BELLEVUE, Wash. — On a busy corner in Bellevue, there's a place to fuel up that will make you as happy as its smiley face logo. Especially if you love Korean Barbecue.
"O'Bop is the name of the restaurant inside a Shell gas station here at 148th and Main Street in Bellevue,” said Ellie Oh, the owner and operator of both the restaurant and the gas station. “We serve rice bowls with meat and veggie and noodle toppings — it's a very easy way to enjoy Korean BBQ.”
She knows it’s a bit unusual to serve rice bowls at a fuel stop.
"Many of the customers mention that it is weird to see a restaurant inside of a gas station."
She has a good reason for making Korean home cooking at her station.
"I came to the U.S. seven years ago and we started gas station business and then we had hot food inside but then it was highly processed food and I thought I could do better," Oh said.
And she does — an O'Bop bowl beats chips and candy hands down. Their bowls are B Bop (beef), Chi Bop (chicken), and Po Bop (pork.) There's a noodle bowl, and a vegetarian bowl with tofu and kimchi as well.
"B Bop is most popular, our ribeye is marinated ahead of time then seared in a wok so it's juicy and tender, then it's served on top of rice fluffy rice," Oh said.
Everything here is less than 10 dollars — and there's even something on the menu that you can get for less than a gallon of unleaded (at the time of this writing) — three mandoo (potstickers) will set you back around three bucks.
Josh Dereano and his son Zach stopped in to get lunch — Josh says his son likes O’Bop for the meat-free offerings since he’s a vegetarian.
"He has me come here every day after school and I've even tried it, it's good,” Josh said.
“I like the sauce, I also like the noodles a lot, and I like how there's a crispy salad in there,” Zach said.
The sauces are all made by Oh and spice level can vary from nothing to OHMYGOODNESS based on the mix she puts on top. The noodles that go into the bowls are transparent Korean sweet potato noodles, and are delicious.
Ellie says she can whip up a filling bowl of fresh, hot Korean fare in the amount of time it takes to fill up an empty gas tank. Which makes O’Bop a perfect fuel stop.