Once upon a time, several years ago, I was planning my first trip to Salt Lake City since I was a kid. While researching eateries, I came across a Yelp listing for a Korean BBQ truck called Cupbop. I didn’t manage to check it out on that trip, or the many subsequent trips that followed. They weren’t open that day, they sold out and closed early, we weren’t in the same area at the same time, etc. In the meantime, the concept blew up. They opened up another truck. And another, and another, and standalone eateries, and catering, and counter spots at sporting arenas, you get the idea. As seems to happen so often with Utah eateries, eventually it was decided that we could use one here, and Idaho got its very own Cupbop truck…that I never made it to because they weren’t open on a particular day, or sold out and closed early, or we weren’t in the same area at the same time, and to be honest I was getting pretty frustrated until it was revealed that the concept was doing well enough here that an actual restaurant was announced just a few months later.
I have two addictive components to my personality when it comes to eateries. The primary one is to constantly be trying new places, but there’s usually one in particular that I’m fixated on at any one time and will return to over and over until something new takes its place. Cupbop may have set a record in that regard, because it’s been my obsession since their local brick and mortar joint opened more than a year ago. I live in Meridian currently and yeah, it does help that they’re so close to home, but it’s still pretty impressive.
Cupbop is a pretty straightforward, steam table and counter ordering operation. You move down the line with the person assembling your food, making your choices, and in just a few minutes you pay your bill and are presented with a cardboard tub of goodness to go and eat at one of the nearby tables, or just to go. Importantly, they’re either using really good heating and storing units or their turnover is just insane, because the food is always fresh and hot. The decor is modern and cute without being overly cheesy, the staff is always friendly, and they don’t blast obnoxious music, so eating there is just fine. Personally, I almost always get mine to go so I can have a nice picnic if the weather justifies it, or take it home where I can enjoy it while watching a good (or bad, honestly it’s quite often bad) movie.
The choices are pretty simple. You start out with a big scoop of rice, a choice of cabbage or kimchi (shredded lettuce used to be an option but hasn’t been for a while now), a heaping tangle of glass noodles, and then you choose a main component. Beef, tofu and kimchi, spicy pork, chicken, or just extra noodles are all available. There’s also a fried chicken option that has its own sauces to choose from, but I’ve never personally tried it because chicken isn’t really my thing. After that, you choose a spice level from 1 to 10, which is accomplished using varying combinations of four different sauces: a sweet white creamy sauce, a less sweet brown BBQ sauce, an orange creamy and spicy sauce, and an angry red chili sauce. after that, you say whether or not you want a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and that’s it.
Add-ons are similarly simple. You can get a side of kimchi, or pay a couple of dollars for a trio of fried meat dumplings (sauce is available for these, but I usually just toss them into the bucket-o-goodness with everything else). I always get the dumplings. Always. Because if there’s a single food type I’m completely insane for, it’s dumplings. You know how sometimes someone will ask if you could only eat one kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? My answer is always dumplings, no hesitation. If they press for specifics, I’ll say dim sum. If they press for one specific dumpling, I usually get angry and point out how the person who said “pizza” wasn’t grilled like this despite all the myriad types of pizza, and that just leaves things kind of awkward and cements the fact that I suck at small talk.
But I digress. As to what I usually order, I pretty much go back and forth between the beef and the extra noodles. Those noodles are the only thing I warn people about when I recommend this place, because it’s an unfamiliar texture (think gelatinous) for a lot of people. I’ve tried most of the spice options between 2 and 7 (I believe the one pictured above is a 4), and have settled pretty happily at 5. That one stops just shy of using the naked chili sauce, and also omits the white sauce which is too plain and sweet for me and makes my dinner look like a bukkake victim.
*DISCLAIMER* – For fuck’s sake, DO NOT LOOK UP “BUKKAKE”. I almost went back and cut that joke, but I’m trying not to censor myself anymore because it takes a lot of the joy out of doing this. If you don’t know what it is, then you probably don’t need (and wouldn’t want) to. If you look it up, I take no responsibility. If you look it up when your friends, family, significant other, or (please, no) your children are around, you’re going to have some explaining to do. Look it up at work, and you could easily lose your job. You could wind up publicly shamed or in a physical altercation with a stranger if they happen to look over at your phone. That being said, I know some of you are going to HAVE to look it up now due to sheer sick, self-destructive, overwhelming curiosity, which is how I ended up looking it up myself years ago when I first heard the term. I feel your pain for I am one of you, but once again I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY, and any further research you do on the topic is at your own risk.
But I digress. Again. The point is that I freaking love me some Cupbop. In my ideal world, this is what fast food would look like. Not all healthy or all evil, fast, fresh, delicious, portable, and highly addictive. All they’re missing is a drive-through window. If you haven’t heard of them, you need to go check them out. If you have heard of them but haven’t checked them out, you need to go check them out. If you’ve checked them out but it’s been a while, you need to go back. I’m serious, people. This isn’t a game. I want them to be so overwhelmed with customers that they have no choice but to open more locations. I work in Nampa, so I could use one over there for lunch. Boise needs one or two (one uptown, one downtown) for when I’m running around over there. I pass through Eagle and Garden City fairly often, so locations there would be appreciated as well so I can grab some food along the way. While we’re at it, a second Meridian location on the other side of town would be appreciated since it would be even closer to home. What I’m saying is that I want one of these a few minutes away at all times so I can get to them easily when the craving hits. It’s bad enough that they’re closed on Sunday. I might even toss Facebook a few dollars to promote this review, not to bring attention to my site in general but to spread the joy of Cupbop. Come on, don’t look at me like that. I don’t need it, I just like it a lot. I’m not hurting anyone. I can quit anytime I want! I’ll prove it! I’m having a bad craving right now, but I’m not going to give in. YES, I KNOW IT’S SUNDAY! This conversation is over!