Bap Doduk is a great place to get lunch, but it is not really a restaurant. This small strip-mall space in Carrollton’s biggest Korean shopping center has, last I checked, just one table. It is often used for storage. Almost all of its offerings are grab-and-go prepared foods. And yet it’s also home to one of the Dallas area’s ultimate lunch boxes.
Let’s say you walk in to look through the prepared tubs of sides, snacks, banchan, and pickles. You could grab a gallon tub of kimchi, a selection of salads, homemade broths, or marinated quail eggs. But maybe you don’t know what you want yet. If that’s the case, order a boxed lunch with a little bit of everything.
The extremely short meal menu consists of these bento boxes. (The Korean word for a packed meal tray of assorted small portions is dosirak, not bento, which is Japanese. Bap Doduk uses both names, with “bento box” listed on the English-language menu since Americans know what bento means.)
I stopped by last fall with a guest and we ordered two “special bentos,” with different meat portions for main courses. Each box was so huge that it made a lunch and a half. Although the grilled meats are enjoyable, the real marvel is the variety and generosity of everything else: chilled noodles, kimchi, rice, a thinly-layered egg omelet, chopped hot peppers, chewy slivers of cured fish.
I wanted to write about Bap Doduk at the time, and started making notes. Then one thing come up, and another thing came up, and so on. It became my backup plan. Hey, if we ever run out of stuff to talk about, we can always talk about Bap Doduk and its astonishing bento boxes.
Then came the scare. I recently walked in to grab a tub of seaweed salad to take home for dinner. Only I didn’t walk in, because contractors were coming in and out, dismantling the space. The coolers full of prepared food weren’t just empty; they were gone. The place was being stripped. One of the contractors whistled at me and made a little throat-cut hand gesture.
Last week, unwilling to believe such a good place could go so quietly, I checked back in again. And thank goodness: it’s back! The restaurant was undergoing a remodel, not a closure.
Thinking a restaurant is closed is the food writer version of a near-death experience. It makes you want to hold your loved ones closer. Or, in this case, it makes me want to go back to Bap Doduk often, to pick up portions of kimchi, marinated cucumbers, and hot peppers. It makes me want to tell everyone about this little spot, which currently has fewer than 20 reviews each on Google and Yelp. And when we get back to picnic weather, I know where I’m getting my basket.
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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine’s dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.