It was nearing one o’clock on a Thursday when I saw it: a Facebook notification inviting me to like a new page—something I’d usually ignore, but the name piqued my interest. Chinese, possibly? I clicked. A picture promised two Asian sliders plus a green papaya salad and a can of soda for $10.
I hadn’t eaten anything yet. I grabbed my photographer.
Foo Bao (福包 or Lucky Bun, which was helpfully written on a chalkboard sign outside) is tucked into the Beach Theatre complex next to Zoe’s Cape Cafe. We caught them on their second day of business, before their indoor sign was even on the wall. A young server and the chef were behind the counter and welcomed us, asking how we’d heard of them.
I told them we were friends with the person who managed their Facebook page and had snuck out of our office. From behind me, someone thanked us. A few moments later, I was finally shaking hands with a person I’ve communicated with solely by email for years—Amy Kao, who used to manage SeaSalt Restaurant at the Ocean Club. She and her husband Lulzim Rexhepi (the chef behind the counter, also formerly of SeaSalt) recently took over Rhythm of the Sea B&B and Zoe’s Cape Cafe. As it turns out, they’re also behind Foo Bao.
I’d been prepped to order since leaving the office, but they were out of the tofu and duck fillings I’d been hoping to try, so I ordered the pineapple-chili aioli shrimp and sesame chili chicken instead. Michelle ordered the Asian BBQ pork and chicken. There was a variety of canned soda in a cooler—we had our pick. It was a tidy $20 flat for the two of us.
Foo Bao is a takeout restaurant, although there is a skinny counter inside against their windows where we suspect you could stand to eat. We decided to sit outside in the shade, enjoying a breeze off the ocean. The packaging was a nice surprise. The to-go containers are thick fiber, not styrofoam; the utensils are bamboo chopsticks. Our soda cans would later go into a recycling bin. (The Thai iced tea does come in plastic cups with plastic straws, but they’re in the process of sourcing paper straws.)
Curious, we opened the containers. The sliders were nestled on one half and beside them was the Thai green papaya salad. I started on the salad first. It didn’t taste anything like orange papaya, though a Google search confirmed that green papaya is indeed the unripened version of the same fruit. This was light and fresh, flavorful with a whisper of heat. It reminded me of jicama, but not as dry. I devoured it and started it on the sandwiches.
My first observation was that the buns were not like any bun I’d ever had. These were pale like unbaked dough, pillow-soft and fluffy. When Amy and Lu came out to see how we were enjoying our food, I asked what they were. Lu said they were steamed buns, which would traditionally be round and filled with pork, but cut in half, they are faster to prepare. (This sliced variant is Taiwanese. Amy described them as a “deconstructed version” of a traditional Chinese bun. They are made from wheat, for those gluten sensitive among you.)
The sandwiches were fantastic. I ate the shrimp one first. There were several large pieces tossed in aioli—too many to fit onto the bun, so I picked them up with the chopsticks when they tumbled into the container. The chicken was also delicious, but I’ll probably get a double order of shrimp next time (unless the duck is available). It was just that good.
We were done eating in ten minutes and took a few to relax, both commenting that we were satisfied but didn’t feel we’d overeaten. If you’re a hearty eater, you might want to add an additional bun to your order, but we were happy with how much we’d eaten for what you could easily spend on a sandwich somewhere else.
For now, Foo Bao is cash only but there’s an ATM machine on site. Their current menu is the $10 two-bun + soda combo, a single bun or side salad, soda by the can, and Thai beverages: iced tea (we highly recommend), coffee, or limeade. Lu is considering adding Vietnamese banh mi sliders and possibly dessert to the menu, but for now they’re keeping it simple.
You can follow Foo Bao on Facebook for updates and visit them seven days a week in the summer at 713 Beach Avenue.