Flatiron Lunch: Your First Look at the Newly Open Baorrito
Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays? Answer… how about a column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Every week we post about a lunch in Murray Hill south, Gramercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or to make it easy: Flatiron Lunch.
It’s clearly opening season in the Flatiron Lunch boundaries. Every week it seems like we’ve got another new food option. This week, it’s Michael ‘Bao’ Hyunh’s Asian burrito joint Baorrito, which he transformed the Baoguette on 3rd Avenue into just days ago. We’ve talked a lot about the dream of Mexican and Asian foods brought together for a while now, but for one reason or another it hasn’t quite gotten here in New York. Some have come close (Zach still swears by the original Ssam Bar concept!), but nothing has really approached that holy grail… the Kogi BBQ Truck. If anyone is really going to take it there, it might very well be Bao, the maker of the Banh Mi-palooza winning Vietnamese sandwich.
I’d never been to the old Baoguette that was in here, but it sounds like the space hasn’t been touched except to change up the menus posted and the signage. It’s bigger than the Lexington Avenue branch, with a good amount of room for folks to eat in. Since I missed the lunch rush, I can’t say how packed it is at lunch, but around 6pm, there weren’t too many people there and there was room for about a dozen people to sit and eat while still accommodating for a line.
The menu reads like a wishlist of delicious meats offered wrapped in hard or soft shell tacos, burritos, salads and bowls. The fillings are all variations on Asian flavors, not limited to Vietnamese or even Southeast Asian, but also Korean, like in the bibim Bao, which has bulgogi, kimchi and a fried quail egg.
That was one of the soft tacos ($3.50 + .75 with egg) I ordered, left. The beef was thickly sliced and well marinated and the yolk of the sunny side up egg made a fine addition to the rest of the sauces mixed in it.
I also had the spicy braised short rib, which, despite not being particularly spicy was still pretty great. The meat was more shredded than the bulgogi and were topped with a creamy and tart combination of horseradish and creme fraiche
I never get hard tacos. They remind me of the days of Old El Paso frozen taco shells before quality soft tacos were available. But in the name of research I decided to try one taco in the hard shell just to see what it was like. The tortilla was crispy and fresh and, I must say, was pretty satisfying to bite into for that great crunch.
Better though was the filling I had with it. Probably my favorite of them so far, the Basil Beef has lemongrass-scented ground beef, sweet and warm, and even if it wasn’t super spicy, it still had a nice bite that I appreciated.
Speaking of the spices provided, I have to sayI was surprised at how mild everything was (although it was their first day.) When I got my food, I was told that they had a green mango salsa and a hot habañero based sauce. The first was sweet and mild, but the other wasn’t much spicier. I gingerly added each to the tacos and in the end found that while both tasted good, neither was actually very hot. Next time, I’ll be more heavy handed.
Baorrito’s namesake burritos ($7) are clearly on my radar for my next visit, but off to the side of the menu there are plenty of other options I haven’t even begun to consider. Crispy pork quesadillas ($8) and mole chicken wings ($8) won’t be too far behind, that’s for certain.
Thus far, everything I’ve had was so tasty that it’ll take an effort to avoid the same things my next time there. That said, it shouldn’t take too much arm twisting to convince me to try a burrito filled with pulled pork and Asian barbecue sauce. Two days after opening is hardly the time for a final verdict on Baorrito, but I have to say it seems really promising… which means I’ll most likely be back again and again to…uh… you know… thoroughly survey the selection. You know, for science.
Baorrito, 241 Third Ave at 20th St, 212.228.5500