Our story so far: After getting a desperately needed infusion of credit and passing several inspections required by the city, Frank Connell and his cousin Mike Clements are almost ready to open their new restaurant, the Red Bean, in Northwest Washington. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Frank Connell stirs a vat of con queso, a cheesy dipping sauce that he flavors with spicy sausage. The kitchen at the Red Bean is sweltering. Four of six gas burners are on high. Bits of tortilla crackle and pop in the deep fryer. The refrigerators are packed with produce, meats and seafood.
Frank wipes a hand on his apron and lets out a celebratory whoop. It's Saturday, and after five months of travail, the Red Bean is set to open this afternoon. The past few days have been a whirlwind. The health inspector passed the restaurant with flying colors. Then the city granted a business license. Finally, deliveries of food started arriving. Frank has been cooking ever since.
Last night, he and Mike Clements, his cousin and business partner, held a private party at the restaurant, treating more than 100 friends to a sampling of their Tex-Mex and Cajun cooking. "This is so freakin' good," one attendee told Frank. "I'm serious, man."
The party didn't end until midnight, when Frank finally ejected about half a dozen overfed diehards. He didn't bother going back to Alexandria, where he's been living with his mother. Instead, he slept on the carpet in the Red Bean's office. This morning he bathed by sticking his head under the dish sprayer. Then he got to work, cleaning up last night's mess and prepping food.
Now just two hours remain until the doors officially open, and Frank and Mike aren't feeling entirely ready. The soda machine isn't working. A repairman was supposed to be here an hour ago. Mike grabs the phone and chews out the Coca-Cola distributor.
Oh no, Frank realizes, they've forgotten to get change for the cash register. He says he can't make it to the bank before it closes. The jambalaya still isn't ready. Neither is the barbecued shrimp.
That's when Deanie Griffin -- and old friend of Frank and Mike's -- walks into the Red Bean with her toddler son and mother. This trio of premature customers drops a quick order: crawfish bread, fish tacos, chips 'n' salsa, blackened chicken salad, grilled cheese.
Back in the kitchen, the order raises minor bedlam. Frank isn't sure how many pieces of chicken to put on the salad. Mike finishes the crawfish bread too early, while the fish tacos are still cooking. "I'm so nervous, dude," Mike says.
The dishes go out one by one, instead of all at once. Normally this would be a prescription for irked customers, but Deanie doesn't mind. "Everything was really good," she assures them.
Frank and Mike confer. They decide that the Red Bean is still not ready to open. They need two more days to get their act together, and then they'll open on Monday.
Frank slowly removes his stained white apron and asks Mike for the keys to his nearby apartment. "I need a shower," Frank says.
-- Tyler Currie