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Austin-based Hai Hospitality expands Loro concept in Dallas and Houston

The popular restaurant fuses Japanese cuisine with Texas barbecue

Hai Hospitality’s Asian smokehouse concept, Loro, debuted in Austin in 2018, combining the culinary prowess of two of the city’s biggest names: Tyson Cole of Japanese restaurant Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue.

Loro expanded into East Dallas in 2020 and then into Houston’s Heights neighborhood in Feb. 2022, and just debuted its fourth location in Addison — the restaurant-heavy Dallas-Fort Worth suburb.

Hai Hospitality CEO Tony Montero credits the rapid expansion to Loro’s unique approach, noting that its merger of smoked meats with Asian flavors isn’t readily available in the market.

“The fact that you can get elevated food created by award-winning chefs in a relaxed and vibey atmosphere is something that has been received very well by our guests,” Montero said.

The Addison outpost is situated in a 5,000-square-foot interior space that seats 140 guests inside and another 140 outside on the patio. The vibe is casual and communal — guests order food and drinks at the bar, and then take their seats.

“We’re still early in our growth, but to date, all Loros are similar in size and committed to building a communal and welcoming outdoor space focused on an ambiance that evokes an old Texan dance hall that welcomes people socializing and gathering around family tables,” Montero said.

But each space incorporates a few unique touches, like the custom artisan-made white oak furniture in Loro Houston, or the woven chandeliers made in collaboration with Mexico City’s León León Design.

“No matter where you are, when you step into a Loro, you know it’s a Loro, but you’re also going to get an experience that feels a little different based on where you are,” he added.

Chef de cuisine Arturo Hernandez leads the kitchen. Hailing originally from El Paso, Hernandez received his culinary training at the Texas Culinary Academy and has worked in restaurants across the state. Before joining Hai Hospitality, he was the executive chef of restaurant openings for Punch Bowl Social in Austin.

The Loro menu features grilled and smoked meats and seafood with Southeast Asian, Japanese and Texan influences, with dishes including char siew pork belly, smoked prime bavette steak, beef brisket, baby back Duroc pork ribs and oak smoked salmon. There is also a selection of sandwiches, like beer-battered cod and a cheeseburger, and the “snacks and veggies” section includes shareable dishes like oak grilled snap peas, crispy potatoes, sesame rice noodles, and green curry hush puppies.

The Loro bar serves craft beer, wine, spiked slushies, and batched cocktails, with fan favorites including the frozen gin and tonic and the mandarin margarita.

After opening four stores in four years, Loro isn’t done yet. The team is opening a second Houston restaurant in late 2023, and Montero says they’re always looking for new locations. Rather than expanding into entirely new markets, he notes that Loro is more likely to pop up in places where Hai Hospitality already has a presence through other concepts like Uchi, which in addition to its Texas locations also operates in Miami and Denver.

TAGS: Operations
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