Restaurant News & Reviews

These bao buns have a cult following. And you’ll soon be able to buy them in SLO

Another local restaurant is moving into a brick-and-mortar location at the incoming San Luis Obispo Public Market.

Bing’s Bao Buns, which offers dim sum, bao buns and Korean-style fried chicken, is slated to open at the marketplace at the corner of Tank Farm Road and South Higuera Street by the end of the year, according to Shala Schultz, SLO Public Market’s senior operations manager.

Bao buns are steamed rolls with meat or other filling inside.

Bing’s Bao Buns offerings include Dungeness crab buns, char siu pork buns and breakfast buns, which are filled with sausage, scrambled eggs, chorizo and ground beef, served with a Thai chili maple dipping syrup.

The restaurant also offers vegan buns, which are typically stuffed with three varieties of mushrooms, kale and carrots — though that changes based off what’s fresh and available.

Owners Mike and Sam Whittaker have also recently created a Cubano bun, and are working on dessert options.

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Bing’s Bao Buns, which offers dim sum, Korean-style food and the aforementioned bao buns, is scheduled to open at the SLO Public Market by the end of the year. Shannon McMillen Photography Courtesy of SLO Public Market

“All of our buns have a fun little spin on them, they are far from traditional,” Sam Whittaker said in an email to The Tribune.

Whittaker said her favorite dishes at the restaurant are Korean fried chicken, carnitas taco buns and Thai basil beef. The latter is served both in bun form and by itself with rice or noodles.

Bing’s Bao Buns will be located in the market hall, which will feature traditional stalls. The business will occupy a 450-square-foot space surrounded by other food tenants, Schultz said.

Customers will walk up to their counter to order food and then will be able to eat in a common area.

Since the Whittakers currently grow some of their own spices to ensure freshness, they’re thinking of starting a garden onsite at the market, Schultz said.

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Bing’s Bao Buns is scheduled to open at San Luis Obispo Public Market in San Luis Obispo by the end of 2019. Shannon McMillen Photography Courtesy of SLO Public Market

How did Bing’s Bao Buns start?

The Whittakers moved to San Luis Obispo from the East Coast in 2015, and found their new home was lacking the Asian foods they loved.

“We frequented dim sum restaurants in New Jersey. We also had a great little Korean restaurant that introduced us to Korean fried chicken,” Sam Whittaker said. “Both of those food types were things we greatly missed, so Mike just started to make them for fun.”

Sam Whittaker started posting photos of the food to her Instagram, and her coworkers and friends started asking to try the dishes.

Bing’s Bao Buns grew from that, and has a devoted online following — which cheered the restaurant’s announcement about their new location.

“It’s really heartwarming to see the community accept and welcome us the way that they have,” Whittaker said.

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Bing’s Bao Buns is scheduled to open at San Luis Obispo Public Market in San Luis Obispo by the end of 2019 Shannon McMillen Photography Courtesy of SLO Public Market

What’s next for the restaurant

Whittaker said she and her husband had been looking for a location when SLO Public Market reached out to them on social media almost a year ago.

“Our biggest struggle was being unable to serve the number of people who reached out to us on a daily basis due to space constraints,” Whittaker wrote. “We are really excited to introduce our food to everyone who’s been messaging, commenting and emailing us for the past 2 years!”

The eatery joins 11 other businesses that have signed on as commercial tenants at the marketplace. They include Sugar Lips Mini Donuts, which was formerly a food truck.

The other merchants committed are: Central Coast Creamery, Bottlecraft, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., High Street Market & Deli, Kraken Coffee Company, Mixed Co. (Krobar Craft Distillery and Yes Cocktail Co.), Negranti Creamery, The Neighborhood Acai and Juice Bar and Orangetheory Fitness; The Yoga Standard and Stafford’s Chocolates.

Tribune reporter Nick Wilson contributed to this story.

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