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The Eater Map to Portland's Best Bento (Including Bento Food Carts)

Portland excels as the bento box food cart—who knew?

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In an uncertain world, it's good to know what's good: snow days, world peace, puppies dressed as Star Wars characters, and—of course—bento boxes, those compartmented, Japanese boxes filled with rice, meats, dumplings, etc. They're pretty much Japanese Happy Meals for adults.

Recently, the bento scene in Portland has exploded, with restaurants and even bento box food carts. For those who are hell-bento on finding the best lunch boxes for grownups, we've put together a list of 10 hot spots. Don't see your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

—Katherine Berman and Mattie John Bamman

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. #1 Bento Korean BBQ

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SW 10th & Alder St
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 227-2141

#1 Bento’s entrees come with a formidable team of accoutrements, including steamed rice, salad with a sweet mayo dressing, potato glass noodles, and kimchee. The Kalbi Bento touts soy sauce-marinated beef short ribs served bone-in. [Blair C./Yelp]

2. Bento Box

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530 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205

The no-nonsense bento cart offers just two dishes: chicken or veggie, served with white or brown rice, grilled onions, and choice of sauce. The chicken breast is marinated overnight in house-made teriyaki, and the owners know an impressive following of regulars by name and order.[Photo]

3. Big Dan's West Coast Bento

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2368a NW Thurman St
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 227-1779
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An original gangster of the PDX bento scene, West Coast Bento adds shrimp and lamb to the usual suspects of beef and chicken. It offers boxes loaded with delicacies, and the pork shumai, gyoza, and steamed bun add-on options are worth investigating. [Photo]

4. Chef Naoko Bento Café

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1237 SW Jefferson St
Portland, OR 97201
(503) 227-4136
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It's a hole-in-the-wall serving some of Portland's best upscale bento. Hailing from Tokyo, chef Naoko Tamura uses mostly local and organic ingredients, and the creative options include the Salmon and Shiitake Mushroom Miso Bento. It's open for lunch and dinner, and for those in a hurry, it offers takeout and delivery. [Chef Naoko Bento Cafe/Yelp]

5. Local Grind

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With seven meats to choose from, it’s no wonder that customers opt for the “Trifecta”—a choice of three proteins (otherwise known as the cure to lunch FOMO)—at this Hawaiian bento adventure. The side-dish hero that is the homemade macaroni salad earned its nickname “crackaroni” due to its unique powers of converting non-mac-salad lovers to daily devotees. Insiders swear by the grilled chicken in scratch-made garlic honey sauce. [Photo]

6. Petit Panda

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Se 9th Ave
Portland, OR

New kids on the bento block, owners Shawn and Cathy Shuai recreate their grandmother’s traditional Chinese comfort food made from scratch daily to produce Chinese-style bento. The rice is sushi grade and workdays start at 8 a.m. to ensure that dishes like the “Grumpy Pig,” braised pork belly in a Chinese-spiced sauce, fall apart at the touch of a fork.[Photo]

7. Phat Cart

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SW 4th Ave & SW College St
Portland, OR 97201

You had us at free dumplings. Well, free with any entree Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. When the entrees in question include dishes like stewed pork in pineapple gravy or crispy chicken breast with zucchini, rice, and lime aioli—all made from sustainable, local ingredients—the bonus dumpling incentive is borderline unnecessary. We said borderline. [Photo]

8. Phil's Uptown Meat Market

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17 NW 23rd Pl
Portland, OR 97210
(503) 224-9541
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Phil's states that it's been serving bento since back when it was just called kebobs and rice. The gourmet deli marinates the meats overnight, and it serves skewers of Carlton Farms pork, St. Helen’s hanger steak, and Cascade Farms chicken. Its sauces are made and sold on premise, and should not, we repeat, should not be ignored. [Photo]

9. Samurai Lunch Box

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6637-6699 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202

In a world of basic bentos, Samurai is a brave warrior, unafraid of generous portions and boldly seasoned proteins, confidently adding yakisoba noodles to the typical brown and white rice line-up. The spicy ginger beef, evocative of Chinese short ribs, has a sweet decadence tempered by heat and zesty ginger. Large helpings = post bento strolls around beautiful Sellwood + yummy leftovers.[Photo]

10. Sheridan Fruit Company

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409 SE M L King Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 236-2113
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This beloved grocery store turns 100 in 2016 and is known for its hand cuts of fine local meat. Its small bento menu lives up to the market’s standards of fresh, no-frills loveliness, and on the grill are marinated Painted Hills beef, organic chicken tenders, and veggies—all served with the “rice of the day” and steamed broccoli. [Photo]

1. #1 Bento Korean BBQ

SW 10th & Alder St, Portland, OR 97205

#1 Bento’s entrees come with a formidable team of accoutrements, including steamed rice, salad with a sweet mayo dressing, potato glass noodles, and kimchee. The Kalbi Bento touts soy sauce-marinated beef short ribs served bone-in. [Blair C./Yelp]

SW 10th & Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

2. Bento Box

530 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205

The no-nonsense bento cart offers just two dishes: chicken or veggie, served with white or brown rice, grilled onions, and choice of sauce. The chicken breast is marinated overnight in house-made teriyaki, and the owners know an impressive following of regulars by name and order.[Photo]

530 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205

3. Big Dan's West Coast Bento

2368a NW Thurman St, Portland, OR 97210

An original gangster of the PDX bento scene, West Coast Bento adds shrimp and lamb to the usual suspects of beef and chicken. It offers boxes loaded with delicacies, and the pork shumai, gyoza, and steamed bun add-on options are worth investigating. [Photo]

2368a NW Thurman St
Portland, OR 97210

4. Chef Naoko Bento Café

1237 SW Jefferson St, Portland, OR 97201

It's a hole-in-the-wall serving some of Portland's best upscale bento. Hailing from Tokyo, chef Naoko Tamura uses mostly local and organic ingredients, and the creative options include the Salmon and Shiitake Mushroom Miso Bento. It's open for lunch and dinner, and for those in a hurry, it offers takeout and delivery. [Chef Naoko Bento Cafe/Yelp]

1237 SW Jefferson St
Portland, OR 97201

5. Local Grind

Portland, OR

With seven meats to choose from, it’s no wonder that customers opt for the “Trifecta”—a choice of three proteins (otherwise known as the cure to lunch FOMO)—at this Hawaiian bento adventure. The side-dish hero that is the homemade macaroni salad earned its nickname “crackaroni” due to its unique powers of converting non-mac-salad lovers to daily devotees. Insiders swear by the grilled chicken in scratch-made garlic honey sauce. [Photo]

6. Petit Panda

Se 9th Ave, Portland, OR

New kids on the bento block, owners Shawn and Cathy Shuai recreate their grandmother’s traditional Chinese comfort food made from scratch daily to produce Chinese-style bento. The rice is sushi grade and workdays start at 8 a.m. to ensure that dishes like the “Grumpy Pig,” braised pork belly in a Chinese-spiced sauce, fall apart at the touch of a fork.[Photo]

Se 9th Ave
Portland, OR

7. Phat Cart

SW 4th Ave & SW College St, Portland, OR 97201

You had us at free dumplings. Well, free with any entree Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. When the entrees in question include dishes like stewed pork in pineapple gravy or crispy chicken breast with zucchini, rice, and lime aioli—all made from sustainable, local ingredients—the bonus dumpling incentive is borderline unnecessary. We said borderline. [Photo]

SW 4th Ave & SW College St
Portland, OR 97201

8. Phil's Uptown Meat Market

17 NW 23rd Pl, Portland, OR 97210

Phil's states that it's been serving bento since back when it was just called kebobs and rice. The gourmet deli marinates the meats overnight, and it serves skewers of Carlton Farms pork, St. Helen’s hanger steak, and Cascade Farms chicken. Its sauces are made and sold on premise, and should not, we repeat, should not be ignored. [Photo]

17 NW 23rd Pl
Portland, OR 97210

9. Samurai Lunch Box

6637-6699 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, OR 97202

In a world of basic bentos, Samurai is a brave warrior, unafraid of generous portions and boldly seasoned proteins, confidently adding yakisoba noodles to the typical brown and white rice line-up. The spicy ginger beef, evocative of Chinese short ribs, has a sweet decadence tempered by heat and zesty ginger. Large helpings = post bento strolls around beautiful Sellwood + yummy leftovers.[Photo]

6637-6699 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202

10. Sheridan Fruit Company

409 SE M L King Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

This beloved grocery store turns 100 in 2016 and is known for its hand cuts of fine local meat. Its small bento menu lives up to the market’s standards of fresh, no-frills loveliness, and on the grill are marinated Painted Hills beef, organic chicken tenders, and veggies—all served with the “rice of the day” and steamed broccoli. [Photo]

409 SE M L King Blvd
Portland, OR 97214

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