If you find yourself jonesing for boba in downtown LA, you must try Boba 7, a hidden hole-in-the-wall on 7th Street between Olive and Grand. What makes Boba 7 special is that they serve alcoholic boba drinks, including one called “Barack Bobama,” made of soju (a Korean distilled spirit that takes kind of like sake), mint, blueberry, and boba. According to the cheeky menu, you should order this “if you love America and blueberries.”
Another alcoholic boba drink I’m dying to try is the “Bruce Lychee,” containing soju lycheetini and lychee jelly. For a lychee fanatic like me, this sounds like nirvana. And you’ve got to love a drink whose name is a pun on Bruce Lee.
Then there’s a whole column of beverages labeled “Drinks Without Cool Names.” These are your standard boba drinks: flavored teas, milk teas, and smoothies. Like Volcano Tea House (my go-to boba joint), Boba 7 uses non-dairy creamer instead of milk, but theirs doesn’t have that artificial taste that I don’t like about Volcano’s.
So what did I order at Boba 7? The “Horchata Boba.” An example of fusion cuisine at its best, this is homemade cinnamon-flavored rice milk with boba in it. I’ve always loved Mexican horchata because it tastes like rice pudding, but it’s dairy-free. The addition of boba pearls gives it a nice heartiness. These boba aren’t as soft as I prefer, but are great if you like your boba al dente.
My husband had a “Boba Beam,” made with soju, lemonade, Blue Curaçao, and lychee popping boba. The latter are like little lychee bombs that explode on your tongue with a burst of lychee syrup. It’s a peculiar sensory experience not unlike eating Pop Rocks.
Next time I’m definitely getting the “Blood Orange Dreamsicle.” The barista let me try a sample of this ice-blended beauty, and it tastes exactly like an orange Creamsicle. But it’s alcoholic and dairy-free. Which means… time to par-tay!
Here are just a few other things I love about Boba 7:
- Menus are printed on laminated sheets, so you can peruse leisurely instead of standing at the counter, squinting at the wall. You can also read their menu online.
- You can pick your level of sweetness, ranging from 25% to 125%.
- There’s a drink called “Boba Fête.” For years I’ve been saying Disneyland needs to open a boba truck called “Boba Fett’s.” (Perhaps in the new Star Wars Land. Keep your fingers crossed.)
Just a note that Boba 7 is easy to miss; it doesn’t even have a sign. You have to enter through a fancy Thai restaurant called Soi 7 and walk all the way to the back. You’ll know you’ve reached boba heaven when you see a chalkboard that says “SUCK MY BALLS.” Boba balls, that is.
Be sure to visit Boba 7 in the next month, before they shut down. The employees told me that the owner is hoping to open another shop elsewhere, but the hard part is getting a liquor license. LA needs this place way more than another hipster bar serving overpriced IPAs and artisanal cocktails. You know what those places can do?
BOBA 7, 518 W. 7th St., Los Angeles, CA 90014