I'm impressed to find so many people in Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen slurping steaming bowls of pho in 90-degree weather, a temperature at which we Rose City natives generally retire to our iced kiddie pools and reach for our mini fans. So it's a testament to the charm of their heavenly soup that so many heat wimps flock through their downtown doors on a sunny weekday - but me, I heard they have a new cocktail menu, so I'll sip my calories from a chilled glass.

For Luc Lac's bar is their most unique feature, in my opinion. The restaurant is not an upscale joint- far from a dive, of course, but casual beyond the craftsmanship and creativity that I would expect given the effort put into their cocktail program. The new menu features elements like watermelon and salt (in the tall, cool Summer in Saigon that looks like a fairy tale and tastes dangerously light) and fish sauce - yes, fish sauce. Jameson whiskey, becherovka, house-made mango shrub, and fish sauce compose the Nuoc Mam Rocks, an alarming but fascinating product that you cannot stop drinking. Try it.

Other new drinks showcase superior technique over adventurous combinations. The White Buddha stands tall with it's frothy egg white and cream, a healthy mix of tequila, chartreuse, and cucumber lending a surprising lightness to what reads like the richest drink on the menu. My new favorite, however, is the Smoke & Mirrors, which features Mezcal, Fernet, and Ca Phe Cola (an incredibly rich coffee roasted special for these guys by Courier Coffee Roasters, slow brewed and served with smoked salt and orange zest). It's the ultimate digestif - minty, chocolately, even fruity - just downright delicious. Luc Lac's summer cocktail roster
is beyond seasonal... I make the trip for some of their offerings any day of the year.

Owner and bartender Adam finishing up the White Buddha
  • Clare Gordon
  • Bartender and proprietor Adam finishing up the White Buddha

Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen is located at 835 SW 2nd Ave.