Our story so far: At 43, Frank Connell has no illusion of being a businessman -- that's the role of his cousin Mike Clements. When the two men open their restaurant, the Red Bean, Frank will focus on dazzling diners with his Cajun/Tex-Mex cuisine. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Over the entryway to the Red Bean, there's a sign painted with the Cajun phrase Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler. Let the good times roll. The restaurant hasn't had the chance to live up to its motto. Its owners, Frank Connell and Mike Clements, are just about out of cash. The grand opening of their eatery on Mount Pleasant Street NW now depends on the approval of a $20,000 bank loan.
Most of the work on the restaurant is finished. The walls have been painted a fiery orange. "Orange makes people hungry," explains Mike, who was working as a waiter at a resort in Big Sur, Calif., before moving to Washington in March to help Frank open the Red Bean.
Lately, Frank has been decorating the restaurant's eight tables and two lunch counters, which will be able to hold about 40 customers. Each table has a theme. The Bob Marley table, for example, has a poster-size picture of the reggae legend. Another table is covered with Frank's concert tickets from the past 20 years, embedded in glass laminate: Talking Heads, 1982; Aerosmith, 1983. This table also displays Frank's first driver's license, which reveals his proper name to be Howard. "Don't you ever call me that," he warns.
He putters around the two-person kitchen, killing time, while Mike sits in the nearby office listening to MP3s. Mike is 27, stocky and ruddy-cheeked, with straight brown hair that sometimes sticks up. Frank says he and Mike are close friends, though they don't always get along. Frank once punched Mike in the jaw for leaving his apartment window open and allowing Frank's cat, Duke, to escape. A brief brawl ensued, recalls Frank, laughing at the incident.
After eating lunch together, the cousins talk about their search for employees. They need a cook, a dishwasher and a sandwich maker. "We're going to try to keep the staff colorful, like the neighborhood," Frank says.
Mike has a bulky book tucked under his arm: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish. Two hours later, Hector Rojas, a skinny 30-year-old in bluejeans and a yellow button-down shirt, arrives at the Red Bean with his translator, Alicia Milla, for a job interview.
"Where does he live?" Frank asks Alicia.
"Sixteenth Street," Hector answers in English. He's from Colombia and has been living in the United States for a year. "I start to learn English," he says. "Now my job in Maryland in construction is very lejos." Hector turns to Alicia for help.
"Far," she says.
"Far," says Hector to Frank, who wants to know how much he's making an hour. "Eight dollars," Hector says, again in English.
"We can beat that easy," says Frank. Mike asks what kind of experience Hector has in food service. He says that he used to work at a restaurant "dressing pizza." At the end of the interview, Mike and Frank offer Hector a job as either a sandwich maker or dishwasher.
"But tell him not to quit his current job," Frank quickly adds. Because it's still not clear that the Red Bean will open any time soon.
-- Tyler Currie