Whiskey Soda Lounge
3131 SE Division St; 503-232-0102
Snacks and starters $2–12
When Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker watched the steady swelling of the crowd of patrons waiting—outside—at his Thai-street-?food joint, he did the only thing a humane ?restaurateur (and savvy businessman) would do: he built a waiting room. But leave it to Ricker to turn a simple holding den across the street into one of the most original new watering holes in America—the Whiskey Soda Lounge.
Drawn from what the Thais call aahaan kap klaem, or food made for eating with booze, Ricker has imported a collection of Asian pub snacks rarely seen outside their home turf, all served without compromise to Western palates: stewed pork ears with black vinegar dipping sauce; frog legs fried with garlic, alongside chile sauce for dunking; a bamboo-shoot salad prized by Thai-street-food connoisseurs but gym-shoe pungent to the novice. You can wash them down with homemade drinking vinegars, savory cocktails, and ice-cold bia wun or “jelly beer” that’s been chilled to a slushy finish in a traditional machine Ricker hunted down on one of his regular jaunts to Thailand.
Ricker also imported ambience: the lounge is a cross between a surf shack in Phuket and a dimly lit Bangkok watering hole, complete with colorful paper lanterns and an endless loop of Asian rock videos playing on the bar TV. The overall experience wears a rare patina for an 11-month-old venue, but it was born in the brain of the guy who taught the city to rediscover Thai cooking’s punchy, expressive rings of citrus, salty undercurrent, and delicious sour notes. The Whiskey Soda Lounge, as a well-traveled friend put it, is “just like Thailand, only with comfortable chairs.” —MT