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A high-tech take on the roadhouse

If your father-in-law is former longtime Portland Hilton manager Serge d'Rovencourt and you go into the hospitality business, you'd better get it right or face dinner table conversations that will make you wish you had.

Luckily, Larry Crepeaux (married to d'Rovencourt's daughter, Lizette) and his partner, Sal Montealegre, did their homework. The result is a comfortable roadhouse in the now rather diminished Silicon Forest off Southwest Walker Road.

Monteaux's Public House Ñ the name combines their surnames Ñ started three years ago in what was then a real forest, Montealegre says.

'When we signed the lease, it was just a pile of dirt with trees all around,' said Montealegre, 40, who met Crepeaux, 36, when they both worked at San Francisco's Clarion Hotel 14 years ago. The two worked at the Embassy Suites at Washington Square for eight years before branching out on their own.

Monteaux's is in a two-story building that looks like a tower at the end of a strip mall at the junction of Walker Road and Shendell Road. It overlooks a high-tech zone that includes Intel, IBM, Tektronix, Nike and a lot of smaller entrepreneurs within a few-mile radius.

'We looked at the city plans, so we knew what was going to be built out here. We have high visibility, and 20,000 cars use this road every day,' says Montealegre, who came to the United States from Nicaragua as an exchange student.

Long and narrow with high ceilings, Monteaux's has a cavernous aspect, with dark wood booths and tables and earth-toned walls. Capacity is 90 patrons, and another 30 can be seated on the terrace. Inside, the west wall is dominated by a 8-by-20-foot original mural by local artist Tom Raddon tracing the history of the Portland area. It begins with cast iron-fronted buildings and trolley cars, making its way through newer buildings and the MAX lines to a large dump truck Ñ indicating that the process continues.

Monteaux's has eight draft beers, a dozen bottled ones and 21 West Coast wines. An inventive cocktail menu features such libations as Blueberry Tea, with Grand Marnier, amaretto and Earl Grey tea; the Icetini, which is Absolut vodka, ice wine and grapes; and the intriguing 2,594 Miles to Hawaii (try ordering that after you've had a few), which is Parrot Bay rum, pineapple juice and blue curacao. Cocktails range from $6 to $8.

Lunchtime and happy hour crowds tend to come from high-tech companies, Montealegre says, with a younger crowd from surrounding apartments stopping by during the evening. There's acoustic and blues music Friday night, jazz on Saturday and an open mike on Tuesday.

During happy hour (3 p.m. to

6 p.m. Monday through Friday), bar fare such as buffalo wings and quesadillas is priced from $1 to $3. The main menu offers various entrees including a 12-ounce prime rib for $18.25, in addition to sandwiches, burgers and assorted appetizers. Desserts are excellent; the cheesecakes are made by Montealegre's wife, Lisa.

The food is pleasant, the atmosphere congenial, and the service ranges from good to hilarious, especially if you get Jamaican-born waitress Kelly Clarke, who deadpans like a stand-up comic.