Sitting on the cusp of Seattle’s bustling Green Lake and Roosevelt neighborhoods are two Vietnamese havens: BOL Pho Bistro and its sister location, BOL Test Kitchen. For a small bite or takeout, one might hit the pho bistro on 64th, where a cluster of wee plants climbs one wall and a chalkboard menu spans another. Quick service and a daily happy hour (3-5 pm) make the original location a go-to for post-work fresh rolls and cocktails with friends.
Just one street over on 65th, the test kitchen is possibly even more dangerous than the bistro. With five- and six-dollar apps and cocktails, an expanded menu and a covered, heated outdoor patio, this happy hour can easily turn into a full-blown feast.
Start with a Vietnamese coffee, hot or iced, made with beans from local Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Or waste no time and order the boozy “Saigon” version with the addition of Kahlua and rum. You’ll also find a handful of classic libations with Vietnamese flair, like the house favorite “nguyen” — whiskey, ginger, muddled mint, lime and ginger beer — or the vodka-based lavender cosmo garnished with a skewer of salmon-hued lychee fruit.
A handful of cocktails are crafted with an apothecary tincture. The lavender cosmo features “serenity” (lavender and Chinese snow fungus), and if you have no idea what Chinese snow fungus is, that makes two of us, but it turns out it grows on trees throughout Asia and has been a staple in Asian dishes for centuries… so you should probably branch out and try it. If not, you can always ask the bartender to substitute tinctures or leave it out. Other tincture options include the citrus-forward “immunity,” spicy “fire breather,” berry hibiscus “love potion” and herbal “yin & yang.”
To wash down your drinks, consider an order of lotus or taro chips, exclusive to the test kitchen menu, or stick to the original bistro menu and nosh on truffle fries or kimchee calamari.
If you end up staying for a full dinner – you knew this might happen! – you’ll want to try something from the test kitchen menu. This menu rotates seasonally, but the honey tamarind summer skewers are available through October and feature your choice of meat, eggplant or tofu in a sweet tamarind marinade. In later fall and winter, keep an eye out for warm dishes and stews. Of course, you can’t go wrong with a classic banh mi on a baguette, available year-round.
While you bask in the serenity of sophisticated cocktails, authentic eats, and perhaps a scoop of Pink’s vegan coconut ice cream, feeling as if you’ve been transported straight to Hanoi (only maybe sub the zipping mopeds with LimeBikes), you’ll be glad you stayed a while.