The parking meter outside Pao Town has a 12-minute limit, which is exactly how long it takes to walk in, order and scramble out with your takeout from the new fast-casual Asian fusion restaurant.
From the team that runs the Sushi Maki empire, Pao Town offers Asian street food in a funky urban setting, with thick wooden tables, a polished concrete floor, walkup counter and chalkboard. Think Shake Shack with a Korean pop vibe. The soft drink options include semisweet oolong tea, and there’s Sapporo, Yuengling and Brooklyn Lager beer on tap.
Opened since September, the eatery has a 17-item menu that is a fun, cheap departure from standard Asian fare. Even if the steamed pork belly buns were not as soft and spongy as we had hoped, the flavorful braised pork with pickled veggies got an A for effort.
The Korean dog, a grilled, all-beef hot dog topped with kimchee, avocado, scallions and potato sticks, was drizzled with gochjang, a Korean red chile sauce, and accompanied by delicious togarashi fries, thin-cut potatoes tossed with seven-spice powder and served with wasabi ketchup.
On the downside, the bacon-fried rice with pineapple was mysteriously dry, and the sticky ribs were fatty and overly sweet.
The “street food” here may be a bit sanitized, but its creators are widening Miami’s fast-food palate, and for that we are grateful.
Pao Town, 2624 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; Contact: 305-760-4726, paotown.com; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, until midnight Friday-Saturday; salads $9-$13, mains $6-$12, sides $2-$5.