Star chef-backed Asian smokehouse sets opening date for The Heights

Houston’s wait for brisket sandwiches topped with papaya salad, crunchy sweet corn fritters, and boozy slushies will end in two weeks. Hai Hospitality announced that it will open its Asian smokehouse concept Loro on Wednesday, February 23.

Located in The Heights on the site of the former 11 St. Church of God, James Beard Awards winners Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue) and Tyson Cole (Uchi) created Loro to showcase dishes influenced by their expertise in barbecue and various Asian cuisines. The fast casual restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner daily. Houston will be Loro’s third location, joining the original in Austin and a Dallas restaurant that opened last summer.

“We cannot wait to get the doors open on this new Loro location in The Heights,” Cole said in a statement. “We were able to repurpose this incredible church structure with a truly welcoming community feel and now we are ready to start slicing some brisket and serving slurry!”

To bring about that transformation, Loro enlisted well-regarded Texas firm the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture working in partnership with RE:VIVE Development. The 5,500-square-foot repurposed church takes some design inspiration from historic Texas dance halls. Once diners order at the bar, they’ll be able to sit either inside the repurposed sanctuary or at outdoor tables. A beer garden near the entrance will serve as a waiting area.

On the menu, customers will find Asian-inspired dishes as well as bites more directly influenced by Texas barbecue. Starters include: pale ale-battered cod, candied kettle corn topped with brisket burnt ends, wonton chips with Thai green salsa. Look for vegetable dishes such as: Crunchy Sweet Corn Fritters with Thai herbs, kale and asian pear salad, and crispy potatoes with miso mustard and yuzu aioli.

Of course, meats play a central role at any barbecue restaurant, and Loro is no exception. Popular dishes include Malaysian chicken bo ssam with yellow curry-yuzu vinaigrette, char siew pork belly, smoked Prime bavette ($19.50) with shishito salsa verde, and oak-smoked Salmon with cucumber-yuzu broth. Smoked beef brisket is available daily from 4 pm until close.

Sandwich options include brisket topped with papaya salad, peanuts, chili aioli, and Thai herbs and a smoked turkey breast with giardiniera and sharp provolone on a pretzel bun. At lunch, look for a crispy smoked chicken sandwich and a cheeseburger topped with red onion-brisket jam, muenster cheese, and lettuce. The menu also includes rice bowls made with many of the proteins referenced above.

Leading the kitchen will be chef de cuisine Marcos Leal, whose previous postings include the Hotel Galvez, Jasper’s in The Woodands, and Top Golf. Leal, who moved to Houston as a child from Monterrey Mexico, considers the Bayou City his hometown, according to a press release.

Known for boozy slushies such as a frozen gin and tonic and a frozen mojito, Loro’s cocktail offerings also include batch cocktails such as a Ginger Old Fashioned, Mandarin Margarita, and Aki Sour. In addition, the restaurant will serve beer and wine, with happy hour available 2-6 pm on Monday – Friday.

Loro is celebrating its opening with a contest. The prize will be a brisket smoking class with chef Leal and a $200 gift card that can be used for a group happy hour. To enter, a person submits their email to the Loro website and tags four friends on an Instagram post. The winner will be announced February 17.


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