Here, Eat This

Houston's Best Sandwiches: Memphis and Duck Baos at Fat Bao

Sometimes you gotta pick two: the Memphis (left) and the Duck (center) are amazing little Asian sliders at Fat Bao.
Sometimes you gotta pick two: the Memphis (left) and the Duck (center) are amazing little Asian sliders at Fat Bao. Photo by Jeff Balke
We are in search of Houston's best sandwiches because we love sandwiches and we love Houston!

One of the great things about those spreads they put out at happy hours and luncheons is you can choose little bits of a lot of things. Sure, I might stand right next to the baked brie and baguette all night, but that doesn't mean I won't grab a handful of nuts or a few slices of deli meats.

The great thing about Fat Bao is you don't have to choose a single sandwich and hope you got it right. These little Asian sliders—gua bao or bao for short—only need a few bites to go down, but that's the beauty of it; if you want more of the same, cool, if not, mix and match.

On my visit, I grabbed three different options from a list of just under 20. All come on the steamed buns, which are soft and a little spongy. It's hard to describe if you have never had one, but they are delicious and don't have a ton of flavor on their own, allowing them to soak up whatever goodness is stuffed inside. I chose three, but ultimately settled on the two below (the Big Byrd in the photo to the right was also very good, but not quite as the ones below).

The Memphis is one of the more unique offerings on the extensive slider menu. It comes with braised pork belly—full disclosure: I almost can't turn pork belly down when offered—an Asian-style slaw, spicy mayonnaise and green onions. First, the belly is rich, unctuous and slightly seasoned. It has enough chew to sink your teeth into, but it's more than tender enough on the bun. The slaw has a sharp tang of vinegar to mimic that Memphis-style (the city, not the bao) coleslaw so often served with barbecue in Tennessee.

But, it's the spicy mayo that really brings it home and ties the whole thing together. The sweetness from the pork and the snap of that slaw and green onions balance really well against the creamy, mild spice of that mayonnaise. It really is spectacular.

Having said all that, the Memphis has an Asian-inspired theme, but if you want to go full on, the Duck is your option. The duck itself is fall-apart tender and moist. It comes with pickled cucumber, green onions and hoisin sauce. The thick, sweet hoisin is a perfect complement to the rich duck. The pickled cucumber and the green onions give it zip. The whole damn thing is soft and sweet and tangy and ridiculously good.

And if you aren't feeling duck, you can get the Pork Belly, which is identical to the Duck, but with the same braised pork belly that comes on the Memphis. But, go for the duck, seriously.

If you have never had a bao before, go get one (or three). You'll have a new sandwich to love for life.

If you have a sandwich you think is one of the best in town, hit us up. We're always looking for new options.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke