Something special happens every Friday and Saturday night at the corner of Main and Woodward streets. For a few hours only, a takeout window opens, a neon-colored sandwich board beckons from the sidewalk, and the late-night masses line up to get a taste of OTR’s latest word-of-mouth craze: Boom Box Buns.
The puffy, stuffed buns have caught on like wildfire in the five months the window has been open. Case in point: Once the window opens at 7 p.m., they go fast—and once they’re out, they’re out. Of a rotating variety of three fusion riffs on Chinese steamed buns, two remain constant on the menu: beef and veggie. The beef bun is topped with crispy shallots, shiso, and mayo, creating an earthy contrast to the smoky meat. The veggie bun is filled with deep-fried sweet potatoes and sriracha mayo, making it a prime choice for vegetarian customers craving some heat.
When we stopped by, the wild card was a lamb bun dressed with jalapenos, cilantro, cumin, and mayo. Past offerings have included a caramelized chicken bun and a pork bun with hoisin sauce and peanuts.
In its fifth month of business, Boom Box Buns continues to experiment with flavor—something owner Nathan Friday is no stranger to. Friday has been cooking for more than ten years, and he has always envisioned starting his own business on a small scale. Walking past The Takeaway Deli & Grocery, Friday noticed an empty room in the back of the building, so he seized the opportunity and created his walk-up window, which runs during the shop’s after hours.
When Friday isn’t serving steamed buns, he works part-time as the sous chef at OTR’s Please. The split schedule allows him to hone his craft and scale the bun business. At some point, Friday hopes Boom Box Buns will become an all-day takeout window, where customers can enjoy his inventive approach to late-night street food. “It’s fast food in a smart way,” he says.
To keep tabs on how many buns are left, you can follow @boomboxbuns on Instagram, where the restaurant posts regular updates. Get ‘em while they’re hot!
Boom Box Buns, 1324 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, @boomboxbuns