Tyson Cole and Aaron Franklin’s Houston Location of Loro Now Open in The Heights

table spread of food

Loro Houston officially opened its doors on February 23 at 1001 West 11th after months of anticipation. Dubbed an Asian smokehouse, Loro’s first location is in Austin and is the collaboration of James Beard Award winners chef Tyson Cole and pitmaster Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue. The menu showcases the passion both Cole and Franklin have for giving diners bold yet non-traditional options. Loro serves a variety of Asian-American fusion bar snacks, boozy mixed and frozen cocktails, smoked meats such as pork belly, salmon, chicken, and beef, vibrant rice bowls and signature sweets.

Cole spent ten years studying the art of sushi intensely at Musashino in Austin as a student of its renowned owner Takehiko Fuse. Cole also spent time in Japan to get hands-on education in all aspects of the cuisine. Later, he opened Hai Hospitality, which encompasses the restaurant brands Uchi, Uchiko, Uchiba, and Loro. After opening Uchi in 2003 as executive chef and co-owner, he gained national attention — most notably a spot on Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2005 list and a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Southwest” in 2011. He also landed a James Beard Foundation semifinalist spot in the national category of “Outstanding Chef” in 2016.

Interior of restaurant
Housed in a former church, Loro in the Heights has a dramatic ceiling and airy vibe. Photo by Lauren Bebeau.

His Loro business partner, Aaron Franklin, is no stranger to awards, either. His accolades include Texas Monthly’s Best Barbecue Joint in Texas Award for his Austin restaurant, Franklin Barbecue, and Bon Appétits Best Barbecue Joint in America. If that wasn’t enough, Franklin hosts the PBS online series, “BBQ with Franklin” and co-authored the popular book, “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto. His second book, Franklin Steak, explores cooking techniques such as dry-aging and reverse searing.

So, all of this is to say: with the history of these two restaurant owners, there are very high expectations for Loro Houston. The building alone, formerly the 11th Street Church of God, is enough to make you stop and appreciate what’s in store. It was built in the 1940s, and renovated with spectacular wood beams and other modern touches. In addition to indoor seating, diners can choose the welcoming patio. 

We were invited to a soft opening event where dishes were offered at 50% off. While there were clearly some in need of refinement, it’s too early to make a judgement call based on a trial-run service. The ordering system is also a tad clunky. Unlike the group’s other concepts, Loro has a fast-casual menu system to go with the low-key vibe. Diners are seated before scanning a QR code to view the menu. They then must get up to place and pay for orders at the bar. 

The Loro Burger with red onion-brisket jam, muenster cheese, lettuce and chili aioli. Courtesy photo.

Lunch and dinner service includes signature bar bites such as savory Smoked Salmon Dip With Yuzu, Sriracha Aioli and Togarashi, Wonton Chips & Dip with Thai green salsa and Candied Kettle Corn with brisket burnt ends. The “meat” of the menu includes Malaysian Chicken Bo Ssam, Char Siu Pork Belly, Oak Smoked Beef Brisket and the Loro Cheeseburger. Stand-out drinks on the menu include frozen selections such as the Mango Sake Slushee, Frozen Mojito, and Iced Vietnamese Slushee. There is also craft beer (draft or canned), wine, junmai sakes and batch cocktails

There are several items on the menu that are only available at designated times, which might make or break your experience depending on your cravings. For example, the smoked beef brisket is only available after 4 p.m., while the cheeseburger can only be ordered between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Check the online menu, and consider what time you want to visit in relation to what you want to eat.

Loro Heights is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. Delivery is available through Doordash and Uber Eats. For more information, call (713) 930-2326 or visit the Loro website

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