Chicken or Beef Bento, $5.00, Double meat $8.00, $4.00 per person
Before all the hoo haa trendiness of food carts in Portland came to be, there sat a bento cart off NW 23rd. For 26 years Phil’s Meat Market has served respectable, simple bento to those who know the secret. Yesterday, I stopped by to see if it was still as good as ever—and of course it was.
The BBQ sits right outside the doors of the meat market. Cute men inside slicing porter houses and sausages look out to see the line of bento goers. One at time, you walk up to the darling bento man and say: “chicken, beef, veggie or double meat.” He then responds back, “teriyaki sauce?” You say, “Yes, please.” The teriyaki sauce pours out like water, soaking into the rice instantly. Before you can even say please, he asks, “Sweet chili sauce?” and again, you haven’t yet answered, but he’s pouring the gooey sauce down the middle of the plastic to-go tray. You were going to say, “Yes” anyways, so it does not matter. He sticks a fork in the tray and closes the lid. You hand him $5.00 in cash. He hands you back the goods.
If you disobey these rules, you will not be welcome here. However, they will take your devilish credit card inside. Now, where to eat this bento? Don’t be fooled and think you can eat it in the car—I’ve tried that before and because the chicken is so lean, it really takes a hold of the wooden stick. I ended up flinging chicken pieces into my windshield, instead of in my mouth. You need a sturdy table and for good measure a metal fork, as oppose to the flimsily plastic one they give you.
Phil’s combines two of the essential elements for lovely bento: heaping piles of rice that is a tad sticky and lean, tender, top quality meat, char-broiled in front of you. What is worse than biting into pieces of chicken fat? You won’t have to worry about that here. The sweet and sour sauce mixed with the teriyaki is tangy and spicy—seasoning both the meat and rice so that not one forkful is left dry.
For an even cheaper route, ask for double meat and split! There is more than enough rice for two people.
Located in the same complex as Ben and Jerry's off NW 23rd
17 NW 23RD Pl
Portland, OR 97210
Hours: Mon 10-2:30