Right up my Alley
Out with wild and crazy friends Harry and Michael last night, we ended up having dinner at The Alley, a certifiable dive on Grand Avenue in Oakland.
Why? Who knows. Because Harry lived in this area 30 years ago and spent his very flaming youth here. Because we love an adventure. Because you can only eat so much really good food without indulging in a greasy fried mess to balance it out. Because Gail loves piano bars. Because it’s Fourth of July weekend and what’s more American than a dive bar with thousands of business cards tacked to the wall?
The menu is basic–burgers, steaks, fried chicken. The wine list is more basic-chardonnay, white zin, merlot. No iced tea (unless you want a Long Island Iced tea, which doesn’t have any tea in it, just booze). I started with the onion rings, which were great. The fried chicken wasn’t as good as The Colonel, but then nobody really is.
Nine o’clock, the piano man sits down, and the regulars fill up the seats around him. This is a piano/karaoke set-up, he plays you sing. Same guy has been playing weekend nights since the 80’s, probably the same regulars. Some tall guy with a ponytail grabs the mic for the first number, puts his whole heart and soul and body in it. If only he could sing better; never have flat notes been sung with such energy and emotion.
They go around the piano, everyone getting their turn. Nothing modern, all show tunes and old standards, songs you know the words to. A couple of them can really sing, but it doesn’t really matter, everyone has fun. People join in on the chorus, provide the backbeat when needed.
Finally, we had had enough fun. Dinner and drinks and the show were about $45 bucks. You have to pay the big bucks to get the great experiences, I guess.