Once the holiday hangover wears off, January boasts nothing but bills, bank statements and the chilly suspicion that your heat is about to be turned off. Only one street in Portland can assuage such winter depression: Northeast Sandy Boulevard, home to two primo Hollywood-neighborhood down-'n'-out-posts of meat, cheap drinks and fireplaces.
Now, nobody goes to Poor Richard's Restaurant & the Almanac Room for upscale food or ambience, really. Call the decor "defunct Desilu soundstage." No, folks pack this 45-year-old standby's booths for "the Two-Fer." This double dinner wet dream includes two chunks of sirloin, salads, baked potatoes, garlic Texas toast, coffee, and the most luscious old-school soft-serve vanilla ice cream ever--for $19.95 (other Two-Fer options range from $19.95 to $32.95). Plus you can thaw out in front of the roaring 15-foot stone fireplace festooned with an American flag.
In the Almanac Room it's not happy hour--it's happy seven hours. The bow-tied staff tempts drinkers with an extensive $1.95 menu of greasy goodies from 3 to 10 pm and thrifty yet titanic booze pours daily from 3 to 7 pm. This translates to a kingly night out for Richard's familiars: laid-off computer programmers, working-class families, octogenarians with cowboy hats...you.
Traveling farther up scenic Sandy Boulevard, past the neon splendor of the Ross Hollywood Chapel crematorium lies a spendier steak-and-hearth stanchion: Clyde's Prime Rib, that weird old building that looks like a medieval castle.
Dripping with Rembrandt knockoffs and a gigantic round fireplace that bisects the entryway and lounge, Clyde's may be the only place left in town where a white-jacketed attendant serves you prime rib out of a steaming metal apparatus that looks like a 19th-century iron lung.
Much as Poor Richard's has revived its live weekend music schedule in the past few months, the Prime Rib's new owner, Clyde Jenkins, has lured local jazz and blues acts like Ron Steen to perform for no cover at his restaurant's purgatory-red bar. Once the postage-stamp dance floor is expanded, this place could become a regular booty-groove destination--Candlelight Cafe-East, anyone?
But last Wednesday the dark, Hugh Hefner-style swill hole was swinging to a piped-in muzak cover of Janet Jackson's "I Get So Lonely," which seemed to please the crowd of loopy oldsters that hogged the bar, passing around photos of dogs and kids. Trust in Clyde's $5 prime-rib tidbits and cheapo wine specials--they're a vacation for your money-hungry brain.
Hell, with friends like Richard and Clyde, who needs a trust fund, anyway?
Poor Richard's, 3907 NE Broadway, 288-5285. Check out the Night Owls live at the Almanac Room 8:30 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Clyde's Prime Rib, 5474 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-9200. Happy hour 4:30-6:30 pm and 9:30 pm-close Mondays-Wednesdays.