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East Idaho Eats: Cups of delicious Korean barbecue spreading across Idaho

East Idaho Eats

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Two bowls, Ugly Pop Bop and B Bop, prepared at Cupbop in Idaho Falls. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — “Shhhh … just eat.” “Eat Cupbop, poop gold.”

Junghun Song knew precious little English when he started serving cups of Korean barbecue out of his Salt Lake City-based food truck in 2013. Some of the odd phrases he used then have now become marketing slogans as his food spreads across Utah, Idaho, Nevada and Colorado.

Among the chain’s newest locations, the Idaho Falls Cupbop opened in November. Manager Kellie Barker told EastIdahoNews.com the reception thus far has been great, adding that future expansion in the Gem State is planned, including the newest location in Twin Falls.

In total, 50 new locations will be opening over the next three years, many in Idaho. And, as Barker said, each time a new Idaho location opens, any Idaho location, including Idaho Falls, offers free Cupbop cups.

As for the food itself, Cupbop is a fast-food, eat-on-the-go take on Korean barbecue — known for a combination of sweet and spicy, mixed with various textures.

Barker recommends the Rock Bop — a tangy fried chicken.

“Ask for it sloppy,” she added. “The more sauce, the better.”

Each Cupbop cup comes with a bed of sweet rice, sweet potato noodles and cabbage. The cabbage, Barker said, is more for texture. Customers will then choose a protein and a heat level, which decides the sauce combination. And each cup is topped with a piece of mandoo — fried potstickers.

While the food is tasty on its own, Cupbop offers more. As Barker explained, a Cupbop experience is exactly that: an experience.

Customers ordering or eating at Cupbop should expect to hear Cupbop employees loudly calling out orders to each other, embracing the energetic style of the country from which their food hails.

“I actually had a customer who thought we were yelling at him,” she said. “I had to explain to him that that’s just how we communicate, it’s part of the experience.”

Barker and her crew served me the Ugly Pop Bop. Bite-sized pieces of chicken breast, battered in gluten-free rice flour and deep-fried, the Ugly Chicken is quite good. Why “ugly” chicken? It’s simple, Barker said, “it just looks kinda ugly.”

As requested, I was served my cup at a five-spice level. While it was a little spicier than I had expected, a few bites in I realized that the sweetness of the rice had not been properly mixed in due to my own timid shaking.

A recommendation from Barker: don’t be shy about shaking before opening and enjoying your food. More shaking means better-mixed flavors.

East Idaho Eats: Cupbop

A bit of the Ugly Pop Bop. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

Barker also explained that customers can easily change the spice level. For bowls served a touch too hot, some level one sauce — soy sauce with sugar and seasoning — will tone it down.

The Idaho Falls location also features a drive-through, making an already quick and convenient meal even more so.

“The drive-through process is really quick and easy,” Barker said. “you drive up to the window and place your order, and you have your food in a minute or two.”

Cupbop of Idaho Falls is located at 3460 South 25th East, across the street from Broulim’s. Orders can be placed for pick-up or dine-in. They can also be delivered through DoorDash. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and is closed Sunday.

The Cupbop menu can be viewed here.

If you want to make a recommendation for the next destination to be included on East Idaho Eats, email Kalama@EastIdahoNews.com and include “EATS” in the subject line.

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