Everyone from school children to salary men in Japan look forward to when the lunch bell rings, signaling it's time for bento. The artfully-arranged boxes boast different compartments, each filled with colorful bites, plus a mound of rice. They're practically a way of life across the Pacific — if they're not made in the home, they're purchased at the train station or in sprawling underground food emporiums.
Home cooks and professional cooks compete over who can arrange a bento box with maximum cuteness (or kawaii). That's why Instagram feeds are full of onigiri (rice balls) in the shape of pandas or Hello Kitty. The same level of kitsch isn't always seen in the U.S., but bento boxes have caught on because they provide variety — something diners crave (as evidenced by the tsunami of small plates restaurants here).
The bento box lets diners dabble in multiple styles of Japanese cooking from sushi and sashimi to tempura and teriyaki, meaning diners won't be left with feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out). Ready to get into bento? Here are 12 places that serve them around town, primarily at lunch-only, as is tradition (unless otherwise noted).Read More