The window contraption goes up around 7 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. It fits snugly into a kitchen door otherwise belonging to The Takeaway, a daytime deli in Over-the-Rhine. Then Boom Box Buns begins its delectable, evanescent bao bun service. They sell ‘em until they run out; rarely does the supply last more than a few hours.
It’s a nonstop effort. It can’t be a frantic one. Bao buns are notoriously soft, fluffy, and temperamental. From the moment they begin proofing to the time they’re cut and steamed in bamboo, the process requires persistent attention and a delicate, precise touch. The flip side is a dense, wilted dough that’s about as appetizing as a shoe insole.
These buns are not that. A portion of Boom Box’s toppings include:
- Pork: Chinese barbecue pork loin served with pickled radishes, hoisin, and ground peanuts
- Beef: black pepper beef braised for several hours in soy, hoisin, and miring served with crispy shallots and shiso
- Chicken: caramelized chicken thigh with Fresno chilis, cilantro, and fried chicken skin
- Vegetarian: sweet potato poached in dashi stock, breaded, fried, and served with sriracha mayo and green onions
The ingredients and preparations serve as a rebuke to the idea that late-night food can’t be high quality. Engineering that rebuke is Chef Nathan Friday, for whom the work constitutes something of a moonlighting affair from his day job as sous chef at Please OTR.
Boom Box Buns' buns are superb. The textures are spot-on, the flavors are out-of-this-world, and for $4 you'd be hard-pressed to do better in Over-the-Rhine.
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Boom Box Buns is located at 1324 Main Street (45202).