Duel Brings a Revival to Philly's Piano Bar Scene
On a recent weekend evening, two musicians by the names of Tony T. DeCarolis and Joe Marchetti went head to head, each pouncing on the ivories, as the new Duel — a Rock ‘n’ Roll Piano Bar made the 1400 block of Locust Street livelier than it has been in recent months.
Tucked behind the Academy of Music and up a triumphant concrete staircase to a second-floor space is the former Jolly’s Dueling Piano Bar, newly rebranded (after a naming contest) under the reigns of investor Evan Prochniak. What makes Duel a fresh showstopper is the talent gracing the keys and the variety of specials offered throughout the week.
The refurbished space comes dressed in swanky blacks and vibrant reds, with a backlit bar and an inviting piano stage, both of which are focal points. Conceived as a breezy alternative for the arts crowd around Rittenhouse, the 125 seats vary from cozy high-tops and large tables to a long bar and elevated seating platform. Don’t expect an evening of Broadway-esque entertainment — instead expect the pianists to bust out an unexpected repertoire of over 2,000 songs that range from rock and roll to classics (including The Beatles), to club beats (for example: Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”) and Billy Joel’s appropriate jingle, “Piano Man.”
Our best tips for an ultimate DUEL experience are to come thirsty and with song suggestions in hand. This is an interactive, sing-along affair, with you bidding your way into getting your songs played first. The $9 cocktail lineup is whimsical and sweet, themed especially well for a girls’ night out, with options like the Caramel Macchiato Martini (Pearl Caramel vodka, coffee liqueur, Irish cream), Big Shot Before the Knot (Skyy Blood Orange vodka, DeKuyper Pomegranate liqueur, DeKuyper Peach schnapps, orange and cranberry juices) and the graham cracker crumb-rimmed Key Lime Pie Martini (UV Cake vodka, lemonade, lime juice). A petite wine and bottled beer selection is available, as well, including a decent crew of craft beers (Dogfish Head, Lagunitas, Brooklyn Brewery).
Accompanying the booze menu is a roster of basic bar snacks, many of which are kicked up a notch with enticing dipping sauces. Noshes like cheesesteak eggrolls are accompanied by Sriracha ketchup, chicken wings are zested with sweet chili sauce and Chesapeake fries come speckled with Old Bay seasoning. Food options range from $4–$12.
DUEL’s happy hour is an ideal time to snag a seat by the double pianos and test out the upbeat set-up. On Wednesdays from 5–9 PM, you’ll find $2 domestic bottles, $3 well drinks, $4 house wine and half-priced apps; Thursdays from 5 PM–midnight look for $1 Miller High Life bottles, $3 UV Vodka drinks, $4 UV bombs and 50-cent wings; Fridays 5 PM–midnight rock $3 Miller High Life bottles; and from 5–7 PM on Saturdays, score $2 domestic bottles, $3 well drinks and $4 house wine.
So, if your city-wide imbibing routine needs a musical boost, pay a visit to DUEL’s mixed-crowd space and the keys may start beckoning you back. Duel is open 5 PM–2 AM, Wednesday–Saturday.
1420 Locust St.; 267-687-1161
Photos by Amy Strauss