Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Uncle Bao's

6065 Montana Ave.
El Paso, TX
(915) 881-8181

Uncle Bao's on Montana Ave.

Uncle Bao's is not only one of the Chinese restaurants I have been visiting the longest, it is also one of the early El Paso restaurants that date back to an era when American style Chinese food was welcomed as a "new" and exotic cuisine and a healthy change from other restaurants. Today El Paso has a wider choice and more authentic Chinese food if you want it, but Uncle Bao's offers the nostalgia of the "old style" food, with a buffet that is better than most.

Some of my early experiences with Uncle Bao's were on the east side of the city near I-10 and McRae, where the lunch specials offered a good bargain and a good choice of dishes. When the former west side restaurant opened on Mesa Street I continued my practice of ordering lunch specials and other items from the menu, although I tried the buffet a few times. The lunch specials offered the food I wanted, especially since the egg roll and hot and sour soup that came with them were almost the most enjoyable part of the meal (egg drop soup is also available).

There is actually an entire family that operates the various Uncle Bao's locations as well as Andale Mexican Restaurant. The former Yung's Asian Bistro (where Andale is now located) was my favorite restaurant in the "Uncle Bao's family," and specialized in Thai food. I understand the former manager of Yung's now operates the Uncle Bao's Restaurant on Fort Bliss.

The current El Paso location of Uncle Bao's on Montana Avenue is a relatively new restaurant, but most of the people there are ones I knew from the west side restaurant (many of whom came from the east side location when it closed a few years ago). It is partly the continuity of the restaurant's personnel that has kept it popular over the years.

Uncle Bao's has one of the largest buffets in El Paso
A view of the extensive buffet from the former west side restaurant

The buffet is open every day both at lunch and dinner, and in fact I think is the main reason most people come to Uncle Bao's. There is an abundance of seafood dishes on weekends when the buffet costs more, and I would say this is one of the specialties of Uncle Bao's. The times I tried the buffet I thought it was better than at some of the other restaurants, but I always liked the food better fresh out of the kitchen when I ordered from the menu.

Home Style Tofu, a bean curd and vegetable dish that I have ordered from the menu at various Uncle Bao's locations, had a good sauce but was questionable as a vegetarian item. I believe the cooks normally used Durkee's chicken broth in the sauces, and in fact they even showed it to me one time from the kitchen. I usually liked the tofu and vegetables more than the sauce, and even though I would not rate this as the best Chinese food that could be ordered, it became one of my regular dishes when I went out to eat.

One of the cooks at the east side Uncle Bao's made a very good Ginger Tofu, and this then became my favorite dish. It was very inconsistent, though, when other cooks tried to make it (the tofu was sometimes too soft or too crispy, and the sauce had a variable flavor). A very similar dish was served at Yung's, but for the most part Uncle Bao's never seemed to do it as well as the Thai style dish that was served at Yung's. Ginger tofu was not on the menu, though, so rather than complain about the dish not being consistent I was just glad that some of the cooks were willing to try it.

Szechuan Tofu
Szechuan tofu is one of the best dishes

Szechuan Tofu is currently my favorite tofu dish. This has a light colored sauce and is probably best when made spicy (as Szechuan style food is supposed to be). It also comes with chicken or other meats, and the meat versions should be available in the buffet.

The Hot and Sour Soup is consistently good, and is probably my favorite in town. When I have eaten Sichuan style food on the west coast that was reported to be authentic, the hot and sour soup was similar to the one at Uncle Bao's. I actually think most hot and sour soups around the country are pretty good and fairly authentic, but in El Paso this is not the case except at Uncle Bao's and maybe a couple of other restaurants.

The hot brewed jasmine tea is always very good, and more enjoyable than at restaurants where it is made from tea bags.

The Egg Rolls are very good when fresh, but I think they are made in large batches so your chances of getting one hot from the oven are not that great. Egg rolls have pork inside, but it is not a great problem to pull the meat out if you are a vegetarian. Mainly I like the hot mustard that goes with the egg roll.

MSG is used here, but I believe it is at a very low level. I probably would not be afraid to eat from the buffet in terms of ingesting too much MSG, but they follow the common practice in El Paso of adding the freshly cooked portions to food that has been sitting around rather than removing the old tray and replacing it with a new one. Rather than taking a chance with the buffet I think it is best to order from the menu.

I have found the spicy dishes to be the ones Uncle Bao's does best, and chicken dishes are sometimes better than the same thing made with tofu. I would not think a meal here was complete, though, without hot and sour soup and hot tea.



Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (brewed)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer
Buffet: Lunch and Dinner

Most Recent Visit
Dec. 10, 2006

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Szechuan Tofu, Hot and Sour Soup, Hot Tea

Special Ratings
Szechuan Tofu:
Ginger Tofu:
Hunan Chicken:
Hunan Tofu:
Home Style Tofu: Red Sauce
Egg Roll: Pork
Hot and Sour Soup: