When my teenage daughters want a special treat, they send me to Hannaford. For sushi.

The Bento Sushi counter at our neighborhood Hannaford supermarket, on Cottage Road in South Portland, has been our go-to treat destination for years. For just about any special occasion, from the first day of school to graduation, the sushi from our regular supermarket is top of mind with us.

As a family, we love sushi and going out for sushi at sit-down restaurants. But my daughters say they prefer the sushi we get at Hannaford. I enjoy how convenient it is. I can pick it up while doing a full week’s groceries or just grabbing a few essentials (beer, perhaps).

The other night, I went to the sushi counter – which is near the bakery and the deli – to get dinner for my family and one of my daughter’s friends. The chef on duty made me two spicy salmon rolls ($7.99 each), plus a spicy tuna roll and a plain tuna roll ($7.99 each). I also got a vegetable California roll with brown rice for $5.99.

This spicy salmon roll was made on request at the Bento Sushi counter in the Mill Creek Hannaford supermarket in South Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

As I waited the five or 10 minutes to have the rolls made, a few other people grabbed items from the display case. Besides lots of kinds of sushi and rolls, there are dumplings and spring rolls, too.

Each roll was cut into nine pieces – rice on the outside, fish and other fillings on the inside – and came in its own plastic container. The spicy ones had sauce artfully drizzled over the top. Each came with some slices of fresh ginger, a dollop of wasabi and a packet of soy sauce. There were also chopsticks at the counter for the taking.

The sushi rolls were flavorful, and my younger daughter liked the texture of her spicy salmon roll a lot. She sometimes finds it too chewy at other places.

The sushi counter at Hannaford is run by Bento Sushi, which staffs more than 935 counter-type locations around North America, including at grocery stores, colleges, hospitals, airports and malls, according to its website. There are 35 Bento Sushi locations in Hannaford stores in Maine, and one is slated to open soon at the University of Southern Maine, said Zaw Sein, who supervises operations in the state. You can find other Maine locations at bentosushi.com.

You can grab sushi to go or have it made to order at Bento Sushi in the Mill Creek Hannaford in South Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

The Bento Sushi locations are staffed by a chef, working at the counter for all to see. In my Hannaford store, the primary chef is Yeshi Khendrup, a native of Tibet who was a sushi chef in San Francisco before coming to Maine. He’s usually there before the store opens and works most of the day, taking breaks in the middle of the day, then resuming his post until 5 or 6 p.m. Of course sushi and other food is available to grab from the display case anytime the store is open.

Often I can’t find my daughters’ favorite – spicy salmon rolls – already prepared, but most times I’m there when the chef is in. I just ask for what I want and get it in minutes. Sometimes I put in an order, then go do my shopping and come back later.

My daughters like the fact that Bento Sushi comes in its own convenient package, just the right size to fit in a lunch box or backpack. We’ve also bought Bento Sushi rolls and packed them in a cooler for picnics and long road trips.

Our usual road trip fare is salami sandwiches or bagels. So we only get sushi from Hannaford for a treat. But because of the relatively low cost and convenience, it’s a treat we can get more often than most.

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