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Restaurant lunch highlights:

Bento Cafe

Bento Cafe

MM lunch takes on a Flexitarian attitude

BentoSFBy Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

If Fridays couldn't get any better the GLOB Master's end of the week became special with Gainesville Lunch Out Blob Staffer Emeritus, Eating Adventurer, and good friend Melissa Kahan was in town from Raleigh, North Carolina. GLOB Content Editor Lynn Dirk and I were meeting Melissa at the Bento Cafe on Archer Rd. for lunch.

"Driving into town I was thinking of the places I miss most and Bento Café and the Peach Valley Cafe are right at the top of that list," Melissa said with a smug look of satisfaction.

Lynn and I arrived a little later than expected which was a good thing because this Bento Asian lunch spot fills up fast. The bigger than you would think café looked expansive as I gazed across the room in search of Melissa K.

There is a good story behind the Bento group of restaurants that started here in Gainesville in 2002.

From the Bento website:

BENTOlogoUPaIn the summer of 2002, Bento Cafe officially opened its doors a few blocks west of the University of Florida to a line of hungry college students. The quick, casual pan-Asian eatery soon became a local favorite, and the growing demand for its unique, flavorful dishes prompted the opening of its second location...and third....and fourth. Today, there are over 9 locations across Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and South Florida, and a team of over 400 individuals that comprise the Bento family.

DID YOU KNOW? Bento Blue and Red were terms originally coined in Gainesville as a way for locals to easily distinguish the two locations - the original referred to as Blue and the latter as Red to reflect the red and blue hues unique to each venue.

The Bento menu is broken down into three categories. The Rice Bowl, Noodle Bowl, and the Bento Box.

Many of the Bento Entrees are interchangeable from one category to the other. I have always found the staff at Bento's to be very customer friendly and eager to satisfy your Asian lunch desires.

There is a Wok, Grill, Fry, and Sushi categories on the menu with many of the standard Asian entrees. There is also a Rice, and Noodle special category where you can create your own rice, or noodle bowl to your specific pleasure front the ingredients listed. There is a Bento restaurant menu link at the bottom of this review.



Melissa beat us to our table and had already ordered a Sashimii Bowl of Tuna Poke. The bowl consists of soy marinated tuna, red onion, mango, wakame, cucumber, edamame peas, avocado, scallions.

"You don't know how long I have been waiting for this lunch, " MK said between bites. According to Melissa the tuna was fresh. The cucumber, mango, edamame peas, and avocado were delicious.



The beauty of the Poke Bowl was astounding. A special part of 'eating Asian for the GLOB Master is the detail in the extraordinary presentation of food items.

Lynn talks incessantly about Pad ThaI and was very please with her Pad Thai Noodle Bowl with rice noodles, bean sprouts, red bell peppers, carrots, scallions, tangy peanut sauce and tofu.



This is really good," Lynn exclaimed somewhat surprised. "They have done a really good job including Pad Thai flavors to this bowl in a very good way," Lynn added.

After reading Food Republic's Jess Kapadia's explanation of the Flexitarain approach to lunch, and seeing both Captain Dirk and MK taking the meatless route to lunch time pleasure, I felt comfortable in ordering the Bento Fried Rice Bowl with chicken.

Ms. Kapadia makes a good point about protein management and portion control can be useful tools to incorporate small amounts of meat into your diet:

"A typical meal on a flexitarian diet is entirely plant-based, or plant-based and sometimes accented by small amounts of meat, poultry or fish. Think spaghetti carbonara or pork fried rice. You can get very creative when it comes to the protein, and spring for higher-quality options (like guanciale over supermarket bacon) since you're only using a third or less of the amount and stretching it as far as it will go."



My stir fried chicken, along with the standard mix of onions, bean sprouts, egg, peas, carrots, scallions was a perfect lunch for the GLOB Master. What has become a diabetes acknowledgement for my now standard request of no rice please, the Bento staffer was very happy to eliminate rice from my entree and include a second portion of the stir fry mix to my entree.

Being a serious protein eating carnivore I think I am in for the Flexatarian lunch idea GLOBers. However I don't think Flexatarian ideals should be used to escape the smart, healthy principles of a plant based diet. At least once a week . . .

The Pluses and Minuses of Bento Cafe Pan Asian Cuisine and Sushi

Bento Cafe + indicators: Excellent lunch specials, Beautiful entree creation, stylish, friendly environment.

Bento cafe - indicators: Very popular lunch stop expect long service lines.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Bento cafe.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

Last modified onMonday, 20 May 2019 18:53

Additional Info


1 comment

  • FanTing B
    FanTing B Tuesday, 11 September 2012 15:54 Comment Link

    - avoid this place! Archer road location is over run by roaches. The dark atmosphere isn't cozy when you find them, and we saw at least 7 giant ones just crawling around the restaurant in the span of about 20 minutes :( I like the food, but I would never trust the cleanliness of such a place!

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