Santa Barbara, California is known for its stunning coastline, scenic vineyards, and fantastic food. One local eatery that has gained national attention is Secret Bao, a small Chinese-American fusion restaurant that was featured on the popular TV show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri.
Located on the busy thoroughfare of State Street, Secret Bao is a modest-looking establishment that might be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But once you step inside, you’ll be greeted by a warm and inviting atmosphere, with friendly staff and mouth-watering aromas wafting from the kitchen.
The star of Secret Bao's menu is, unsurprisingly, their bao buns. These steamed buns filled with various meats and vegetables are a popular street food in China, but Secret Bao takes them to the next level by infusing them with bold flavors and creative ingredients.
One of the restaurant's most famous bao buns is the Korean Fried Chicken Bao, which features tender pieces of fried chicken coated in a spicy, tangy sauce and topped with slaw and pickled veggies. The pork belly bao is another crowd-pleaser, with succulent pork belly, cucumber, scallions, and hoisin sauce. Vegetarians can also enjoy the tofu bao, filled with crispy tofu, avocado, and a savory soy sauce.
But Secret Bao's menu goes beyond bao buns. They also serve delicious dumplings, noodles, and rice bowls. The pan-fried pork dumplings are crispy and packed with juicy pork filling, while the Dan Dan Noodles are a spicy, savory delight.
Another must-try dish is the Hainanese Chicken Rice Bowl, a traditional Singaporean dish made with poached chicken served over rice cooked in chicken broth and topped with ginger and scallions. It's a simple dish, but one that's bursting with flavor.
Guy Fieri visited Secret Bao in 2019, and the restaurant's popularity skyrocketed after the episode aired. But despite the national attention, Secret Bao has stayed true to its roots, serving up delicious food in a relaxed, casual setting.
The prices at Secret Bao are reasonable, with most dishes costing around $10-12. You can also order online for pickup or delivery, making it easy to enjoy their food from the comfort of your own home.
One thing to note is that Secret Bao is quite popular, and the small space can fill up quickly during peak hours. But if you're willing to wait, you'll be rewarded with some of the best bao buns and Chinese-American fusion cuisine in Santa Barbara.
In conclusion, Secret Bao is a hidden gem in Santa Barbara that's definitely worth seeking out. Whether you're a fan of bao buns or just love delicious, inventive food, Secret Bao is sure to satisfy your taste buds. Thanks to their appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Secret Bao has gained national recognition, but locals have known about this spot for a while. So next time you're in Santa Barbara, make sure to stop by Secret Bao and treat yourself to some unforgettable Chinese-American fusion cuisine.