One of this year’s most exciting new restaurant openings was scheduled for late February or early March: Krio, an Asian-Cajun spot in the Bishop Arts District that would specialize in crawfish boils, chargrilled oysters and po’ boy sandwiches.
Then, well, everything happened.
A global pandemic swept into Dallas, placing the entire service industry in the hands of political leaders with little medical training. But it wasn’t just that. Krio’s partners, Dan Bui and Connie Cheng, were eagerly awaiting the arrival of all the restaurant’s furniture: tables, chairs, shelving and bar materials.
Two days before delivery, the furniture warehouse burned down.
To some, that might be a bad omen. But now Krio is open, and its bright, colorful space reflects its owners’ optimism, right down to the cornball mural telling customers, “You’re shrimply the best.”
“At first we thought we’d have to adapt, and we were only going to do takeout and delivery ourselves,” Cheng says. “We ended up rolling out with our full menu. A week or two later we added our brunch. We’re actually having to add a third specialty oyster because everyone is loving the oyster program.”
In some ways, the pandemic was easy on Krio as it opened its doors. The owners had time to order replacement furniture. As seated service slowly began, the smaller crowds made it easier to train staff slowly, without rushing to hire (or furlough) a larger group of servers.
“We’ve been blessed to have a lot of the support of our neighbors and the service industry,” Bui says.
Krio opened in time only for the last weeks of crawfish season, which means Cheng’s Asian-Cajun crawfish boils will mostly have to wait until next year. (The business began as a pop-up and catering group centered on her crawdad cookery.)
Her papaya salad, jambalaya egg rolls and bánh mì, however, are here to stay. Back on July 2, I ordered a couple of takeout bánh mì from Krio starring fried soft-shell crab ($17). After placing the order, I looked at the restaurant’s Facebook page and discovered that it was the restaurant’s very first night in business.
For a first day of service, that was one confident sandwich: crisply battered crab, thick slices of jalapeno, a showering of herbs, not one but two toothpicks to hold things together. The bread is a po’ boy style loaf, with a great deal more squish and give than the awesomely crusty baguettes used at, say, Quoc Bao Bakery.
That makes me think Krio’s po’ boys are probably pretty good. Guess I’ll have to go back and find out, and add an appetizer of grilled Gulf oysters, rather than the ultradense jalapeno-corn hush puppies ($6).
Cheng and Bui say business in Krio’s three weeks was relatively steady for both takeout and dine-in. Now they’re planning to add specialty Atlantic oysters to the now Gulf-heavy lineup. Only one other restaurant in the neighborhood, Boulevardier, has a robust oyster program, and it’s temporarily closed.
“We sell out,” Cheng says. “So we’re rotating some regularly. Wednesday is technically the start day of our week, we’re closed Tuesdays — so that’s the best day for oyster lovers, that’s when we get everything in.”
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Wednesdays and Thursdays will have a new enticement soon. Cheng and Bui, both veterans of the nightclub and venue industries, will play host to guest mixologists who’ve temporarily lost their jobs at local bars, allowing the visitors to in essence conduct a bar takeover.
The guest bartender series is another sign of Krio’s ambition to be more than just a neighborhood spot.
“We’re very excited with the fact that Bishop Arts was the location for our first store,” Bui says. “We do want to make this brand a big name brand — look at locations in other cities, other states. We’re doing everything we can and we’re thankful for the love and support that we have.”
Krio, 233 W. 7th St., Suite 100 (Bishop Arts District). Open for takeout and dine-in 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and Monday.