In the dog days of a (very, very hot) summer, Texans want nothing more than to sit in a cool, well-shaded area packed with fans and misters, sip on a well-made frozen cocktail, and dig into a platter of very flavorful barbecue. At Loro, a restaurant that got its start in Austin before branching out into Houston and Dallas, you can find all three of these perks, all delivered by a team with serious Texas-food-industry chops.
Loro is the brainchild of Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue and Tyson Cole of Uchi.
Loro is a fairly new operation, having gotten its start in Austin in 2018. That's when Aaron Franklin-the iconic chef behind Austin's mega-famous Franklin Barbecue-and Tyson Cole-a James Beard Award winner for his work at smash-hit Austin sushi restaurant Uchi-decided to join forces to open a laid back restaurant and bar with a menu that combines the traditions and methods of Texas barbecue with Asian culinary techniques and flavors. Franklin ensures that every piece of smoked brisket, salmon, pork, or turkey is cooked perfectly "low and slow", while Cole develops dishes with ingredients associated with Asian cuisines, like grilled snap peas with with a kimchi emulsion and toasted sesame and Malaysian chicken bo ssam with curry-yuzu vinaigrette and Thai basil.
The Loro menu marries classic Texas barbecue techniques and Asian ingredients and flavor profiles.
"Fusion" cuisine often gets an unfairly-bad reputation; in the 1980s and 1990s, "fusion" restaurants became super-popular and were often badly-executed, leading lots of diners to assume that all fusion food is a lame mashup of two cuisines that have nothing to do with each other. Loro is determined to escape that fate, and they accomplish that goal with aplomb. Franklin's smoked-meat prowess and Cole's expertise with East Asian ingredients and cooking methods play equal roles on Loro's engaging menu, and the balance of these flavors shines through in each and every dish.
Loro serves a blend of small plates and full-sized entrees, which makes it an ideal destination for lunch, dinner, or drinks. The blend of Asian flavors and Texan staples makes for intriguing and destination-worthy dishes, like sweet corn fritters with Sriracha aioli and cilantro and crispy potatoes with miso mustard, yuzu aioli, and white sesame. The mix-and-match-style menu includes sections of "Bar Food" (tapas-style small plates), Snacks & Veggies (smaller dishes meant to accompany larger entrees), Meats (platters of smoked meat), Sandwiches, Rice Bowls (coconut rice topped with proteins and vegetables), and Sweets (desserts). This design allows diners to customize their orders to suit their visit, without a clear expectation of an appetizer-entree-dessert progression.
The brisket at Loro reflects Franklin's knack with this protein; each bite is tender and juicy, with a flavorful bark and rich traces of fat. The brisket sandwich does a beautiful job of highlighting these taste and texture characteristics while complementing them with sweet-and-tangy papaya salad, crunchy peanuts, fresh Thai basil and cilantro, and a gently-spicy aioli infused with chili peppers. When enjoyed alongside Loro's summery tomato salad with cucumbers and cantaloupe and refreshing sesame noodles with chili vinaigrette, this sandwich represents the best of Loro's "fusion" concept.
Loro's bar team offers up a menu of reasonably-priced but high-quality cocktails that unfailingly hit the spot, especially during the hotter seasons. Their frozen "slushees" come in flavors like gin & tonic, Vietnamese coffee, and mojito, and they also serve spins on classic cocktails, like and Old Fashioned with ginger and a margarita with tangerine and yuzu.
Loro has locations in Austin, Houston, and Dallas.
After opening its first location in Austin, Loro became a huge hit in the Lone Star capital, with Central Texans eagerly flocking to Loro's expansive outdoor lawn, shady patio with misters and fans, and lively, pub-like indoor seating space. In fact, Loro's Austin popularity inspired the team to launch locations in other cities-Loro Dallas opened in 2021, while Loro Houston started operations in 2022. Like the Austin original, these Loros take visual inspiration from "Texas dance halls" and feature seating and meeting areas that seamlessly flow from inside to outside.
During the pandemic, Loro mastered the art of "BBQ to go".
The COVID pandemic caused thousands of restaurants to halt operations, but some opted to adjust their service models to focus on takeout. Loro falls into that category; their team worked tirelessly to "put out the quality of food that we expect from our dishes, [even when packaging them for takeout]. We test every to-go dish as we create them, and then we figure out the best way to send them. We do this for everything from the proteins to the garnishes to the sauces. It all matters to us!" says chef de cuisine Josh Healy of Loro Dallas.
Loro honed its to-go skills through necessity-"Loro originally didn't have large to-go operations, but COVID forced our hand to create the method. This led to us creating packages for the ribs that we ran as specials in Austin during the roughest parts of COVID and really diving into the containers we used for to-go in general," Healy tells us. Even though onsite dining has resumed at all of Loro's locations, their takeout platters of ribs, smoked chicken, smoked brisket, side dishes, sauces, and other accoutrements are still in high demand, with locals in Austin, Dallas, and Houston ordering Loro packages for parties, picnics, and other offsite events.
READ: For Some of Austin's Best Brisket, Sausage, and Outdoor Vibes, Head To Micklethwait Craft Meats