Bento Cafe planned for ground floor of downtown St. Pete AER apartments

Next to Simple Greek, the pan-Asian kitchen and sushi joint joins the building's restaurant lineup.

click to enlarge Bento Cafe's customizable menu includes noodle and rice bowls, bento boxes and sushi. - Bento Cafe
Bento Cafe
Bento Cafe's customizable menu includes noodle and rice bowls, bento boxes and sushi.

A downtown St. Pete location for Bento Cafe is headed for the ground floor of the new AER apartment building. Near USF St. Petersburg and next to The Simple Greek at 330 Third St. S., the fast-casual pan-Asian kitchen and sushi joint — a first for Tampa Bay — has an anticipated opening of spring 2018.

As its name suggests, Bento is known for its single-portion meals called bento boxes, as well as other customizable, wallet-friendly menu items like rice and noodle dishes, sushi rolls, sashimi bowls and tea. Most of the eats range from $7 to $10.

"We've been eyeing the Tampa Bay market for a few years now," said Bento Group owner Johnny Tung in a statement. "Specifically, the downtown development boom in St. Petersburg has been amazing to watch. The growing business district, residential condo boom, nearby USF St. Petersburg campus, and the notable hospitals make the area a thriving market."

The 2,700-square-foot St. Pete outpost is the 11th for the Orlando-based restaurant brand, which operates throughout the state in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando and South Florida. Local diners can look forward to 80 seats with outdoor patio seating, lunch and dinner service, and the option of takeout.

With expansion plans that include several Florida restaurants, Bento is also scouting two Tampa locations in the USF and South Tampa areas.

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