From pop-up to permanent, Tio Lucho's specializes in Peruvian coastal cuisine

Arnaldo Castillo and Howard Hsu of Tio Lucho's. (Castillo)

Over the past decade, restaurant pop-ups have become a common launching point for entrepreneurial chefs. In the summer of 2021, “City Lights” profiled La Chingana, a popular Peruvian pop-up from chef Arnaldo Castillo. The success of La Chingana caught the eye of longtime Atlanta restaurateur Howard Hsu, best known for Sweet Auburn Barbeque and Lazy Betty. Together, they’ve brought Castillo’s dream of owning a brick-and-mortar eatery to fruition, opening Tio Lucho’s on North Highland Avenue. The new restaurant is named after Castillo’s father and specializes in Peruvian coastal cuisine. “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes visited Castillo and Hsu at the new space to hear their story of this pop-up made permanent.

Walking Drobes across the restaurant’s threshold, Castillo points out the prominent mural on display. He said, “This is the first thing that I like people to see is the mural, which in Spanish says ‘En Atlanta se come rico,’ and the translation is ‘In Atlanta, you eat good.'” The mural is a piece by local artist and social worker Franco Bejarano. Beyond its charming message, the mural’s visual style echoes the “chicha” aesthetic of Peru. “In terms of design, Cumbia groups in the ’70s in Peru started using these very colorful and bright flyers to market their shows and stuff like that,” Castillo explained. “It became the sort of iconic way of using these colors and the writing and style, so I thought it’d be really neat to just grab that aspect of Peruvian art.”

Although Castillo’s proud of his new permanent location, he still cherishes the memory of how he got to now. To prove it, he’s kept his old pop-up cart inside the restaurant to serve as an expo display. “This is our La Chingana little street cart, where I was making sandwiches outside of Chop Shop in Edgewood,” he showed Drobes. “Typically I’ll stand here and just finish dishes before they head to the table. And the artwork was done by my wife. [She’s] super multi-talented. All the plants are done by her, and if you can believe it, I think over 50% of these plants came from my house.” 

Castillo’s other half in the business, Howard Hsu, brings a lengthy resumé of local restaurant cred to the operation. Coming from a family of restaurateurs, Hsu’s in partnership with his brother, a classically-trained chef, at their restaurant Lazy Betty, well-known for its top-shelf fine dining in an approachable, intimate space. The decision to partner with Castillo came to him after being blown away by La Chingana’s food after recently becoming interested in Peruvian cuisine.

“Last year, my wife and I with our little six-month-old baby went to Miami and didn’t leave our hotel block. So we went to this one Peruvian restaurant every day, and what drew me to it was not just the delicious cuisine and flavors, but it was very Asian-inspired,” Hsu recalled. “And so I quickly had to Google, ‘What’s up with Peru and Asian culture?’ And it was very Asian-influenced; they have a huge Asian population, so that really attracted me to it.” Following up after returning to Atlanta, Hsu quickly discovered La Chingana. “I went to go eat it and loved it, and… after maybe a couple visits, started talking to Arnaldo, and the guy was looking to do a restaurant,” said Hsu. “I was like, ‘Man, he seems like a cool guy. So let’s talk.'” 

Tio Lucho’s is planning special events for February, including a curated Peruvian wine dinner. More information can be found on their website,