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February 18th, 2004 Kim Colton | Night Avenger
 

Portland's Army Corps of Piano Bars

     
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Piano bars? Stumptown's got plenty of 'em. From the 30th floor of Big Pink to the bowels of the Hollywood District, finding a spot next to the piano is hardly a difficult task. But where to start? Here are four alphabetically listed hangouts:

Alexander's at the Hilton

Hotel bars used to carry an air of sexy mystery. These days, they're more like hospital waiting rooms. It's a long way from the Standard's Roof Bar in downtown Los Angeles (where the likes of Vince Vaughn can be seen flirting with the ladies), but at 16 floors up, Alexander's (where longtime piano man Jim Fischer plays weekends) will have to do. 921 SW 6th Ave., 226-1161.

Prime Rib Steakhouse

This Northeast Sandy Boulevard meat palace houses funky paisley carpets, fancy New York steaks and, two nights a week, Martin Tocci, a funny, piano man (and Charles Bukowski lookalike) who plays a solo set on Fridays and with his lovely wife on Tuesdays. Never mind that the piano's not a baby grand but a stubby electric--Tocci takes care to make his sound authentic. 5474 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-9200.

Portland City Grill

Thirty floors above downtown Portland in the looming U.S. Bancorp Tower sits a piano with the best view of the city. Home to one of the cheapest (and most crowded) happy hours in town, it hosts music seven nights a week. 111 SW 5th Ave., 30th floor, 450-0030.

Wallbanger's Dueling Pianos

This spot has a knack for distasteful names--it used to be called Boogie Woogies. The downtown bar and restaurant hosts piano battles nightly--and throws in a "wild and crazy" bar staff for free. It's popular with the after-work, black-leather-coat crowd. And five bucks says they play "Great Balls of Fire" every single night. 915 SW 2nd Ave., 274-4386.

Wilf's Restaurant and Piano Bar

Sharing real estate with the city's Amtrak depot, Wilf's offers a touch of class in this decidedly low-rent neighborhood. This is a piano bar for an older, cabaret-loving crowd. That said, Portland's lounge-singing potty mouth Storm Large has held her own here. 800 NW 6th Ave., 223-0070.

 
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