Bar Review: Backstreet Bar

Bar Review: Backstreet Bar

Bar Review: Backstreet Bar
No. #14 Street 308 / Tonle Bassac

Backstreet Bar, or BS, is a popular multi-story French villa neighborhood bar nestled on Street 308 in the Bassac Lane area. Partially open air with a lovely empty pool, where you can sit and drink, the place is spacious, pet friendly and is decorated with beautiful recycled furnishing and artwork by Siem Reap artist, Silong Riem. Their menu consists of a dozen cocktail favorites like mojitos ($5) and Mai Tais ($5) and includes a few bar snacks like chicken tenders ($3.5) and mini burgers ($3.5).

Many reasons justify why BS is my favorite Phnom Penh bar, and its not because of the food or drinks. First, its the hospitality led by manager, Thida Keo. The radiant 30-something, curly hair Thida is charming, friendly, and always greets you with her contagious smile. And if you're a regular like me, she will always remember your name. Their staffs come and go, but Thida's commitment to customer service will always be uphold to the next generation of waiters and baristas.

I have known Thida since the old BS was first established in late 2016 in the quiet Kap Kor Lane off Sothearos Blvd. My loyalty and continuous support of her establishments is due in part because of the friendship and trust we have built at the very beginning. In fact, Thida can contest, I was the first ever customer there when BS was first selling ice coffees and kuy teavs in the morning.

Backstreet consistently organizes unique events and activities throughout the year. When local or international holidays nears, you can count on Thida and her talented staffs to produce original decorations to liven up the ambience. Who could forget her epic Halloween contest, Christmas tree made out of palm leaves and Covid masks, and her unforgettable Khmer New Year traditional games at the old BS?

But she did not stop there.

Before the pandemic, BS organized very successful weekly Quiz Nights on Thursdays. Regulars like me, though I have never participated, would form groups of 2 or more people to compete in a series of categorized questions to win bragging rights (and some cash usually up to $50+). Other activities at the venue included live music performances, and during pre-curfew times, there were live fire shows. Did someone say bring back the "Open Mic" events organized by my former roommate Chhanita and yours truly?!?

And let's not forget all the memorable birthday (and one pre-wedding) parties that BS has celebrated throughout its 5 years. I can count over two hands worth of unforgettable stories that will live forever under the Legendary Chronicles of Backstreet, like the first "No Water Pool Party" to celebrate my latest birthday.

The third reason why BS will remain my top bar is its diversity. On a typical night, you will have regulars like me, a Khmer American, sitting with or alongside a different table, other expats and locals from a wide range of professions, age, and nationalities. Unlike other establishments inside Bassa Lane, which tends to nurture a more pretentious, homogenous clientele, Backstreet is the anomaly. I can concur from my own experiences sitting alone at "the best spot" in the bar, striking a random chat with a stranger, such as an aspiring model to an established F&B entrepreneur, simply through a gentle smile and a "suasdey."


This review is part of the Jganh Jong Ngop series on Cambodia's F&B scene. For more similar content, search under the hashtag #jganhjongngop.

© 2024 Phatry Derek Pan