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WANNA DANCE?

Get Down (Home) at Cordial Duke's

April 08, 1993|ROSE APODACA | Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

O to be such a regular that some day they'll name the place after thee.

Booth No. 13 at the Chelsea Bar in the Hyatt Newporter was John Wayne's fave spot for drinking and dining. The Chelsea (like the Duke) is no more, but the hotel opened another bar in honor of its most famous local customer.

Duke's was born in 1987 and underwent several transitions before settling on its present theme of "How the West Was Fun," which not only best fits its namesake but also satisfies current tastes hungry for country music.

These days the walls are graced by pictures from Wayne Westerns and shadow boxes of assorted Western stuff: a hat, a bola tie, a canteen, horse shoes, spurs. Friendly record spinners Karen Hinkle and Dave Hill play mostly contemporary country hits, and the crowd loves 'em.

There's a homespun feel to the place; it's sort of an upscale neighborhood joint. The ages represented seem to range from 21 to 71, and it's a cordial, civilized group that doesn't get miffed over a wrong drink order.

Of course, these cowpokes look about as slick as the polished hardwood floor (this is Newport Beach, after all). This bunch undoubtedly shops neighboring Fashion Island for its duds. Most don denim, but such flashy accouterments as white cowboy boots with rhinestone chains wrapped around the ankle are popular among the gals. And there are those cutesy couples who dress alike.

The place never gets too crowded for comfort; you can always push your way politely to the 1,200-square-foot dance floor, even if a seat is hard to come by after 9. During the week, the place clears out by midnight (these people work, ya know), though on Friday and Saturday nights, we're told, they have to kick the locals out.

Free dance lessons are given Wednesday through Friday nights from 7:30 to 9, Saturdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Sundays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. (get real good and maybe you'll win one of the weekly dance contests). Some people attempt to give their moves some extra Western flavor by hooking their thumbs at the waists of their jeans and letting their hands hang, the way tough cowboys do. It's all part of this suburban cowboy trend that not everyone can or wants to understand.

Non-dancers can try their luck at one of two pool tables or take a breather outside on a patio, against a resort-style backdrop of tall palm trees.

Maybe it's because of the ZIP code, but the bucks can slip away easily at Duke's. Drafts sell for $2.25, domestic brew is $3.25, well stuff starts at $3.25, and premiums and exotic drinks can cost as much as $6.50. This being Newport's Back Bay area, most opt for bottled Evian ($1.75) to quench their thirsts.

If the pickled eggs and pig's feet featured prominently in giant jars on the marble-top bar seem unappealing, try one of the standard salads ($4.25 to $7.50) or Southwestern appetizers such as barbecue chicken pizza ($5.50) or nachos grande ($4.50). But order before you get too hungry; kitchen service is very slow. A complimentary happy hour spread is served from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 4 to 7 on Sunday.

Another tip for the budget-conscious: Get the bartender to validate your ticket, and your parking will be free.

DUKE'S

At the Hyatt Newporter, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach.

(714) 729-1234.

Wednesdays through Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sundays 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.

No cover.

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