Words & Deeds

‘The food is gonna be good’: New Boise bar opens with cocktails, Asian plates and bowls

A bowl of shrimp Ramen ($12) served at Bei Lounge in Downtown Boise.
A bowl of shrimp Ramen ($12) served at Bei Lounge in Downtown Boise.

If you’re a fan of happy-hour drinks and sharing food with a friend, Downtown Boise has a new bar for you.

Bei Lounge (stylized as “bēi lounge”) opened Saturday. Located at 315 N. 9th St., it’s a sipping-and-noshing venture from the family-owned Yen Ching restaurant in the same building.

Bei Lounge shares Yen Ching’s kitchen. But it has a separate entrance, its own limited menu of shareable Asian plates and bowls, plus an extensive cocktail list, beer and wine.

Empty in recent years, the 1,300-square-foot space used to be the short-lived Yen Ching Bakery, which closed in 2011.

Next door, Yen Ching Chinese restaurant has served Mandarin, Hunan and Sichuan dishes at 9th and Bannock streets since 1986. It’s one of the oldest restaurants in Boise, let alone Downtown.

Bei Lounge is a modern nod toward the future, co-owner Jeremy Chou said.

“If we’re going to stick around for another 30 years, we’ve got to grow as Boise grows,” he said. “So the thought is opening up kind of a nice, quiet lounge. Mostly focused on happy hour and dinners.”

Bei Lounge used to be Yen Ching Bakery, but it’s been completely renovated. Tana Ruud

And about those dinners? “The food is gonna be good,” Chou promised. “We’ve got some Chinese, Korean, Japanese offerings — stuff that is kind of new and still as authentic as possible.”

Bei Lounge’s modest menu offers seven shareable plates and two bowls. Customers during a soft opening complimented Bei Seafood Rolls ($12), minced scallops, shrimp and whitefish wrapped in a crispy egg roll wrapper with sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. Another crowd favorite? Bulgogi Street Tacos ($12), three Korean barbecue beef tacos with veggies in flour tortillas drizzled with sriracha mayo and served with kimchi on the side.

Bei Lounge is doing its part to heat up Downtown’s ramen scene, which was energized last week by the opening of RamaPong bar at 204 N. Capitol Blvd. Bei Lounge’s Ramen Bowl ($13) includes fresh soba noodles in a steaming broth with veggies, green onions and protein (beef, pork, chicken or shrimp, the latter costing an extra $2).

Got a larger appetite? Try Bei Lounge’s other bowl option, Bibim Bap ($13). A Korean comfort food, it’s a heap of steamed rice topped with beef, vegetables and a fried egg, and served with a side of spicy, fermented red bean sauce.

If you’re eating in a bar, you’d best wash things down with alcohol. Bei Lounge’s signature cocktails range from a Sriracha Bloody Mary ($12) and Idaho Huckleberry Mule ($10) to the creative Matcha Gin ($13), a blend of Seagram’s gin, matcha green tea, agave, fresh lime juice and mint leaves.

At Bei Lounge, signature cocktails and a daily happy hour will be emphasized. Bei Lounge

There’s a $2 discount on draft beer, well drinks and house wine during happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 6 p.m. Saturdays. That means you’ll pay about $4 for a craft beer, $6 for a house wine and $4.50 for a well drink. “And we made it a point to get good well (liquor),” Chou says. “Like Seagram’s vodka instead of Popov.”

Business hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 3 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Food service runs from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Management and staff will focus on working out any kinks during the next week or two. After that, a grand opening will be scheduled in June, Chou said.

Bei Lounge won’t be a late-night stomping ground for Downtown rowdies. It seats just over 50 people. But the bar should add a casual yet elegant option for afternoon and evening socializing.

“We are hoping to provide a place where good friends, business colleagues and couples can come to celebrate,” Chou said, “... or have a conversation with great drinks, service and food.”

Online: beilounge.com.