Bento With Your Frappuccino? BadAss Coffee’s Unexpected Addition to Their Drive-Thru Menu
Last Monday, two fatigued and famished drivers pulled up to BadAss Coffee, a drive-thru on Medford’s Crater Lake Avenue. A bold-lettered “Bento” sign, displayed by a sandwich board on the sidewalk, beckons with an arrow towards the small coffee shack. A cartoony mural of adventurous bikers adorns the wall of the bike shop parallel the drive-thru, and the scene, in combination with the warm weather, had the two travelers craving cold drinks. And, they supposed, warm bento. As unexpected as the advertisement of Japanese cuisine from a Hawaiian coffee shop seems, it turns out the combo kind of works.
BadAss’s bright and beachy palm tree façade stands out like a beacon for the travel weary, in need of a pick-me-up. Although part of a franchise of BadAsses, this coffee stand has an aged look of character—obviously up kept and well-established where it is. At the window, warm greetings from baristas (slash bento cooks) give the feeling of a family operated business. In fact, Shelia Baker and her son Steve Furst are the local owners.
Drive thru-ers (or walk thru-ers) may first be dazzled by Oodalolly Lattes and Lava Java Frappuccinos, before un-caffeinated eyes find the small bento menu taped to the top right of the window. Teriyaki chicken, veggies, or tofu over brown or jasmine rice—with teriyaki, Sriracha, and sweet chili sauce on the side—are offered for seven dollars each. And, the seemingly out of place barbeque, tucked behind the stand, supports the ‘Bento made fresh daily’ claim at the bottom of the menu.
Gloopiness and crunchiness are common curses of rice cooking gone wrong, but BadAss’s brown and jasmine rice fell prey to neither. The chicken, cut small and charbroiled, is likely difficult to keep moist. But, a generous slathering of the house-made teriyaki sauce gave some sweet life to the freshly grilled meat. Thinly sliced yellow and orange carrots, broccoli, and snap peas—steamed—kept their flavor and crunch, to be both satisfying and filling. Sriracha and chili sauce provided some necessary oomph (and color) to the otherwise un-spiced meat and rice.
Noted by one twenty-something drive-thru diner, as a testament to the quick simplicity of the bento boxes, “I could easily scarf this down in my car before work.” Don’t expect lavishness of a meal made fresh in minutes—while waiting in the car. Do expect well cooked, filling, and easy to please food, that is much healthier than some alternative drive thru options. And, for the very hungry, very late, or semi-impatient, calling ahead for an expedited order is always an option.
Steve Furst, BadAss’s part owner, is the one likely to be found grilling chicken out back. He says expanding the scant bento menu is in the future, if its popularity sustains. “I want to add steak as an option,” Furst said, “but it’s hard to get quality meat.” A success story of the 2008 recession, BadAss stood its ground in the birthplace of drive-thru giant, Dutch Bros.
After 12 years, innovation is part of what has kept BadAss afloat. “People think of us as just coffee,” says Furst. Trying out bento proves BadAss’s ability to think outside the box (by serving food in a box). At the BadAss drive-thru, bento is served Monday through Friday, from 11:30 am to 2 pm (or 2ish), according to Furst, “If we’re here, we’ll cook it.”