The backstory: Last summer, Nicole Taranto and Bradly Daniel—both Biga Pizza employees and graduates of the Missoula College culinary arts program—decided to test local taste buds with a new food cart. Thinking back on their schooling, the two remembered the Asian dish bao being particularly popular among their classmates. "Everyone loved it," Taranto says. By late October the two were situated on the corner of Main and Ryman, slinging late-night snacks for the downtown crowd under the name Bao Chow.
What you're eating: Taranto notes that many customers have been puzzled by bao. Some aren't even able to pronounce it properly, she says. (It rhymes with "chow.") Bao is, quite simply, a steamed bun filled with some meat or vegetables. The most recognizable kind is packed with barbecue pork. But Bao Chow quickly took to offering a revolving list of specialty options ranging from chicken cashew to a lip-smacking vegetable curry. Taranto and Daniel also keep a dessert option available at all times—most recently, pumpkin or apple pie bao. And since the buns are steamed, Taranto says, "it's a healthier option."
When you're eating: With the cold weather and full-time Biga gigs, Taranto and Daniel have had to keep Bao Chow on an odd schedule. Currently, the cart is open only on weekends from midnight to 2:30 a.m., restricting the clientele to peckish bar hoppers. The buns go for $3 each or two for $5. Bao Chow also offers a "drunk special" of three for $5 from 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. The hours will likely change in the spring and summer, Taranto says. For now, though, Bao Chow is working hard to push bulk delivery of frozen bao throughout Missoula. An order of a half dozen bao runs $12; a full dozen is $24. Customers can place their orders by messaging Bao Chow directly on Facebook or Twitter. As added incentive, Taranto says home delivery is the only way to get your hands on Bao Chow's special breakfast creation: bao filled with eggs and sausage.
Where to eat: Bao Chow camps out on the corner of Main and Ryman. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on days and hours.
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