The Statler's been going hard with the openings this year: the diner Overeasy, cocktail bar Bourbon & Banter, adult playspace Scout, rooftop bar Waterproof and, most recently, Fine China, chef Angela Hernandez's take on new American Chinese cuisine.
Now, it's tossed another concept into the mix: R&B, a new fast-casual ramen and bao spot that opened this week with the intention of serving fun fusion bao and Japanese ramen to downtown lunch and late-night crowds. Hernandez and chef de cuisine Josh Bonee developed the menu, and the concept and interior are equally simple: order at the counter from a small menu of ramen and bao, and chances are you'll be out the door with a full belly in 20 minutes if you're in a rush.
We suggest hanging around to sample wildly from this tiny menu. On our visit, we tried one of every bao plus an order of tater tots, okonomiyaki style ($4) with kewpie mayo, Bull-Dog Sauce, pickled ginger and bonito flakes waving in the air-conditioned breeze. Every bao plus a side set us back $40 and made for a fun tasting lunch for two.
On this round, we didn't sample from the ramen menu (which does, in fact, feature a chilled heirloom tomato mazemen) since it's approximately 7,000 degrees outside. The bao menu was just too enticing: cheesebao-ger ($4.50), wagyu beef pastrami ($6.50), pork belly katsu ($4.50), edamame falafel ($4.50), hot fried chicken ($4.50), banh mi ($4.50) and the Dirty Joe ($4.50), made with spicy pork ragu and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.
These perfectly fluffy, cloudlike bao are more fusion than traditional, and they're a lot of fun. The cheesebao-ger was overflowing with American cheese atop a perfectly juicy, medium-rare patty. The wagyu beef pastrami was huge for a bao, the bun overflowing with salty pastrami and crispy fried onion. The banh mi did a great job fusing the best of both worlds: a Chinese bao bun with vibrant Vietnamese vibes from chicken meatballs, fresh veggies and fish sauce.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
We stopped by on R&B's second day, but we're already craving another visit. A concept like this just makes sense downtown: It's quick, casual and available on weekends until 4 a.m., which is a dream come true for those making an Uber exodus from Deep Ellum.
R&B at the Statler, 1914 Commerce St. (Downtown). Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.