8307 N Ivanhoe St., 285-4839, facebook.com/baowrystjohns.
[BAO CHICKA BAO BAO] The Baowry, a charmingly domestic former hovel in St. Johns, recalls a vacationer's eatery in a picturesque riverfront town—which, of course, St. Johns very much is. Much at the Baowry bears hints of the carnivalesque and far from home. Tables are decorated with a collage of Californian-Japanese newspapers, from hair-removal ads to immigrant news. The Baowry's Asian-eclectic food seems similarly determined to pack everything in. The namesake steamed buns ($4) are jammed with flavors and textures: the yeasty sugar dough still dusty with flour; the hoisin-heavy red pork, duck confit or shiitake and tofu; and then the acidic crispness of lightly pickled cucumber and daikon. It's an all-boats-in-the-water approach to sandwich making, a pre-bop jazz confection of flavors balanced in counterpoint rather than overloaded on the palate. The bacon black bean mussels ($14) are perplexing, with thick garlic-lime aioli dripping off a generous pile of mussels onto soy-spiked black bean noodles. But the gingery braised greens ($5) are a Southern dish gone non-native, with umami in threefold concert among bacon, pork stock and soy sauce. In a drab world, the small-town fair is always a comfort.
Ideal Meal: Alone, go for the greens, a perfect egg ($6) and a confit bao, or spring for the $22 duck to share.
Best deal: Three bao for $10 is a full meal.
Pro tip: The late-night menu offers a stacked and lovely $5 banh mi after 10:30 pm.
Noon-2:30 am daily. $-$$.