Number 1 Bento

Lizzy Caston

Bento-xOriginally written about: Sept., 2008

Updated: May, 2013

Location: SW 10th and Alder
Hours: Weekdays, lunchtime

Description: Way back in ’08 Food Carts Portland was super excited to stumble across #1 Bento. At that time, there were no other Korean carts downtown. (Cue scratching sound on a turntable…SAY WHAT?). Yep, that’s right, in 2008, there was only one Korean food cart in downtown Portland.

I was and remain smitten with excellent home cooking “mom” style by the nice women in the cart, and the generous portions, as were our readers as noted in the comments below. It seems there were two camps back then as excited about this cart as Food Carts Portland was. There were the avid Korean food lovers who just about jumped for joy when they realized they wouldn’t have to schlep out to Beaverton or 82nd Ave for a casual, quick and inexpensive Korean fix. Then there were the curious. Back then Korean food was just entering the mainstream in the American street food lexicon, probably due in large part to the “Korean taco craze” that started in Los Angeles and is now found just about everywhere in our great nation.  I was  so EXCITED about Number 1 Bento back when they opened, I wrote,

Wait, is it what I think I see? Could it really be a CART THAT SERVES KOREAN FOOD? In downtown Portland? Hell yes. This makes Number 1 Bento the only Korean food cart in Portland.

Ah how things change! Now there’s a Korean, Korean Tacos, or Korean “fusion” cart at just about every downtown food cart pod and even  a truck or five roaming our great city to serve hungry Korean food lovers near and far.

bento-2xNumber 1 Bento continues to sell things like generic “teriyaki,” “fried dumplings” and “grilled chicken” served with short grain rice and a miso ginger dressed salad. But hold on there, because Number 1 Bento continues to serve their wonderful Kimchee, Kalbi Korean beef ribs  and my absolute all time favorite of rice, beef, egg and vegetables: Bi Bim Bop. Praise the food cart gods and pass the hot sauce. Number 1 Bento is here to stay!

Prices, in the $6.50 to $8.00 range, continue to be very reasonable, and portions are HUGE.

Sample Menu:

(Kimchee served upon request, Japchae “clear” noodles served on the side for many items)

  • Bi-Bim-Bop, seasoned vegetables, beef, and fried egg on rice – $6.50
  • Kalbi grilled beef ribs, served with rice and salad -$9.00
  • Chicken or Beef Teriyaki with rice and salad – $6.50
  • Chicken potstickers with rice and salad – $5.50
  • Ramyun Noodle – $4.50

Hours: Mon-Sat, lunchtime til about 6pm.

Phone: 971-570-6040

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Comments

  1. That’s a pretty rocking good deal on that bi bim bop, if it indeed looks as it does in that photo.

  2. Actually, the Bi Bim Bap was BETTER than what shows up in the photo. Really, very very good.

    I know what I’m having for lunch tomorrow

  3. Turns out they DO serve corn after all! And I have to say, it’s delicious.

  4. What? They do serve corn? No way. Good to know. What a weird and wonderful cart! I also saw they have a shave ice machine, hoping they will serve that too.

    LC

  5. Good news – they open on Saturday and they stay open until about 6pm. I can drop by for an emergency take out dinner. yea!

    I was there on Saturday, but tried the new Thai food cart next door. This cart is next on the list.
    BTW, that block now has 3 Thai carts, wow, that’s a lot of thai food in one block.

  6. Tell me about it… i’ve been looking for korean food in downtown… for a reasonable price and i think i found it. I’ve tried the bi bim bap and the teriyaki chicken and it was very very good.. at an excellent price. I think i’ve found my hot spot to go to during lunch and take out for dinner.. The workers there were very friendly too.

  7. dude, this tastes like homemade korean!!! i just moved to portland not too long ago from LA and this place is exactly what i need. i only got the kalbi, but i will be back for more. 6.50 for kalbi??? that is ridiculously cheap! anyway, i plan to return and get on the ladies who run the cart’s good side so i can get some freebies for being a repeat customer.

  8. A little background on this cute little trailer currently housing #1 Bento. It is a custom built trailer originally designed for festivals selling primarily roasted corn-on-the-cobb under the name of Corn USA with the main office in LA….yes, on Wilshire Blvd. The “Seoul Sisters” brought it to the Portland area back in 2003. Where it has been in storage until just recently.

    It has a all aluminum interior with a rotesserie oven for roasting a variety of items from corn to chicken to baked potatoes.
    I’m sure, in due time, the markings will either be covered over or pain stakenly removed (the external covering is NOT paint, but a stick-on material that can be challenging to remove).

    So be perplexed no more and know that the sisters are thrilled to be a part of downtown Portland and look forward to meeting lots of new and interesting people while delivering great tasting food.

    Enjoy!!

  9. I’m so excited about this new cart. I was a bit wary at first with the interesting dancing corn decor about the cart (at least you can’t mistake it for a different drab cart), but was happily surprised to find a new lunch option. Korean food at that! The ladies cookin up a storm inside are really sweet. I tried the kalbi which is really good. I’ve had a lot of Korean in my lifetime but by far this place takes the cake for value and quality.
    The bibimbap is also an excellent and healthy option especially with all the vegetables, a fried egg to top it off and a delish sauce to seal the deal.
    This place is great. I highly recommend trying it!

  10. I just dropped by #1 today (I work at the library and the carts at 10th and Alder are a godsend!) and the owner/operator mentioned that they will be adding a bunch of new items to the menu next week. I offered that I had already heard good things about #1 and she responded, “The internet?”

    Yup. From our conversation I got the impression that this blog has contributed to a great start for this small business.

    And the Bi-Bim-Bap was excellent!

  11. I had the bi-bim-bap #1 today as well, it was very good! Although be forewarned, the fried egg is not cooked in the middle, to the point of being liquid. I also had corn chowder and a free sample of roasted corn, both of which were great. I guess they are expanding the corn selections to match the cart!

  12. Thanks Matthew, it is nice to know people are actually reading this site and then going to support the carts since that is the main reason I started this blog in the first place.

    Mr. Shogun: thanks for joining the conversation and for giving us more background.

    Everyone else: Thank you for, well, being you.

  13. I walked by the cart on Sunday and watched as an addition was being put on the back. I talked to the proprietress who might be in the top 10 of nice people in the world. I had eaten at the cart on Friday and ordered the Bi-Bim-Bop which was excellent. We were also given samples of the chowder and her freshly rolled California rolls (no mayo). Both were very good. Will return many times I’m sure.

  14. Let me start with saying: I have had a lifelong love of Korean food. I grew up with Kimchi as a constant presence in my family’s refrigerator and my mother NEVER let us run out of it. In my family, we even went as far as to put Kimchi on our pizza. You might be guessing that I’m Korean, but I am not, and I therefore do not have as much cred as a Korean person commenting on this new – but weird – cart. But I think I have more cred than a person tasting Korean food for the very first time.
    Now that that’s established, I just wolfed down in probably less than 2 minutes flat, a cheap, delicious, and wholly satisfying Bi Bim Bap. The only way it could have been better is if it had been served in a hot stone bowl but I realize that is probably impractical for a food cart.
    YUM YUM YUM YUM.
    I can’t even say they didn’t give me enough Kimchi. I ate all of it and it was a perfect amount.

  15. I’m posting again because this is SO GOOD! I’ve had several of their other dishes, all outstanding! And if you feel like soup, get the corn chowder, it’s excellent. The owner is very friendly and always gives out samples while the food is cooking, including some excellent noodles.

  16. Mr. Shogun says:

    Thank you all for your kind words about Number 1 Bento.

    Serina has modified the orginal menu so she hopes you continue to enjoy their food. She loves being in downtown Portland and hopes that it shows in the food she serves.
    Here is her new menu and phone number.
    Enjoy.

    *************************************
    Number 1 Bento – 971-570-6040

    Chicken Teriyaki Plate – $5.50
    Spicy Pork Plate – $6.00

    Chickent Teriyaki Bento – $6.00
    Salmon Teriyaki Bento – $7.00
    Tofu Bento – $6.00
    Gyoza Bento – $6.00
    Galbi Bento – $6.50
    Bulkoki Bento – $6.00
    Galbi / Chicken Combo Bento – $7.00
    Bulkoki / Chicken Combo Bento – $7.00

    Bi Bim Bap – $5.50
    Ramyun Noodles – $4.00
    California Rolls – $4.00 (8 pieces)
    Gyoza Appetizer – $3.50 – (5 pieces)

    New England Clam & Corn Chowder – $2.50 & $3.50
    Miso Soup – $1.50

    Chap Chae – $3.00 & $5.00 (Clear Yam Noodles w/ Veggies)
    Udon Noodles – $4.50

    Drinks – $1.00 Canned Soda and Bottled Water

  17. Hurrah! Chap Chae noodles!

    I’ll update the post to reflect the menu changes (just give me a couple of days)

    Thanks again for reading and keeping us posted. I hope business is going well.

  18. This has been one of my favorite carts for the past months but has recently disappeared. They were closed for vacation over the holiday but the entire cart has been gone since the new year. Did they relocate somewhere else? If it is spotted somewhere else I would love to know; and why they closed down and what happened to all those Korean grannies…

  19. Yeah! I second what SadEater said. What happened to the cart? I never ate there and wish I wouldn’t have found out there was a cart with Korean food. Because I read the reviews and comments and it got me pumped up to go there. Then I went there and sure enough the cart was there but it was closed. So I tried again another time and the cart wasn’t even there anymore. OH WHY? Why did you inform me of Korean food in Portland (which there is never any) only for me to find the cart closed and gone.

    It is soooooo difficult to find Korean food around Portland which is why I still don’t think much of Portland’s cuisine. Korean food is the only asian food I care about. Why can’t a business offering Korean food never last or stay open? If only the Korean community knew just how many millions of people all over the world desire Korean dishes. You couldn’t pay me to eat Thai or Japanese. Not interested. Oh well. Sounds like there was some good stuff at #1 Bento. Portland loses again.

  20. MRN, you and the rest of the us are in luck. I was over there right after I wrote that post and it turns out they are just swapping out for a new cart. The gray trailer that is on the corner will be the new cart and one of the ladies said they would be open on monday (1.12.09 I’m assuming). HOORAH!

    I will miss the “Corn USA” cart though. I loved how it said “KOREAN BBQ” and then underneath in smaller letters in quotes it said ” ‘Japanese Food’ ” as if offering an explanation.
    plus the weird cobs of corn dressed up in western wear…

  21. Oh wow, great news!
    I went by Thursday evening for a take home bento and there was a guy scrubbing out the Corn USA cart. OH NOOO!!
    Good to hear they are just changing cart.

    MRN – What are you talking about no Korean food in Portland? There are a bunch of good Korean places near Uwajimaya.

  22. OK GOOD NEWS! I’m glad that they are still going to be there. So it’s about having a new cart then. It sounds like great cart food from what everyone has been saying. I will support them.

  23. yipee!! YAY!! I went there about a month ago.. and like the rest said… the cart was there but they were closed. I stopped by several times after that to see if they were open.. and sure enough..FINALLY!!! i went there the other day and there were so many people waiting in line but well worth it. It looks like they even expanded their menu.. i shared the curry and ramen with my friend and it was the perfect meal for a cold day. I am going to try the spicy squid next time.. that sounds GOOOOD ..

  24. I finally got my kalbi fix last night. yum…
    This cart is much better for the ladies. They have a stove inside now and don’t have to grill outside. I also tried the katsu chicken with curry, that was good too.
    They ran out of chap chae noodle though. 8(

  25. Yummy stuff here. Not quite the upscale delight that Be Won is (hands down the best Korean in the PDX Metro), but this place is much more affordable than Be Won.

    I’m a sucker for Bi Bim Bap — to the point that it’s virtually the only thing I eat on a Korean menu. That’s not to say I don’t like other Korean dishes, but I never seem to want one more than a good, hearty BBB. That’s exactly what you get here — lots of fresh veggies, a smattering of beef, a pile of rice and the perfectly cooked over-easy egg to slosh around the overall mix.

    The side of Kim Chee is always on fire.

    The super nice lady who runs it gave me a free sample of Chap Chai one day, and it was very good.

    I can’t speak to anything else on the menu.

    I don’t work anywhere near this cart, but I do drive to downtown and pay for a friggin’ parking spot upwards of once a week just go get my fill of Bap.

    Now, if someone will explain why there’s not a Korean spot anywhere on the east side . . . except for Toji, which is fine, but nothing to write home about.

  26. I got the bulkoki and it was so dank! oh lordy. I can’t believe I ate the whole thang … I am going back every chance I get.

    also, I’m really upset that they changed their cart from the one with the corn on the side. bammer.

  27. Glad you liked Number 1 Bento, Alex. It’s defiantly in my top ten cart meal rotations.

    I too loved that yellow cart with the dancing corn on the side.

  28. It was a rainy and cold day today. I was up for some grub. I knew i could count on #1 Bento to fill my tummy with some yummy food. I couldn’t decide between the ramen, curry, or the choices between the meat items… So i decided to get the ramen and chicken/beef combo. It hit the spot once again and it was indeed a Grrrrrrreat combo. thanks #1 bento for the awesome service and the quality food.

  29. Not sure what’s happened here, but i had a Be Bim Bop at this place for the umpteenth time, and it was terrible. Completely different than past experiences.

    Dry rice. Stale-ish veggies. I don’t know why they’re using chicken instead of beef in the BBB.

    I’ll give it at least one more try b/c I love this place, but I hope this is not a trend.

  30. Seoul Brother #1 says:

    Gal-Bi!!! great food, and this endorsement coming from a Korean straight outta LA!!! i no likey the chicken.

    wish they had seafood pajeon.

    wish there was a Chi Gae cart!

  31. This is a hidden treasure in Portland. I had two meals there with my family in August 2009. We had bi bim bap, potstickers and galbi. All were excellent and served in generous portions.

  32. Skip H. says:

    Had the Spicy Chicken. Great meal, fresh rice, chicken just right, great bottles of sauce to kick it up a bit more. Steady stream of people who seemed to be regulars.

  33. I finally tried this place. The Bi Bim Bap was amazing! I wish I knew of another Korean place downtown that served Bi Bim Bap, so I could have a basis of comparison. But it was delicious. A big range of flavors and textures in one dish. Go early, though: this place can get crowded, and they don’t call out names/numbers, making it difficult when several people are waiting on the same type of food.

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