In a crowded local arena of barbecuing legends, make way for Loro: Asian smokehouse and bar. The tour de force fusion is led by a supergroup of food masters, including two James Beard Foundation awardees for Best Chef: Southwest–Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue and Tyson Cole of Uchi Austin (now part of Hai Hospitality).
Loro is the first venture Franklin has undertaken since establishing Franklin Barbecue a decade ago, an eatery which has earned international acclaim. Is it the best barbecue in the world? Ask Jimmy Kimmel, Anthony Bourdain, and President Obama. They’ll vouch for the droves of meat-lovers who wait hours every day for a bite of brisket.
And don’t forget about Chef Tyson Cole, the man behind the “perfect bite” and founder of Hai Hospitality. Hai is the umbrella under which all beloved Uchi restaurants (Austin, Houston, Dallas, Denver), Uchiko, Uchibā in Dallas, and now Loro operate.
Understandably, the anticipation for Loro was massive. Less than a week after opening, the new Austin restaurant was already generating plates for 1,000 people per day, which is 400 more than what the partners hoped to reach within a month-long period. And the numbers have only increased. As of this writing, Loro is servicing over 1,400 empty-bellied guests on any given Saturday.
Meet Loro Chef de Cuisine James Dumapit
I had the good fortune of meeting with James Dumapit, Chef de Cuisine and long-time co-conspirator of Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole, for a chance to pick his brain about Loro’s smoking-hot success.
It all started as a dream in 2010, a pie-in-the-sky vision shared by Franklin, Cole, Dumapit, and several other sensei of seasonings. Every few years since then, the idea (the idea, the idea) would pop back up: create a place where Franklin’s immaculate barbecue and Cole’s flavorful Uchi could casually, and experimentally, coexist.
In the eight years since its inception, Loro has gone from exploratory R&D, drawing on ingredients from all over the world, to a real and spacious reality in the wooded embrace of century-old live oak trees on historic South Lamar Boulevard.
Amongst the Trees
Amazingly, the enormous effort required to meet demand is entirely masked by an environment that is meditative and low-key. Said Dumapit, “People chill here all day.” There are wooden swings. There’s a multitude of water jugs and ice. There are probably 15 different seating variations (counter, bar, bench, booth, beer garden). And there is space: space to spread out and relax, while listening to the excellent music curated live by the Loro team.
When asked about the intention of Loro, Dumapit relayed, “We wanted to create a home.” A home for barbecue lovers. For Asian cuisine lovers. A home for families with toddlers, for friends catching game six of whatever finals are on TV that night. Really, a place for everyone to sit back, relax, and enjoy great food and company.
Having tasted the corn fritters and curry chicken bo ssam while swinging in the wooden, solo-seater rope swing, I can attest to the Loro team’s achievement. Touches like flickering oil lamps on the wall and plants in the rafters make the eatery feel like a wide-open home.
How ‘Bout the Food?
As for the menu itself, simplicity is key. There are only a few starters and slightly more than a handful of entrees, but each dish is unique. Expect a dose of spice, some fried vegetables, and–of course–the meats. Loro’s impressive bar features a strong selection of local and nonlocal craft beer, as well as a knowledgeable and friendly host of bartenders.
At night, the line can get up to 30 minutes, which is amazingly small considering the number of people being served. However, my food during lunch came out in about eight minutes flat. Hint, nudge: go during lunch. It’s beautiful.
See you there!
P.S. Aaron Franklin works in-house at Loro twice a week. According to Dumapit, he was the first one on site to fix the rotisserie and is often seen working the line. So, if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see him there, too.
2115 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
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