Arnaldo Castillo’s Peruvian-pop-up La Chingana completes its evolution into a standing restaurant with June 28’s opening of Tio Lucho’s on N. Highland Ave. The brick-and-mortar space bloomed from a partnership with Howard Hsu of Sweet Auburn BBQ.
Tio Lucho’s is named after Castillo’s late father, who inspired the chef to get into cooking. The family-style menu focuses on Peruvian coastal dishes and serves as a testament to Castillo’s childhood. Castillo was born in Lima, and spent a lot of time in Piura, the “Mecca of ceviche,” before moving to the U.S. when he was 7.
“When it comes to our menu here, at Tio Lucho’s, I pulled from all those memories using products and produce from our region to play around and make dishes that I would love to share around a table with friends and family,” Castillo says.
Diners can expect to see an expansion of La Chingana’s menu and ethos. “La Chingana helped me research and develop a lot of dishes, it helped me connect with other producers in the area so I could use their products in the dishes that I was coming out with,” Castillo says. “I didn’t want to just import a bunch of Peruvian stuff, I wanted to work with people here in the area.”
One of the areas that Tio Lucho’s expands is drinks. Some of the drinks featured at the pop-up, such as Spanish and South American wines and the chicano, which is a cross between a Peruvian pisco and a Moscow mule, now have a lasting spot on the menu. But the libations don’t stop there. “We’re very lucky that we brought on Dillon Slay, whose background is Kimball House,” Castillo says. “He’s been crushing our bar program and he and I are working closely together to make sure that the cocktails we’re putting on now fit and pair well with our food style.”
Tio Lucho’s food is a blend of Peruvian cuisine and local ingredients. “Instead of trying to change the wheel, I like to supplement ingredients that you typically have in Peru with what’s here,” Castillo says. For example, the fish ceviche, an iconic Peruvian dish, is made with Gulf snapper and served with sweet potato, crunchy concha corn, and ají limón pepper grown at Pinewood Springs Farm in Stockbridge. “If I can find some local producers, I’m more than happy to work with them,” he says.
“Our menu is gonna continue to grow,” Hsu adds. “And of course it will change with the seasons. We have a big patio that we haven’t fully activated but we are growing that. We add a 3% appreciation fee to all our food, and that goes directly to our staff as a way of letting them know hey, on a busy Saturday night, when you guys are in the weeds, you guys are earning more too.”
To celebrate their grand opening, which coincides with National Ceviche Day, Tio Lucho’s is showcasing more ceviche and titarido (Peru’s answer to crudo) options. But during and beyond the restaurant’s dawning weeks, diners can find enthusiasm and heart.
“We’re bringing a lot of life to this part of town,” Castillo says. There’s so much new development coming up and I’m very excited to have the first Peruvian restaurant here in Atlanta. And we get to showcase all these flavors to the city.”
675 North Highland Avenue, Atlanta. @tioluchos.