Portland has a lot of noodle options. Like, A LOT of noodle options. So when the buzz-a-thon about Boke Bowl opening their first permanent location began to spread via Twitter, I knew I was going to have to check it out…stat.
If you’re unfamiliar, the Boke Bowl craze actually dates back to September 2010 when the owners launched their first pop-up dinner, and since that first special event Boke Bowl has won the attention and affection of many a foodie and non-foodie alike.
I really didn’t know what to expect for my first lunchtime visit to their new SE Water Avenue location (just across from clarklewis and next door to Bunk Bar), but I did expect it to be crowded. And it was. We arrived just before noon on a Tuesday and the line stretched the length of the front windows…but luckily there is a good amount of standing room inside (otherwise that’s a big dealbreaker on rainy PDX days).
You order and pay at the counter and then (hopefully) find a seat. There’s a massive menu displayed on the wall and the ordering process is straightforward. Pick a dashi (Japanese-style stock) flavor, choose anything you would like to add on and you’re done!
Boke Bowl also offers a couple side dishes (kimchi, assorted pickles, etc.), steamed buns and desserts just in case that oversized bowl of noodles, veggies and deliciousness wasn’t quite filling enough.
I went with the pork and chicken dashi, which includes smoked pulled pork ($9) and my lunch pal went for the seafood miso dashi with shrimp ($10). We also indulged our sweet tooths and opted to get the chocolate with coconut cream Boke twinkie.
We were lucky enough on that visit to find a place to sit right away. There are several single tables, but the most common seating option is the communal long tables. While the communal style might seem a little awkward at first, you never really feel that your dining neighbors are too close for comfort.
The restaurant itself is very light and bright. The kitchen is open, so you can see the long, thin handmade noodles being made and the food items prepared.
Because the menu is fairly simple, our steaming warm bowls of ramen were served very quickly—and they were delicious. Loads of meat and fresh veggies. The homemade noodles were perfectly chewy and the dashi was complex and extremely flavorful. You can add as much of the special recipe hot sauce and spices to kick up the flavor, but try it first. You might just find the flavor is pretty much perfect as-is.
As for the chocolate coconut Boke twinkie, it was a little too coconut-y for my taste and also a little on the dry side. [I’ve since heard the vanilla version is the better of the two twinkie options. I’ll have to give it a try.]
But wait…review’s not over yet! Not only did I try Boke Bowl within the first week of opening up their new location, I tried it twice. After going on and on and on to a friend about Boke Bowl, they wanted to try it, too. So I went back. I got the same ramen as before (still delicious) and my lunch friend ordered the same dashi but with the buttermilk fried chicken. Luckily he was kind enough to offer me a large bite of the fried chicken to try out. Verdict? TO. DIE. FOR. I’m talking melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Definitely worth the extra $3, and I’m definitely getting that next time…and there will be a next time!
Overall, Boke Bowl is a great permanent addition to the SE Industrial District. Even after two visits within a week, I’m just as excited to go back again—always a good sign!
– The food is delicious (obviously)
– Good veggie options
– You can make it as spicy (or not spicy) as you want!
– Great atmosphere and service
– Parking in that part of inner SE is becoming increasingly annoying and watch out for the train!
– Expect a line
– Confusion about the napkins; if they aren’t at your table just ask
– Not open for dinner (although they do have plans for Thursday night Korean chicken dinners)