I heard downtown Houston had a tunnel system that connected all of the skyscrapers together as well as the some of the performing arts building on the West side. Well, its true, about 7 miles of underground tunnels exist and within those tunnels is what might be Houston’s best dumpling. Jury is still out but today’s excursion to Bao Z Dumpling was at least encouraging.
To get to Bao Z, just go to the Lamar St side of First City Tower at Fannin St, enter, take the big escalator to right down to the basement and viola, you have just entered the tunnel system. At the bottom, turn right and you will see the surprisingly long line in front of Boa Z.
You’re in the basement of a skyscraper at a kiosk in what is loosely a food court, what do you think? Grab your dumplings and either head outside to one of the shady parks or try to wedge into one of the few tables spread out in that part of the tunnel system.
I’ve been spoiled by Chinese in NYC and San Francisco so I’m usually disappointed with Chinese elsewhere. However, these are good dumplings, particularly the pan-fried pork variety. The filling for the pork dumpling is relatively simple – pork, lightly spiced. The casing is firm, holding itself together through my spastic chopstick maneuvers but not thick nor too chewy. The one sauce which is basically soy, vinegar with a varying amount of chili flake comes in three strengths: regular, spicy and “I dare you”
There are other items on the menu besides dumplings, like the requisite Chinese soups and a green onion pancake but who cares? The dumplings come in 4 flavors: chicken, pork, shrimp and veg. You can get them steamed or pan-fried. You can get them in a 6-pack, 12-pack or 18-pack. When you order a 12-pak you can mix 2 flavors, an 18-pack buys you 3 flavors. A 12-pack of steamed chicken dumplings has 300 calories, according to their menu.
The line is long but the ordering process is NYC efficient. From the time I entered the line, there were about 15 people ahead of me, until the time I received my 12-pack was 15 minutes.
12-pack of pork/chicken dumplings – $6
12-pack of pork/chicken dumpling plus a hot&sour soup and a medium drink – $7.50
A special note about operating hours – like most everything in the downtown Houston tunnel system, Bao Z is only open for lunch M-F, 11a-3p.
The downtown Houston oil crowd might think they have a lock-down on Bao Z but us kids from the Medical Center are coming back and we’re bringing our friends.
Lunch: 24 July 2013
Bao Z Dumplings | 1001 Fannin, Underground | Houston, TX 77002