When Texas barbecue is crossed with flavors and ingredients of Southeast Asian cuisine, the result is Loro.
The second location of the Austin-based chain opened in Old East Dallas last year. Founded by chefs Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole in 2018, it joins the other Hai Hospitality concepts: Uchi, Uchiko and Uchiba.
Josh Healy is the chef de cuisine at Loro, and he isn’t new to the Dallas food scene. Before he was hired at Loro, he was the corporate chef for PILF, the restaurant group behind Cane Rosso, Thunderbird Pies and more.
“I love pizza. I love what they do, really great company. But it was kind of like, where am I at in terms of being aligned with the long-term goals?” he says.
Wanting to find a role where he could learn the business side of a restaurant, preparing him to one day open his own place, he started putting out feelers. Healy applied for a chef de cuisine job at Uchi. Within a day, the company called and wanted to interview him for the same position at Loro.
After the first interview with Jack Yoss, the culinary director for Hai, Healy says he knew it wasn’t just a job he wanted; it was a job he needed.
“It’s truly a people-based company,” he says.
Though the Asian smokehouse offers brisket, turkey, chicken and ribs cooked over Texas post oak, the most requested item is sesame rice noodles ($5), a cold vegetarian dish served with chili vinaigrette, black sesame and green onion. The popular crunchy sweet corn fritters ($8) are served with sriracha and aioli. Thai sausage hand pies ($7), only available during happy hour, aren’t ordered nearly as often as they should be, Healy says.
Speaking of happy hour, his drink recommendation is a swirl with the frozen gin and tonic and the frozen mango sake. That can be enjoyed inside or on the patio.
“Everything’s designed to be shared. It’s designed to be, get a bite, this plate, that plate,” he says. “Share with your friends and your family.”
The design for the space was inspired by a Texas dancehall, says Ellen Saathoff, the director of design for Hai Hospitality. That concept is carried out through exposed wood trusses and cedar and white oak on the walls. Complete with natural tones and handcrafted touches, designers reinterpreted the original Austin location into a new neighborhood.
Knick-knacks for behind the bar were sourced from nearby Dolly Python, and Lower Greenville Designs helped create wood shelves and other pieces for the walls. Denton-based Stal Timber built the host stand and utensil carts, and Focus Powder Coating helped with signage.
One piece to highlight is a custom flag hanging on one of the walls. Made from vintage Japanese denim, it was chain-stitched by Austin company Fort Lonesome, which combined Loro design elements with a Dallas-inspired landscape.
“I think for Loro, we really want to create a space that feels warm and inviting, like a place that you want to come hang out with your friends and your family and feel really at home,” Saathoff says.
The dining experience at Loro, which serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, is a casual one. Grab a seat. Order food and drinks at the bar. Keep the puck they give you visible on the table. There are no looming employees to interrupt conversations; servers will bring out the meal when it’s ready.
“It’s definitely designed for quick service, but the plates don’t always look like that,” Healy says. “The goal is to make the plates look like you’re getting this nice experience at a finer place, while we also try to keep prices down, and we try to keep it with the feel of community.”
Loro, 1812 N. Haskell Ave., 214.833.4983, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday