The cocktail scene in the Pearl District continues to develop, as a new lounge with throwback sensibilities from bar veteran Collin Nicholas is headed to the space formerly home to Vault Cocktail Bar. Opening by mid-June, Fools and Horses will feature raw bars and steakhouse cuisine, a whiskey-filled cocktail menu with vintage inspirations, and live music in a dark setting.
Nicholas has had his hands in the opening of more than 20 bars. The current owner and manager of the electrifying Pearl District cocktail bar Pink Rabbit, he also helped open the Hoxton Hotel’s three bars, developed the cocktail program at G-Love’s opening, and managed operations for Bamboo Sushi. Throughout it all, he’s always pushed himself to make more creative, ambitious cocktail programs — his personal brand is “uncommon cocktails by the common man.” This is reflected in the ambitious and playful menu at Pink Rabbit, as well as his upcoming one at Fools and Horses. But while it won’t be the now-familiar “classics with a tweak” approach, it will still be grounded in old-school aesthetics. For instance, visitors may find a drink similar to a boulevardier but with cognac and bourbon as its base, as well as cacao and orange liqueur added.
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 the way Nicholas describes his vision of the bar. Most seatings 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 back bar’s focus, with Nicholas having secured some rare allocations, many of which are not available elsewhere in Oregon.
Rather than drawing from Thai and Korean influences for the food menu like Pink Rabbit, Fools and Horses’ menu will touch on elements of Americana. Nicholas tapped chef Alex Wong to run the food, and Wong will be dipping into his heritage growing up in Hawaii and its paniolo culture, which saw Hawaiian ranchers and cowboys in the 19th and early 20th century. The menu will feature raw bar dishes and fire-grilled meats: a meal might start with oysters with chili pepper water before moving on to crusted mahi mahi with coconut and sesame, or pipikaula short ribs with soy and garlic.
The Americana influences extend to the physical space, and fans of the Vault will find the space dramatically changed. “Fools and Horses will be dark, sexy, and sultry, with a huge cosmetic lift to the space,” Nicholas says. “[We’re] harnessing that darker, richer aesthetic with organic materials like leathers and raw woods as well as metallic gold finishing pieces.” One part of the room will serve as a playful take on a VIP space, elevated to overlook the rest of the bar, but will be cleared out for live music performances. The music will hew towards acoustic sets of jazz, blues, folk, and bluegrass music.
Nicholas wants the bar to be accessible for all visitors. He says that someone can easily come in for a bite and a beer and leave without spending more than $25 or $30. However, there will be a greater emphasis on special nights out and the occasional, or regular, splurge. For instance, diners can join a special cocktail subscription service: For a monthly charge, members will have a card and a personal one-liter carafe. The team will fill it with a special, shelf-stable monthly cocktail exclusive to members. Whenever a member comes to the bar, they will be able to receive the carafe and some glasses, and pour from it as they will. While the price is yet to be determined, Nicholas says it will be in the hundreds.
While still renovating the space and building menus, Nicholas says he feels confident that that Fools and Horses should open around June 15. The bar will be open initially Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to midnight at 226 NW 12th Avenue.