Our story so far: Unable to get a single order of food out of the kitchen smoothly, Frank Connell and Mike Clements decided to give themselves a couple of extra days to get their act together before opening their new restaurant, the Red Bean. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Frank Connell and his cousin Mike Clements finally open the Red Bean at 5 p.m. on a muggy Monday. The first customer is a lonely looking man who reads a book by the front windows. He orders the $9.95 crawfish bread. When the lone waitress, Callina Harris, a friend of Frank and Mike's from Mount Pleasant, carries the order from the kitchen, Frank follows her, clapping his hands over his head and shuffling his feet. "There it is. It's the first one," he says.
Frank is excited, but he knows the real work is just beginning. Opening the restaurant is one thing. Keeping it open will be, perhaps, the greater feat.
It represents a particular challenge for Frank, who, at 43, has always blown with the wind, floating from town to town, from job to job. "I haven't had a job in a while, a real job." He worked on and off with the local stagehands union for more than 20 years. His last gig with the union was in 2001. The Red Bean is probably the biggest commitment Frank has ever made to a work-related enterprise. "What have I got myself into," he wonders, looking around his new, deeply indebted business.
Back in the kitchen, Frank starts to thaw whiting fillets. He'd prefer to serve red snapper, but that's more expensive. Later he makes a batch of guacamole, which he messes up by over-salting. Next to him is a bowl of browning bananas -- for the bananas Foster -- that will probably end up in the garbage.
Frank blends a few quarts of salsa. Mike tells him to add cilantro. Frank balks. "I've never been a cilantro fan," he says. But Mike takes a hard line, and Frank relents -- cilantro it is. Frank tastes the concoction and winces. "I need a vacation," he says.
Instead he walks down the street to one of his favorite bars, the Raven, where he was once a bartender. He takes a menu with him. At the bar Frank makes an announcement: The Red Bean is now open. Come and get it. There are only a few people in the smoky, one-room establishment. The bartender places an order for blackened beef tacos.
After Frank returns to the Raven with the bartender's food, he sits and quickly drains a Budweiser. "I gotta run before I get yelled at," he says on his way back to work.
The Red Bean draws a trickle of customers all night, and Frank and Mike have no trouble getting the orders out. They close at 10 p.m. after serving meals to 30 people.
Frank cleans the kitchen -- storing food containers, wiping countertops and hosing down the floor mats. Mike counts the receipts. About $350. Not bad, not great, the men agree. A decent start.
Later Frank recalls the rule of thumb a fellow restaurateur once offered: You should be earning back your rent in one day. The Red Bean is paying $3,500 a month in rent. Making that in a day seems unlikely, Frank says. At least for now.
-- Tyler Currie