The cocktail scene in the Pearl District continues to grow, as a new lounge with returning sensibilities from bar veteran Collin Nicholas heads to the space that once housed the Vault Cocktail Bar. Opening in mid-June, Fools and Horses will feature raw bars and steakhouse cuisine, a vintage-inspired whiskey-filled cocktail menu and live music in a dark setting.
Nicholas has participated in the opening of more than 20 bars. The current owner and manager of the Pearl District’s electrifying Pink Rabbit cocktail bar, he also helped open all three bars at the Hoxton Hotel, developed the cocktail program when G-Love opened and managed the operations of Bamboo Sushi. Throughout it all, he has always pushed himself to create more creative and ambitious cocktail programs – his personal brand is “rare cocktails by the common man”. This is reflected in Pink Rabbit’s ambitious and playful menu, as well as its upcoming Fools and Horses. But while it won’t be the now-familiar “classics with a tweak” approach, it will still be rooted in old-school aesthetics. For example, visitors may find a drink similar to a boulevardier but with cognac and bourbon as the base, and added cocoa and orange liqueur.
The opening adjacent to Pink Rabbit, Fools and Horses will be an exercise in juxtaposition: where the former is bright, vibrant and frenetic, Fools and Horses will be dark and lush with an emphasis on table service. “Sophisticated and refined, but never rigid” is how Nicholas describes his vision of the bar. Most seating will be based on reservations, with diners sipping champagne by the glass or a daiquiri spiked with sherry, banana and coffee. Whiskey will be the focus of the bar, with Nicholas having secured rare allowances, many of which are unavailable elsewhere in Oregon.
Rather than drawing on Thai and Korean influences for the food menu, like the menu at Pink Rabbit, Fools and Horses, it will take on elements of Americana. Nicholas has brought on chef Alex Wong to handle the food, and Wong will draw on his growing heritage in Hawaii and its paniolo culture, which saw Hawaiian ranchers and cowboys in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The menu will include raw sea bass dishes and fire-grilled meats: a meal can start with oysters in chili water before moving on to mahi mahi crusted with coconut and sesame, or ribs short pipikaula with soy and garlic.
Americana influences extend to the physical space, and Vault fans will find the space dramatically changed. “Fools and Horses will be dark, sexy and sultry, with a huge cosmetic facelift in space,” says Nicholas. “[We’re] exploiting this darker, richer aesthetic with organic materials like raw leathers and woods as well as metallic gold trim pieces. Part of the room will serve as a playful version of a VIP area, elevated to overlook the rest of the bar, but will be cleared for live musical performances. The music will evolve into acoustic ensembles of jazz, blues, folk and bluegrass.
Nicholas wants the bar to be accessible to all visitors. He says someone can easily come in for a bite and a beer and leave without spending more than $25 or $30. However, the focus will be more on special nights and occasional or regular splurges. For example, diners can subscribe to a special cocktail subscription service: for a monthly subscription, members will have a card and a personal one-litre carafe. The team will fill it with a special, shelf-stable monthly cocktail exclusive to members. Each time a member comes to the bar, they can receive the carafe and a few glasses, and pour as they please. Although the price is yet to be determined, Nicholas says it will run into the hundreds.
While renovating the space and building menus, Nicholas says he’s confident Fools and Horses should open around June 15. The bar will initially be open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to midnight at 226 NW 12th Avenue.