2010 saw the closing of Niki’s—the Greek diner that sat on the corner of SE Grand and Morrison for 38 years—but 2011 will witness the space’s rebirth as a new bar, which may or not end up being called Dig a Pony. One of the new owners, Jacob Carey (formerly of the band Caves, and nephew to another notable Portland restaurateur, Bruce Carey), was kind enough to speak to me about the new project. They’re currently knee-deep in renovations—not everything in the old building is up to code—and stripping things down to original floors and woodwork.
What's your timeline for opening?
We're shooting for May. The space is being completely remodeled inside and out so there's a lot to do.
It's been awhile since I've been to Niki's, but I imagine that space needs quite a bit of work. What do your plans look like?
The space is 2800 square feet, which is pretty sizable. In the 1920s and 30s it was a pharmacy and we're working to restore it back to that period. The demolition has revealed 90 year old doug fir beams in the ceiling and a beautiful white tile floor. We're going for a cozy old library feel.
I know you've bartended around town in the past (Bye & Bye and a few other places, right?). Are you working with other Portland bar alumni on this project?
My partners are Aaron Hall (former booker at Holocene/Blackbird Presents, currently bartending at Someday Lounge and DJing around town) and Page Finlay (Metal-smith and purveyor of Paradox Jewelry, former top dancer at the American Ballet Theater in New York.)
Looks like you'll be hosting bands and DJs...what kind of stuff are you looking to feature?
We're going to have DJs every night playing mostly older records. Expect a lot of soul, garage, rocksteady, boogie, psych etc. Maybe once every week or two we'll throw a free local show or a film screening.
Have you given much thought to the menu yet?
We're going small plate classic American. Delicious and well presented, but also affordable. Being Portland we'll do seasonal and local whenever possible with vegan and vegetarian options. While we're a bar first, we know that in this town you can't skimp on the food. We'll have a full menu until 2am so you can expect a great meal any time we're open.
Any significance to naming the bar after that particular song?
Ha, well that's actually currently just our LLC name. We haven't landed on a name yet. We're all Beatles fans. Dig a Pony is still on the table but we also assume Sir Paul McCartney is more lawyered up than we are, so we'll see.