For nearly four years, Boda in Portland’s West End neighborhood has been a choice destination for restaurant workers and late-night eaters alike. The very authentic Thai tapas and skewer menu is served until 12:45 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and the drink menu remains affordable, while still varied and clever.
Separated from the more formal (but still casual) dining room, the bar and lounge seating is the restaurant’s main event. Here, the decor is rustic and earthy with exposed brick, slate gray walls and dark-stained wood-beam ceilings. Glass orb lanterns dangle just above the bar and off to one side is a five-seat countertop that overlooks the open grill kitchen.
One of the more noticeable features of the popular Thai eatery owned by Danai Sriprasert and Nattasak Wongsaichuas is the exceptional service. The wait staff is attentive and welcoming, but appropriately laid back and will likely offer to hang up your coat.
At the 10-seater bar, the best spot to sit is by the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks Congress Street and a festive Longfellow Square. The opposite end is busier as the bartender rapidly fills drink orders for the entire restaurant and talks with the wait staff.
In 2012, Boda was featured in “Drinking in Maine: 50 Cocktails, Concoctions, and Drinks from Our Best Artisanal Producers and Restaurants” (Sanders/French) for its Cachaca Ginger Mojito and Ginger Hot Toddy. Cachaca, a Brazilian spirit made from fresh sugar cane juice, can be used in cocktails in place of rum. While this mojito isn’t currently featured on the winter bar menu, the hot toddy ($8) is at the top of the cocktail list and is served piping hot with a delicate sliver of lemon.
The house infusions, like the 11 Tigers (Thai herbal-infused bourbon) or the Ginger-Peach Tea Vodka, are reasonably priced ($5 and $6, respectively) and served on their own or with your favorite mixer. The 11 Tigers is especially good with a splash of ginger beer, but ask for a smaller glass to avoid an over-sized heft of a drink.
Most of the house cocktails are $8 and all but the Winter Manhattan are under $10. In keeping with an authentic Thai “street food” theme, the drink menu seems to use a variety of traditional Thai spices and ingredients and you get the sense that the drink menu was created with humor and ease. The Thai Tea Margarita is made with tequila, triple sec, homemade sweet Thai tea, sour spice and nutmeg, and the Awesome Coffee is creamy Thai iced coffee with vodka, Baileys, Kahlua and Licor 43 (a bright yellow Spanish liqueur).
On Wednesday nights from 9:30 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. the food and drink menu is offered at a 20 percent discount for anyone in the restaurant industry. Sunday night starting at 9:30 p.m. features a discounted late-night food menu for everyone.
While there’s no happy hour at Boda, they’ve kept their cocktail prices relatively low and offer cheaper beer options in addition to their craft beers on tap. Plus, there are plenty of non-alcoholic choices.
A perfect place to stop in for a late-night snack after a show at One Longfellow Square or a hearty dinner before a night out on the town, Boda is warm, bustling and full of flavor.
Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.