The owner of Juno Japanese Sushi Garden in Bend opened her first restaurant in the Century Village Shopping Center back in 2013. She closed shop in 2018 and took a break before looking for a new location, which she happened upon after meeting the owner of The Podski, the outdoor food cart lot on Arizona Avenue across from the Box Factory.
"There are a lot of customers from my other restaurant who are now coming here," explained Michi (who requested that we skip using her surname), in an interview with the Source. "For years I worked in different sushi restaurants around Bend. I developed my own views on service, and so I opened my own Japanese restaurant. I try to set the prices lower than people might find at other restaurants, so that sushi can be enjoyed casually. It's a healthy choice, and I want to make it more accessible."
At Juno Japanese Sushi Garden, I was able to split three filling rolls with my ever-hungry boyfriend for under $30. Affordable sushi is hard to come by. Sushi that is affordable—plus fresh and delicious—is even more of an anomaly.
In the age of coronavirus (and abundant takeout), Michi's text-to-order option makes the overall experience even more accessible. "People can order through text or at the window," she explained. "Everything is made to order, so if someone chooses to text me their order a few hours before they pick it up, they won't have to wait. People can also pre-order a large amount, like a platter. If they text me the day before or a couple of days before, I will have it ready to go when they stop by."
The convenience isn't the only thing that sets Juno apart. "I use a combination of white and brown rice in my rolls," Michi explained. "This gives it a unique taste and makes it less dense than other sushi rice. It doesn't settle together quite as much, so you're getting fewer carbohydrates. It isn't quite as sweet. I go shopping every day to make sure that all of my ingredients are fresh. There's more on the menu than sushi; I make Udon noodles, Soba noodles, I have mussels, seaweed salad." The variety is impressive, considering Michi is quite literally the only chef in the kitchen, and operates the restaurant with only one employee.
As with any food cart pod, the variety in food options (along with the outdoor seating) makes it an ideal choice for groups with varied food tastes. Currently, The Podski is home to Earl-n-Mabel (modern comfort food), Big Ski's Pierogis (traditional Polish flavor bombs), Board in Bend (charcuterie for every palate), East Meets West (fusion food and art), The Tin Pig (best fried chicken sando in town), Thailandia (spicy level 3, please), Tacos la Catrina (Mexican street food), Toasty (a vegan's dream) and of course, Juno, the latest addition to the family.
Lunch-goers can grab a beer from the indoor bar and claim a socially distanced picnic table outside, enjoying the summer sunshine over a pint. Michi noted that being a part of The Podski community did, in fact, feel like being part of a family. "Everyone here is very nice, very friendly," she said. "It makes for a very fun place to spend time."
Juno Japanese Sushi Garden
Inside of Podski
536 NW Arizona Ave, Bend
Text order requests to: 808-226-7369