Duff's makes for a fine pit stop
Duff's Garage is the perfect pit stop for those who like a little vroom-vroom with their vodka.
Owned by Jon Wallace and Jennifer Krom, the bar is located in the industrial section of inner Southeast Portland. True to its name, there are two garage doors out front.
The cover of the menu sums up the Duff's mystique: 'Live music, cocktails and good eats in an automotive atmosphere.' A drawing of a busty 1950s pinup girl perks up this mission statement.
Duff's Garage opened in April 2002. To jump-start the business, Wallace closed his vintage guitar shop and Krom left her job at a music distributor.
'We decided to pool our resources and give this a try,' Krom says. 'We both like '40s and '50s culture, and we both drive motorcycles. It's really an automotive thing.'
Krom and Wallace went garage sale hopping to find the weathered signs for Boron gasoline and Interstate Batteries that line the walls along with rusty old mufflers and tailpipes.
A sign for Miller High Life pictures a smiling woman holding a tray. The text reads 'Proud to serve.' A poster for the racy '60s movie 'Station Six-Sahara' shows a scantily clad Carroll Baker and a group of sweaty mechanics.
It's not all about T&A, though. Signed black-and-white head shots of rockabilly legends Janis Martin and Wanda Jackson also hang on the wall.
Western wear is popular with the regulars, while some of the staff members stay true to the gear head mentality. One employee has a tan mechanic's shirt with his name embroidered in red, and another slicks his hair back like James Dean.
Krom says it was difficult to attract customers at first since Duff's Garage is off the beaten path. 'We're trying to build the business as a live music venue,' she says.
Though the bar's location means less foot traffic, 'we don't have to worry about making too much noise,' Krom explains. 'We stick to roots music: blues, country western and surf.'
Country crooner Lisa Miller and the bluegrass band the Stragglers perform regularly, and there's a blues jam every Wednesday night.
The musicians perform on a low stage equipped with high-octane speakers. Before a show, much of the conversation in the audience centers on local musician gossip. 'Some nights he can stink to high heaven,' one man remarked about a certain pedal steel guitarist.
Apart from lively tunes and a full bar, Duff's Garage fries up tasty greasy-spoon cuisine. The Road Hog, a cheeseburger topped with a slice of ham, is a house specialty.
Happy hour takes place Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., with pints going for $1.75 for domestics and $2.75 for micro brews.
Duff's Garage is a relaxed and homey spot, even for those who don't like to spend their spare time changing oil.