Bao'd Up owners hope to make the traditional Chinese steamed buns a household name in Austin

Alex Wu (left) and Kevin Tran stand, social distanced, outside of Bao'd Up in Sunset Valley. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Alex Wu (left) and Kevin Tran stand, social distanced, outside of Bao'd Up in Sunset Valley. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Alex Wu (left) and Kevin Tran stand, social distanced, outside of Bao'd Up in Sunset Valley. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
Bao'd Up's interior features an original mural. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bao’d Up owner Alex Wu is on a mission to make bao—a traditional Chinese food consisting of a slow-cooked filling inside a sealed, steamed bun—an Austin go-to like tacos.

In 2017, Wu opened his first store in East Austin, and last fall he expanded into Sunset Valley with his third spot. After almost four years in operation, he said he has introduced the soft, handheld and mess-free bun to the Austin community.

While bao is not a food often seen in the United States, Wu said it is something he has known and depended on his whole life.

“It’s kind of part of our life. We grew up eating it, and now our kids love eating it,” Wu said.To make bao feel more familiar, Wu has been innovative with his menu. While the steamed bun itself is authentic and the store offers traditional Asian seasonings and fillings, he said he added brisket, barbecue and buffalo chicken bao varieties. Also, Bao’d Up introduced a pan-fried bao, which gives the fluffy steamed bun a slightly crisp outside.

“You can put a lot of different flavors in it to try to attract customers and make it more accessible, convenient and still delicious,” he said. “I guess our goal is so that in the future, we don’t have to explain what bao is. It just becomes its own food category as we’re opening more locations in Austin.”


Bao’d Up Director of Operations Kevin Tran said COVID-19 has impacted business at locations closer to downtown, as students stayed off campus and offices have closed. The restaurants have continued to serve food for pickup and to go, but dining rooms have not yet reopened due to safety concerns.However, Tran said the Sunset Valley Homestead location has continued to grow through its first year.

“It’s really special here because South Austin is pretty diverse,” said Tran, who grew up in the neighborhood. “There’s a lot of families, young and old couples, and cultures, and the community is very supportive.”

By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


MOST RECENT

Local Austin act the Peterson Brothers perform at the historic Continental Club in 2019. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council experiment could send $15 million in hotel taxes to 'iconic' music venues, restaurants

The move represents the latest attempt by the city to save live music venues and restaurants that are struggling through the pandemic.

A proposed mixed-use development at the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center in Southwest Austin would invest $1 billion over a decade and could start construction in 2022 or 2023. (Rendering courtesy Lionheart Places/WP Visions LLC San Antonio)
$1 billion development project on its way to Southwest Austin along Barton Creek Greenbelt

The project would include 3 million square feet of hotel, residential, office, retail and restaurant space along with 13.7 acres of green space.

Early voting opens Dec. 3 for runoff elections for Austin City Council and the Austin ISD board of trustees. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin runoff elections: Who is on the ballot, where to vote and when polls are open

Polls open at 7 a.m. Dec. 3 for early voting in the runoff election. Two Austin City Council positions and two Austin ISD board seats are open.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Dec. 2 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allotted 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the state of Texas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First allotment of COVID-19 vaccinations expected to arrive in Texas in mid-December

About 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been allotted to the state of Texas and will arrive the week of Dec. 14.

Frontyard Brewing opened Nov. 14 in Spicewood. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
New brewery opens in Spicewood and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community updates from Central Texas.

Traffic moves along the upper decks of I-35 near downtown Austin on Dec. 1. The Texas Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback on a $4.9 billion project to improve the 8-mile stretch of I-35 through downtown. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT is spending billions to fix I-35 through downtown Austin, but some community members say the state is wrong in its approach

A report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released Dec. 1 said the 8-mile stretch of I-35 from Hwy. 290 to SH 71 is the most congested roadway in the state.

Pravo Construction opened a new headquarters at Two Barton Skyway, 1601 MoPac, Austin, on Nov. 1. (Courtesy CBRE)
Now open in Austin: New coffee shop, offices and medical clinics arrive south of river

New businesses operating in Austin include MilkRun, which delivers dairy, meat, produce and other products from local farmers to customers at home.

Graphic of a coronavirus unit
COVID-19 rates after Thanksgiving have yet to climb, but experts say spike could still be coming

As Austin awaits a vaccine whose first doses could arrive by the end of 2020, health officials say the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on the spread of the virus could take time to show up.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has launched a campaign to address declining college enrollment numbers across the state since the pandemic started. (Courtesy Pexels)
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launches campaign to boost college enrollment

The decline in college enrollment across the state of Texas has prompted several agencies to partner up and create online resources for students and counselors.

Photo of a hand dropping a ballot in a box
Candidates for Austin City Council District 10 face off ahead of Dec. 15 runoff

Incumbent Alison Alter and challenger Jennifer Virden are vying for the seat.

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Public safety, homelessness in Austin take center stage in final forum before District 6 runoff vote

Three days ahead of the first day of early voting for the Austin City Council District 6 runoff election, a final public debate was mostly focused on issues of public safety.