Fat Bao: Bao Wow

Upper Kirby's Fat Bao offers delicious Chinese dough wrapped around savory and sweet fillings and now with lowered prices.

The pork belly bao — the most basic of the bao on the menu and the most strongly reminiscent of classic gua bao — contains far too much hoisin sauce, which makes the sandwich too sweet and causes the bun to tear apart like a wet paper towel. And this latter issue crops up far too often on the overdressed bao. Far superior are the ones that balance the ingredients more carefully, such as the fried fish with its graceful topping of apples and its barely-there spread of spicy mayo, or the fried sticks of tofu with pickled cucumbers and more of that tangy mayonnaise.

The sides can suffer from this, too, as with the FAT fries that are absolutely coated with cilantro, onions, kimchi-infused mayonnaise and your choice of bulgogi or pork belly. Don't do this to yourself. The twiggy little fries at Fat Bao are so impeccable on their own that the FAT version is a nearly offensive gilding of the lily. Over the course of a few visits, they've quickly become some of my favorite frites in town, right up there with those at Bernie's Burger Bus and The Burger Guys.

Ditto the chips, which are also house-cut and homemade and are mandolined into such paper-thin slices that it's a wonder they never burn in the fryer but always emerge perfectly crispy and with just the right touch of rough sea salt. I recommend dipping both in Fat Bao's "kimcheenaise" dip, which is one of the instances in which the restaurant gets over-the-top wonderfully right.

The Memphis bao (l) and Bigbyrd bao are two of Fat Bao's best.
Troy Fields
The Memphis bao (l) and Bigbyrd bao are two of Fat Bao's best.

Location Info


Fat Bao

3419 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Lower Shepherd-Kirby


Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Tofu bao: $3
Memphis bao: $3.50
New Yorker bao: $4
Crab Daddy bao: $5
Avocado chips: $5
Homemade chips: $3
Banana Nutella bao: $3

Read More:

Blog: Banana + Nutella Is a No-Fail Combination: Our 13 Favorite Examples in Houston
Slideshow: Bao Wow at Fat Bao in Upper Kirby

I also appreciate the fact that you can order other sides here that aren't potato-based, whether it be a curry-laced plate of fried cauliflower that's arresting in both scent and flavor or panko-crusted avocado slices deep-fried and served with jalapeño mayonnaise. There are also two versions of edamame (steamed or sautéed in spices) and two different salads for the truly health-conscious.

But you're not eating here to be health-conscious. You're eating here because you want some delicious Chinese dough wrapped around some fun, silly ingredients. So don't forget dessert: You'll be kicking yourself if you don't save room for the Nutella- and banana-stuffed bao.

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My Voice Nation Help

We've been going here since early February - and my family absolutely loves the food. The thing is you really don't need more than 2 bao to make a very filling and fun meal. Completely agree on the skinny fries, they are perfectly done. 

My favorite, hands down, is the duck bao, although my kids would argue that the soft shell crab and smoked salmon bao are much better. While it is counter service, the staff will check on you constantly. The site is nice and cozy. 

The only suggestion I would make is actually the front glass of the restaurant - the lower part needs to be obscured somehow so that when cars pull into parking spaces, you aren't blinded by the headlights coming into the restaurant. It's a minor irritation at a place that is otherwise comfortable, friendly, and very very tasty.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Sounds like a Chinese version of Torchy's.  Right down to the good sounding, but poorly executed menu items.

gossamersixteen topcommenter

@FattyFatBastard I hope you're wrong on that, and oddly my experiences at torchys aside from being 10 deep in line with beard-o hipsters and the awful cock rock metal soundtrack have been pretty good.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@Ogden They seem very overpriced, as well.  But so does Torchy's.  Remember, they're in the same prime Kirby Real Estate that houses Taco Cabana, an old Bennigan's and others and the prices there were no different from the other of their chains.  Perhaps the others could absorb the costs vs their other locations, but the lease is only one of the many operations of business, and should only require them to increase enough to earn an additional $100/day over Chinatown based on the leases in both areas.  Hardly justification for charging double what the others are.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@jerrica.aldridge I looked up the lease prices regarding Chinatown & Kirby.  Roughly 2-3,000 per month for the same square footage in difference.  That was where I came up with the differential in cost.  As to TC being crap, to each their own, but it wouldn't be there if the fees were as egregious as this article assumes them to be.   


@fattyfatbastard one thing you seem to have missed is that neither torchy's nor fat Bao are chains and therefore cannot afford to serve food at such low prices. Not to mention those chains you speak of serve crap and call it food.