Bao Shoppe Brings Toppings-Packed Steamed Buns to Steinway Street
ASTORIA — A new eatery on Steinway Street is serving up uniquely flavored steamed bun sandwiches, with a menu that will rotate with the seasons, according to the owner.
The Bao Shoppe opened about two weeks ago at 30-66 Steinway St., near 31st Avenue, a casual Asian sandwich shop where chef and owner Johnny Shek said he wanted to offer heartier versions of the traditional bao.
"We wanted something a little more filling, I guess. That’s why we decided to put different toppings in it — the slaw, the salad — make it more of a well-rounded meal," Shek said.
"Most of the buns you get, they put a piece of lettuce, cucumber, call it a day. We wanted to make it a little more fun, to put different combinations."
Combinations on the current opening menu include a traditional braised pork belly bao — what Shek calls "the old standby" — as well as more unusual options, like smoked brisket served with coleslaw and fresh pickles.
Other choices include a marinated Korean rib-eye served with kimchi, a vegetarian bao that comes with crispy fried tofu with daikon slaw or another with barbecue meatloaf.
"I like to experiment," Shek said.
The eatery is the first the 34-year-old has owned. A longtime Queens resident, Shek worked previously at his family's restaurants in Flushing and honed his cooking skills at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan.
He said he likes to test out different flavors for sandwiches, marinating his meats in different spices. His smoked brisket and pulled pork are cooked for hours in a smoker, and he's planning on developing more vegetarian bao options to add to the menu.
The menu also includes sides like curry French fries, as well as "Shoppe Fries" topped with kimchi, daikon, spicy mayo and barbeque sauce, or the "Biggie Fries," that come with all of those toppings plus your choice of meat.
The Bao Shoppe also serves a medley of milk bubble teas, plus several different homebrewed green and black tea drinks with flavors like lychee and white peach.
Shek says the food menu will change with the seasons, and he's working on several summer options, including the possibility of crab cake and fried oyster bao.
"We keep on trying to rotate the menu," he said. "Summer is coming we want to make sure we have more seafood options."
The Bao Shoppe is located at 30-66 Steinway St. in Astoria. Its current hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The shop is closed on Mondays.