s busiest video-poker spots, the spacious club has lost its rights to the Oregon Lottery franchise, so its rear-house game area (foosball, Buck Hunter, pool) lies fallow. At 10 pm on a weeknight, the room echoes a bit hollowly, and the club has resorted to a little onstage space heater to keep the performers warm. A dancer with hammers emblazoned across her chest curls up on the center-stage rail, next to the heater, to flirt with her two customers. “Your name is Cesar?” she says. “That’s better. I thought you said Cecil.” Most of the working-class customers sit far from the stage, so as to avoid tipping, but their attention doesn’t waver from the performers. The pair from the rail later try to convince the bartender she should abandon her post and hit the stage—emboldened, perhaps, by the $2.50 well cocktails she’s serving or the machine-cooled shots of Cuervo, Fireball and Jaeger. They invent possible stage names for her: Diamond, Bunny, Jewel. “Those are all terrible,” she tells them. She says if they want her to dance, they should come back Wednesday. An older man, taking his leave, tells her she is, however, particularly lovely tonight. “They take care of me here,” he says. “I try to be nice, too.”
MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


King’s Wild

13550 SE Powell Blvd., 208-3506. 1 pm-2:30 am daily.

Competition for crumpled ones is fierce on Southeast Powell Boulevard, which may explain the strange quirks of the many nudie joints that populate the neighborhood. King’s Wild is easy to miss, but you’ll know you’re there when you spot the sign advertising to-go keg sales hastily tacked to the wooden exterior. Inside, the first thing you’ll notice amid the Laser Quest-lite ambiance is a pair of pool tables, both of which see far more action than the rail. Why, you ask? Grab a $4 pint of the daily Alameda or Deschutes from a surprisingly well-endowed tap selection, saddle up ringside, then politely dismiss yourself when the chintzy strobe light blinks on as Chastity thrashes to Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.” She’s angry. She has bills to pay, no doubt, and those pool tables aren’t helping. Neither is the snoozing guy in the back row, who needs to sip one of the bar’s $6 daily cocktail specials made with generic energy drinks. Who can blame him? He probably came early (before 7 pm) for the $1 taco special and to shoot some pool, not for Fred Durst. PETE COTTELL.


Kit Kat Club

231 SW Ankeny St., 208-3229. 5 pm-2:30 am daily.

The Kit Kat Club is the sort of strip joint that accepts Bitcoin, mandates the Golden Rule on its website and plasters its restrooms with decades-old newspaper articles about strippers’ fights for legitimacy—behold a 1960 Oregonian story headlined “‘Shakespearean’ Stripper Eyes Reed as Possible Site for More Studies.” More than 50 years on, that soliloquizing stripper would probably be impressed by the dancers at this Old Town club, which sits next door to Voodoo Doughnut but receives remarkably little spillover from that tourist menagerie. Instead, the vibe inside this red velvet-strewn bar is classy and convivial, with candles on the tables and strippers sidling up to the bar between sets, sipping on fruity cocktails while chatting amiably with both bartenders and patrons. The saccharine aroma of perfume mingles oddly with the smell of roasted pork from the adjoining Stumptown Dumplings cart, but hey, you’re chowing on dumplings at a strip joint, so stop complaining. On the main pole, dancers frequently keep an eye more toward athleticism than titillation, and for the weekly Nerdgasm night on Wednesdays, they ditch the polka-dotted panties for Wonder Woman costumes and Blade Runner-inspired getups. Watch for Orchid—she’s got waist-length red hair and fleur de lis tattoos on the backs of her thighs, and she spins on the pole faster than an Olympic figure skater.
REBECCA JACOBSON.


Lucky Devil Lounge

633 SE Powell Blvd., 206-7350, luckydevillounge.com. 11 am-2:30 am daily.

Lucky Devil prides itself on re-creating the ambiance of a ’60s Playboy club with red velvet wallpaper and leopard-print carpet. Ultimately, it’s more Bettie Page than Marilyn Monroe. Dancers gyrate to Nine Inch Nails and Portishead and sport full sleeves and mock stocking seams (which turn out to be lyrics from a Third Eye Blind song). In between Olympic-quality acrobatics on the stage’s three poles and monkey bars, the dancers chat pleasantly with patrons—lots of bald heads and beards here. It’s $1 per song at the rail and everything comes off during the second song. But if you didn’t come to the strip club for the stripping, there’s a cash poker game every night of the week, where nearly half of the male patrons sit oblivious to the naked women swinging from the rafters 10 feet away. Drink selection is a notch above dive-bar standard, and those squeamish about ordering food where people are routinely nude can rest easy knowing Lucky Devil scored a perfect 100 on a recent health inspection. Heffner would approve. PENELOPE BASS.


Lure Exotic Club 

11051 SW Barbur Blvd., 244-3320, lureexotic.com. 2 pm-2:30 am Monday-Saturday. 4 pm-midnight Sunday.

A defiantly misnamed dive of casual comforts hidden along a forgotten stretch of Portland’s Old Southwest, Lure’s ramshackle exterior no more suggests “Rock ’n’ Roll Exotic Lounge” than fisherman’s supply shack. But this club isn’t really aiming to capture the tourist trade. A welcoming bar area is staffed by friendly servers pouring stiff drinks at a fair price to a cadre of regulars whose loyal patronage has been lovingly documented on a wall of snapshots by the entrance. The resulting atmosphere is damn near wholesome, the smallish stage just another adult entertainment no more outré than the neighboring pool tables. While there can’t be much money to be made from limited space and downmarket crowds, the dancers tend to be up-and-coming rather than down-and-out. The smart ones play upon the benefits of inexperience. Leaning heavily upon a dewy effervescence, Rochelle complained, adorably, about getting herself stuck during one new pole trick and the physical toll of slamming thighs against metal and hardwoods. “After every shift, I check my legs,” she says. “Less than 10 bruises, that’s a good night.” JAY HORTON.


Magic Garden

217 NW 4th Ave., 224-8472, magicgardenpdx.com. 11:45-2:30 am Monday-Saturday, 5:45 pm-2:30 am Sunday.

The Magic Garden stereo is playing the Presidents of the United States of America’s “Naked and Famous,” but no one is naked. Another song plays. There is still no one naked. It’s just after 7 pm on a weekday night and no one inside this beloved Chinatown institution even seems to notice that there’s no dancer on the famously pole-free stage. Instead, they line the stools at this tiny bar, which smells and looks like a club where L.A. punks of yore might’ve played. They’re waiting for the no-nonsense bartender, Patty, to bring them a $3 PBR or hand their ticket for clam strips and jojos to the kitchen. Finally, a dancer with a very well-inked mermaid on her torso appears. She ends her first song without taking anything off. Then an old Ramones song comes on. She sings along, dropping both top and bottom with little fanfare. Suddenly, the rail is crowded and one guy plunks down a five. It’s confirmed: Magic Garden is always a pleasant little hangout, but far more exciting when someone’s naked. MARTIN CIZMAR.


Mary’s Club

129 SW Broadway, 227-3023, marysclub.com. 11-2:30 am Monday-Saturday. 11:30-2:30 am Sunday.

You know Mary’s Club. Even if you’ve never been there, the legend is part of Portland’s collective consciousness. It’s the oldest strip joint in the city, if not on the West Coast. The marquee, blue and star-spangled and coyly advertising an evening of “Dine and Dance,” is as iconic as the neon on the “Made in Oregon” sign and the line outside Voodoo. Courtney Love danced there. Tom Waits wrote a song about it. You hear all that, then you actually step inside and go, “That’s it?” Indeed, it’s darker and smaller than one would imagine, with a short bar running directly into the single tiny stage and about 15 feet separating the rack from the mural of longshoremen on the back wall. There’s no DJ. The dancers—mostly of the approachable, “hey, weren’t you in my math class?” variety—pause awkwardly between dances at a stage-side jukebox to select songs that are usually of the punk era or older. It resembles a clandestine business operating out of a Prohibition-era basement. And that, of course, is its enduring charm: In a downtown sanitized beyond recognition, Mary’s preserves a wee bit of Old Portland scuzz—not enough to scare off the tourists, but just enough to stand as a rare monument to how much this town has changed in 40-plus years. Speaking of which, you’re welcome to bring in a giant burrito from the Mexican restaurant next door. MATTHEW SINGER.


Nicolai Street Clubhouse

2460 NW 24th Ave., 227-5384, nicolaistreet.com. 10-2:30 am Monday-Friday, 1 pm-2:30 am Saturday.

Nicolai Street Clubhouse is perhaps the best longshoremen’s bar in Portland. Situated in a gritty section of Northwest, its tides ebb and flow with the shift changes of the union men who work the docks at the Port of Portland and come here for free popcorn, a turn on the shuffleboard table and a loud argument about who was the best defensive end ever to play the game. But also, when the dancers feel like it, there’s a show at the stage situated a scant few feet from the bar. Stage times are seemingly at will, and so the boards may be empty for 20 minutes, then occupied in back-to-back shifts. The dancers’ ages are also intermittent: The performers seem to be either under 23 or over 30. It is, by all appearances, the sort of club where dancers either start their careers or casually extend them into perpetuity. One of the dancers, in fact, does not even dance. She spends an entire song crouched at the rail, topless, chatting up a man who seems to have a lot to say. She nods, politely, and smiles. After all, it’s been a long day on the docks. MARTIN CIZMAR.


Pallas Club

13639 SE Powell Blvd., 760-8128, pallaspdx.com. 11:30-2:30 am Monday-Saturday, 1 pm-2:30 am Sunday.

Enter the Pallas Club and you’ll be greeted by this sign: “Prepare to be wanded.” Also prepare to enter a very tough room. The club’s largely flannel-clad patrons, most of whom seem to prefer light beer to the $1 Jell-O shots advertised behind the bar, are too busy with the establishment’s video-poker machines, pool tables and nine flat-screen TVs (all tuned to sports programming) to pay the woman at the pole much mind. This, despite the fact the dancers are treating them to what begins as a good old-fashioned strip tease (street clothes to G-string in roughly three minutes) and ends with some seriously acrobatic, gravity-defying moves. Shakira is popular here. So are Kid Rock, fake mammaries and Bush/Merkel back rubs given to girls on break. For the guilt-ridden guy, Pallas has a small gift shop stocked with lingerie and body lotion. After your dark-corner couch dance, why not pick up a little something to take home to the wife? DEBORAH KENNEDY.


Pirate’s Cove

7417 NE Sandy Blvd., 287-8900, piratescoveportland.com. 2 pm-2:30 am daily.

Life is tough on the high seas. Months of blustery storms and quiet solitude can break even the strongest of men. That sense of despair has been embraced as the theme of Pirate’s Cove. There are a few pirate flags and some old fishing nets hung from the ceiling, but the roughness of the seas is better displayed in the way dancers slink indifferently across the stage for an equally sedate crowd. If you were hoping for peg legs or an eye patch, you’ll be disappointed, but there is a pleasing mix of natural body types and sailor-worthy ink. Clothes are off by the end of the first song from an uneven playlist (think hard-rock Chris Isaak covers), and sets typically end in the laps of the few customers sitting at the rail. The tap list offers a couple above-average selections, though most patrons sit alone huddled over cocktails. When I ask to see a food menu, the bartender tells me, “You’re a brave soul.” Ye be warned: Here be dragons. PENELOPE BASS.


Riverside Corral

545 SE Tacoma St., 232-6813, riversidecorral.com. 11-2:30 am Monday-Saturday, 1 pm-1 am Sunday.

The Riverside Corral looks like a bar where your dad would drink, aside from the stage lit up with timed strings of Christmas lights. It’s a blue-collar riverfront dive above the Sellwood boat basin, with wood-paneled walls plastered with beer swag. Although its owner recently pluckily defended his small business from a city bid to tear it down in advance of the new Orange Line and Sellwood Bridge, the club has seen busier days. The bar’s dancers look a little bored during their sets, which they soundtrack themselves by plugging their phones into the PA. The bar regulars have been coming in for years, and at 9 on a weeknight, they’re all shooting pool or shooting the breeze with the bartender. The Corral’s owner, Mike Nichols, shares a name with the director of The Graduate, but the young Katherine Ross would not have been traumatized on a date at this downright friendly little club, which offers a rib plate for $6.75. But the place does have one disconcerting touch: a shower on the back patio, with a giant security camera above it. It’s like a dressing room at the Sochi Olympics. What’s it used for, we wondered aloud in front of a longtime staffer? “I always like to tell people to use their imagination.” MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


Rose City Strip

3620 SE 35th Place, 239-1004. 3 pm-2:30 am daily.

Portland’s main heavy-metal strip club, Rose City Strip is the place to go to see girls take it off to Sabbath. Tall red velvet banquets line the walls, which are decorated with giant paintings of heavy-metal icons. The club is spacious, which makes plenty of room for all walks of life, from the goths playing pool to an older couple sitting in the back to the bearded guy who looks like he hasn’t left the bar in months. Some of the girls are more metal than others, but almost all sport elaborate tattoos and piercings, and rotate between here and nearby Dv8. Not interested? Shift your vision to a giant screen playing B-movies or multiple TVs playing sports, or try your luck at video lottery. There are three stages staggered around the room, plus a newly added cage between the pool tables and the lounge area. Clearly amused by the novelty of the cage, the girls danced there together between sets rather than talking up people for lap dances. Drink prices are average, but the food menu boasts a range of cheap eats straight out of the fry-o-lator. BROOKE GEERY.


Safari

3000 SE Powell Blvd., 231-9199, safarishowclub.com. 1 pm-2:30 am Monday-Saturday, 4 pm-2:30 am Sunday.

You have your rocker clubs, you have your bro-y clubs and then, right in the middle, you have Safari. You walk into this Southeast Powell Boulevard labyrinth to find a room-sized PGA golf simulator played by two guys with their shirts tucked into their jeans. But around the next corner, there’s a guy with a big stack of comic books in protective sleeves on his table. There are cocktails called Pop That Pussy and Bend Me Over (both $7.25), but there’s also a long line of local taps, including Base Camp, Alameda, Deschutes, Widmer and Ninkasi. Up at the bar, two gentlemen have a very serious conversation about a recent episode of Undercover Boss. Down at the pole, an especially lithe dancer dangles upside down and hands-free for an audience of one. The soundtrack is mostly hair metal, but the tip bucket bears the blue-and-yellow equal sign of the Human Rights Campaign. There’s an animal at every angle, whether a tank of live fish or the mounted head of a bighorn or a whole mountain lion. Privacy hawks, beware and bring cash: They otherwise write your driver’s license number on the merchant copy of a credit-card receipt. MARTIN CIZMAR.


Sassy’s

927 SE Morrison St., 231-1606, sassysbar.com. 10:30-2:30 am daily.

Sassy’s is like a party where everyone got invited. On one early Saturday evening, the guest list included drunken art-school kids stumbling over from Yale Union, a ruddy-cheeked Canadian rugby team, visiting New York members of the bartender’s guild and a gaggle of bachelorettes. Everybody shows up sooner or later. Heck, a member of Macklemore’s entourage recently forgot a Macklemore LLC credit card out on its sidewalks. The place accordions from one to four active stages depending on time of day, each with tightly attended rails and stages carpeted in bills by the end of each song. The first dancer onstage may be blond, tanned and markedly clean of tattoos; the next is a pale-skinned brunette with ink from wrist to ankle. The always-packed, pink-tinged palace of comfortable decadence caters to all by emphasizing show-womanship over more direct appeals to sex. You may indeed have to chase down a dancer if you wanted a more intimate performance. It’s assumed you’re just there to, you know, hang out—smoking on the back patio, eating the best strip-club steak in town (suck it, Acropolis!), drinking from a 30-tap bar that sports $2.50 pints before 7 pm. Hell, they’ve even got the best strip-club coffee. I’ve seen a bride go to Sassy’s right after her wedding, just because she liked it so much. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


Shimmers

8000 SE Foster Road, 971-230-0047. 11-2 am daily.

It is very unlikely one penny of the $96 million the city spent to rejuvenate Lents went into repainting the shabby pink exterior of Shimmers. And the inside is just what it suggests: a room that recalls ’80s Cincinnati more than an up-and-coming Portland neighborhood. This is just how the regulars would like to keep it. After you get past the handheld metal detector and pat-down at the door, there’s a one-drink minimum. Your best bet might be cheap domestics, which are $2.50 before noon. There are big, plush rolling armchairs (slightly soiled) around lines of tables and two stages banking the narrow room, though only one was active on our visit. Patrons in tilted hats and saggy pants sprawl out across the luxurious ’80s armchairs, waiting for their girl to finish her set. Twinkling snowflakes hang from the drop ceiling, refracting the multicolored light strings that illuminate the room, which has probably not been updated since long before this place was known as Tommy’s 3. (The stripper-printed carpet is, however, classic and should stay.) There’s a diverse crew of talent, but they didn’t really dance during our visit—one girl was on her cellphone during her set. Until, that is, one of the men started paying attention, at which point they got very personal entertainment. BROOKE GEERY.


Silverado

318 SW 3rd Ave., 224-4493, silveradopdx.com. 9-2:30 am daily. $4 cover on Friday and Saturday nights.

The first place recommended to any gay guy visiting Portland, Silverado is one of a few all-nude male strip clubs in the country. It is also the only one where you can see legal dancing penis while eating and drinking. On Friday, two muscled guys in thongs shake their asses on the main stage. One, in sneakers and socks, kneels down to an approaching tipper and caresses his bald spot. On the other side of the bar, through the open-air corridor and next to the pool table, a military veteran named Steel climbs on the iron railing as a guy tucks a tip into his sagging AussieBums. To show his gratitude, Steel pulls the guy’s head into his crotch and gyrates like a horny rabbit. Coming up for air, the guy blinks and shakes his head. Then he hurries to the ATM. AARON SPENCER.


Spearmint Rhino

15826 SE Division St., 894-9219, facebook.com/spearmintrhinoGCportland. 1 pm-2:30 am daily.

Spearmint Rhino, an international chain of clubs headquartered in California, just opened its first Portland outpost on the far east side of town. Decked out from floor to ceiling in leopard print, gold and granite, it’s what many consider a true Vegas-style “gentleman’s club.” The problem, however, is that it’s less than a mile from Gresham in an area with few paved residential roads, let alone gentlemen. A guy at the door will make you take off your beanie, which seems a little odd when you’re still within eyeshot of a used-car lot, a drive-thru E-cig station and a trailer park. It’s best to submit to the Rhino’s concept of a gilded Showgirls fantasy land and enjoy a diverse selection of slightly modified young ladies with names like Destiny and Caramel gyrating to Ludacris and Lil’ Wayne. Check the flat-screens to see if your favorite porn star is slated for a future appearance, or check up on a Blazers game if the stripper isn’t doing handstands in your lap. If you’re lucky enough to have a DD, an impressive local tap selection, including a red ale from Coalition on our visit, keeps the room spinning and the bills flying. If not, take it easy or hitch a ride back to the city proper with the Japanese businessmen who have been hiding in the corner since lunchtime. PETE COTTELL.


Spyce Gentleman’s Club

33 NW 2nd Ave., 243-4646, spyceclub.com. 7 pm-2:30 am Sunday-Thursday, 3 pm-2:30 am Friday-Saturday.

If you spend enough time drunkenly stumbling about Ankeny Alley and nearby Old Town, you’ll undoubtedly be approached by a sketchy dude handing out VIP cards for a strip club. Those cards are for Spyce, and the “VIP” pass gets you in without a cover. Card in hand, I walked in to find M83’s “Midnight City” blasting from the speakers at the entrance to the mazelike interior. The crowd was equal parts bros and fit dancers crawling into their laps, whispering sweet nothings into their ears. “You have five seconds to get to the main floor,” the DJ says over the intercom to summon fresh dancers. Wandering about with a Märzen from Base Camp, the “main floor” was indistinguishable from the other floors, all tended by one or two dancers in varying states of undress. The naturalistic, forbidding woodwork at the staircase brings a unique touch to an otherwise unremarkable club. But you didn’t come to Spyce for the décor, you came here because this is the address on the card the guy gave you. JOHN LOCANTHI.


Union Jack’s

938 E Burnside St., 236-1125, unionjacksclub.com. 2:30 pm-2:30 am daily. $5 on Friday and Saturday.

On the club’s back patio, a Union Jack’s dancer is ordering late-night delivery from Devil’s Dill sandwiches. It’s a much-needed breather. Inside, the Adamidov family’s little red-on-black rock-’n’-roll strip club is an exercise in sensory overload, with tatted and pierced dancers who seem to outnumber the patrons even on a packed night. They spin acrobatically up two-story poles or suggest, with varying degrees of insistence, that one should secretly enter through one of the club’s rear beaded curtains for a $30 private dance. Union Jack’s operates at the exact center of the Portland strip-bar continuum: It’s both a dedicated moneymaker and casual hangout, suggestively seamy but still very comfortable for the sort of women who strongly prefer whiskey to wine. Regulars sit at front booths or the bar, talking to old friends who dance there, while couples and lone wolves pony immediately at the racks of the two stages; the couches by the DJ booth remain neutral territory, occupied only a bit nervously. (Bruce Springsteen, when he stopped here over a decade ago, sat in the back and refused all advances.) But the back smoking patio is more a low-key outdoor dive bar: Dancers and day drinkers shoot shit on mostly equal terms in the relative calm of the concrete porch before re-entering the carnal fray. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.


VIP Room

10018 SW Canyon Road, 610-6888. 12 pm-2 am Monday-Wednesday, 2 pm-4 am Thursday-Saturday, www.facebook.com/viproompdx.

As you drive up Canyon Road on your way to Portland, you’ve probably noticed the gigantic “18 & Over Gentleman’s Club” sign on the side of the road. It’s unavoidable. That’s the main draw of this roadside juice bar. There is one large dance floor worked by one dancer at a time. “I just want you guys to know that there are two other dancers here, but they’re not ready right now,” explains the friendly brunette, who then goes on to explain the rules with the earnestness of someone used to dealing with neophytes. The dancer goes through her three-song set without getting fully nude and steps off. The next dancer promptly gets fully undressed and makes a sucking motion with one of the dollar bills on the floor. A middle-aged man sits at the rail every time that dancer takes the floor, only to leave and sit quietly by himself whenever she leaves. Sparse attendance renders the private rooms superfluous as the dancers leap on your lap every song for $1 apiece. For college freshmen, this place is great. For the rest of us, it’s an economical choice that’s open late. But be warned, you might just feel too sober to be in a strip club. JOHN LOCANTHI.

 
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