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Urban Discoveries: Bao Bar

This article is part of the “Urban Discoveries” series, in which we seek and discover interesting and well designed places to eat and drink around Europe and especially in Vienna. As last time again I worked together with my colleague and dear friend Maximilian Martsch, who is a researcher and works on the topic of food history. The pictures were shot by myself. Thanks to the folks at Bao Bar for the invitation and the nice talk.


If you are in search for new restaurants in Vienna, which serve delicious, foreign food beside the usual suspects, Bao Bar might just be the right place for you. Centrally located in Zollergasse right around the corner from Vienna’s busy shopping street Mariahilferstraße, Bao Bar offers high quality Asian street food, conveniently tucked into a steamed bun.

Bao, or more correctly Gua Boa is a Taiwanese street specialty, consisting of a soft, steamed wheat bun filled with all kinds of mouth-watering ingredients. Originating in the Chinese province of Fujian, Gua Bao was adopted into Taiwanese culture and ultimately became a staple of the country’s street food scene. Gua Boa had its breakthrough into western mainstream street food culture in North America, where it is still a popular pick among urban foodies ­– naturally, there even is a short Vice documentary on it. International trends always seem to take some years before they find their way to Vienna, but with Bao Bar you now have the right place to get your hands on this delicious treat. The owner is a young, trained cook who came up with the idea for the restaurant after traveling and obviously eating his way around Southeast Asia. Since one and a half years now, Boa Bar is open for business and is serving its burgers to the hungry Viennese crowd.

The name already implies that Bao Bar is rather small. The design is inspired by Japanese art and the movie Blade runner. The combination of pink signs, black and white floor tiles, wooden interior, and steel pipes really gives the place a stylish sleek vibe. There are several bar-style seating possibilities at the window and along the wall. The heart of the place is the open kitchen, where you can place your order and watch the skilled personnel swiftly assemble your burger. If you go for the menu option (Bao box), you can choose two buns, one side and a soft drink. They have crispy sweet potato fries with a nice kimchi ketchup, sesame slaw made of pickled vegetables, and Japanese edamame beans as sides as well as a variety of drinks available, ranging from home-made lapacho ice tea, over Asian beers to Taiwanese soda. If you are in for a special treat, they even have Japanese Kirin beer on tap!

Bao Bar offers three burger variations: pork belly, crunchy chicken and a vegan tofu option. All three are accompanied by a selection of pickled, crisp vegetables and rounded off by one of their home-made sauces. The traditional pork belly bao for instance comes with a juicy slice of marinated, red-cooked pork belly, pickled cucumber, house-made hoisin sauce, some fresh cilantro, and ground peanuts. It’s delicious and all the ingredients are high quality. Apart from the meat, which is coming from a small family-run butcher shop in the city, all ingredients are self-made. You can even see the vegetables slowly fermenting in big jars over the counter. The heart of the bao burger, the white, wheat buns are produced fresh every morning in the back before being steamed over boiling water right in front of the costumer.

All in all, Bao Bar is just a great place to have a quick bite or to order for take-away. It’s a well thought-through place that offers fresh, high quality fast food. If you don’t have the time to check it out in person, you can also order their food via Foodora, but then you’ll definitely miss out on the great design and lively atmosphere.

To find out more about Bao Bar and their opining hours visit:



The Far East

The most astounding thing about the far east as I experienced it in Japan is that it is a busy place with people and cars everywhere you look, but still it is impossibly quite and calm at the same time. There is hardly any shouting on the sidewalks and beeping on the streets. Even cyclists won’t beep when passing by closely, but will rather slow down. There is an important sense of courtesy and carefulness in play here that can seem very foreign to a Westerner. Of course the culture is closely linked to the religions of the region, mostly Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan. So the feeling of quietness and serenity can be best understood in and around religious temples and shrines, which also tend to be beautiful places overall.







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Tokyo is one of the largest cities on earth. It is a megacity in every sense of the word, where you can get easily lost in the masses of people, where motorways pile level upon level and the skyscrapers seem to touch the sky. A marveling sculpture of steel, concrete and glass. Also the place where you get amazing sushi, buy robots and visit cat cafes. Last but not least Tokyo is the home of fourteen million humans. Faces you merely pass by, which tell stories of lives in this strange but enchanting megacity.










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Holy Deer of Nara

The city of Nara once used to be the proud capital of Japan. It is well known for temples from the 8th century and large Buddha statues. But the most famous sights of Nara are not built of stone or wood but rather of flesh and blood. Among the temples, parks and tourists there are around 1,200 Japanese deer (or sika deer) sleeping, eating and running around. They are all but shy and like to eat corn from the hands of visitors and like to be pet by children. The animals have a symbiotic relationship with people for a long time already and are seen as holy. The legend says that once a mythological god arrived in Nara on a white deer and began to guard the new capital. Since then the animals are regarded as heavenly and are protected by the city and the country.


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Streets of Japan

Walking the streets of urban Japan some things strike you immediately. First and foremost it is busy! People everywhere, many in a hurry while walking to the office or buying some quick lunch. There is a constant flow of people and traffic and not just on the main roads. Despite this there is no mess and there are hardly any jams. Of course Japan is known to be very organised, but still it is surprising to see it by yourself. So for example at the metro stations or at the bus stops people are lining up calmly well before the train or bus arrives. Also the streets are incredibly clean, you hardly see any garbage. And this again despite the masses of people and maybe even more surprisingly without there being any public bins.



Akihabara: Electric Town

With beginnings as a market place for electronics after Word War II today Akihabara is known as hotspot for anime and gaming culture around the world, here you’ll find five story high Sega arcades, as well as gaming stores which still sell Super Nintendo consoles and comic book shops with every anime figure in existence for display. You wander through streets with shining towers and large advertisements of virtual characters, while girls dressed as Anime figures invite you to themed restaurants. For relaxing you can also go to one of the cat cafes, where you can drink your Matcha coffee and play with pets. Japanese people though prefer to go to Pachinko places where they gamble for physical prices. Officially gambling is forbidden in Japan, so close to the Pachinko stores there are always small vendors where you can sell your prices and so transform them into cash. Yes it is a weird place and very much corresponds with the picture of weirdness we have of Japan. At the same time it seems unreal like something out of a Blade Runner movie. Though Akihabara certainly doesn’t represent the whole of Japan it is a physical manifestation of it’s modern popular culture and thus should be planned in for your Japan trip.


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