When Beerly Legal’s Patrick Donagher and Andy Freedman — who own LIC beer haven Alewife — unveiled the Jeffrey on the Upper East Side last year, they told us that they also had a bar going in on Houston, this one a collaboration with the proprietors of Alphabet City basement drinking den Idle Hands. That project is called Fools Gold (145 East Houston Street), and it’s now pouring craft beer and whiskey.
“We’ve been friends with the guys behind Idle Hands for a couple of years, and it’s always been in the back of our minds to do a collaborative project with them,” says Freedman. So when the former White Rabbit space went on the market, the guys snatched it up, drawing up plans to leave the Beerly Legal partners in charge of beer and the Idle Hands owners responsible for whiskey. With the address came an open kitchen and chef’s counter, which Freedman says will soon be under the control of a chef, but they’re still looking for the right partner. (In the meantime, you can snack on deviled eggs, charcuterie, oysters, and burgers while you drink.)
The wide open space is anchored by a 54-foot bar, and the build-out also left the brick walls stripped of their drywall, which revealed old bricks, some colored with the paint of old murals. “We decided to leave well enough alone,” says Freedman. “We like to open a new bar and have it feel worn-in and like it’s been there for years.” They filled the space out with reclaimed wood and a mismatched tin ceiling, plus bulbous lightbulbs similar to what hangs in the Jeffrey.
The beer program also follows that of its sibling bars, with unique craft offerings on tap and a focus on rare and hard-to-find beers. Here, says Freedman, the partners will pour more international offerings in addition to local and national brews. “There are a lot of great beers from Belgium, Spain, France, and Italy starting to trickle into the New York market,” he says. “And they’re not necessarily showcased at a lot of bars right now.” Look for things like Cantillon Gueuze, Founders KBS, Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel, and De la Senne Jambe-de-Bois — normally nearly impossible to find on draft.
Whiskey will also pour on tap — the owners have dedicated two lines to the spirit. Right now, you can get Four Roses on draft, and they’ll add a second selection soon. Idle Hands owner Morton has cultivated good whiskey relationships at his bar, which he’ll put to good use here, and Freedman says that means exploiting his knack for finding rare pours — like Pappy Van Winkle — for the back bar, which showcases more than 80 bottles, and will soon be home to as many as 150 different labels.
Now that Fools Gold is finally pouring, the Beerly Legal team plans to focus on its three existing bars for a bit — but it has other plans in the works, too. “We’re looking to do a brewpub in Long Island City,” says Freedman. “[The Alewife] space has so much promise.” Look for that to open sometime before the end of the year.
The team is also working on finding a home for a brewery and taproom they’d like to open right here in Manhattan, and they thought they’d secured a lease, but had to back out for permitting reasons. Once they find an address, Donagher, and avid homebrewer who has collaborated on a number of commercial beers, hopes to work with brewers from outfits like Captain Lawrence, Dogfish Head, and Sierra Nevada to get rolling. Stay tuned for more details.
Fools Gold is open from 6 p.m. until 4 a.m. daily.
See more photos on the next page.