Tio Lucho’s brings Peruvian specialties to Poncey-Highland

Credit: Jen Almanza

Credit: Jen Almanza

For Arnaldo Castillo, the past two years have served as an on-the-job education.

His pop-up, La Chingana, served as a way to steep himself in the culinary history and cooking techniques of his native Peru, allowing his to perfect dishes like causa, a layered salad made with potatoes and shrimp.

He also learned about producers and makers around the region to tap for ingredients, including Gulf shrimp, Sea Island red peas and Carolina Gold rice.

The pop-up “created the foundation” for Tio Lucho’s, the brick-and-mortar restaurant Castillo opened June 28 at 675 North Highland Ave. NE with business partner Howard Hsu of Sweet Auburn BBQ, located across the street.

The restaurant is named for Castillo’s father, Luis, a chef in Peru and Atlanta. Luis, who was known as Tio Lucho, died just days before the restaurant’s opening.

Returning to Peru for the funeral gave him the opportunity to hear stories from his uncles about his father, who owned a burger restaurant in Lima in the 1980s and later a Peruvian restaurant and catering business in Atlanta. ”He was a hustler,” Castillo said. “He did it all.”

Inspired by Luis’ experiences, Castillo decided to hone his cooking skills, working in the kitchens of several Atlanta restaurants before launching La Chingana.

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Credit: Tio Lucho's

Credit: Tio Lucho's

Influences from throughout Castillo’s family can be seen on the Tio Lucho’s menu. Ceviches are inspired by the ones Luis would make at home, “but with more chef-driven technique,” Castillo said. A pork chop entree is served on calapulcra, an Andean potato stew that his Tia Carmen makes every time he visits Peru.

The menu’s dishes are seasonal, hinging largely on the availability of ingredients in Georgia, with a few core items remaining on the menu throughout the year.

“I want to keep it rotating and evolving, including more from the repretoire of Peruvian cuisine,” he said.

The cocktail offerings will also change with the seasons. To start with, the list will include “classic Peruvian cocktails” like a Pisco Sour and Chilcano, along with a handful of beers and wines.

Along with Castillo, the Tio Lucho’s kitchen team includes Manuel Lara, former chef de cuisine at Serpas True Food, while Dillon Slay, formerly of Sweet Auburn BBQ and Kimball House, will help run the bar program.

Daria brown, formerly of Oliva Restaurant Group, will serve as general manager, Katie Bandit works as service manager and Sonny Howell is in operations.

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The Tio Lucho’s space, which was previously home to pan-Asian restaurant CO, only needed minor cosmetic changes, Castillo said. His wife, Julie, who he calls the “in-house botanist,” is responsible for the greenery installed throughout the restaurant, which “brings so much life to the place” he said.

Other design touches include a partition wall made with cement blocks “reminscent of blocks you’d see on Latin American patios” and a mural painted by Peruvian artist Franco, with font similar to that used on flyers made by Chicha bands. The restaurant can seat about 70 guests inside and 50 on the outdoor patio.

Castillo plans to use pop-up chefs to use the space for special dinners, “the same way other friends in the industry allowed me to pop up with La Chingana.”

Tio Lucho’s opening hours are 4-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and 4-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Brunch menus and hours will be added in the coming weeks, with lunch added after that.

675 North Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-343-0278, tioluchos.com

Scroll down to see the full menu for Tio Lucho’s:

Credit: Tio Lucho's

Credit: Tio Lucho's

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