Chasing a Hispanic clientele
Branham's experience in Mexico is limited to Cancun and the Baja peninsula, where he recently honeymooned with his new wife, Dawn, a PhD student at MSU. So why a Mexican restaurant, and why here?
"I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the Hispanics who work in area restaurants live within a mile radius of here." He's not the only one who noticed--Ole [financial] Services is across the street: "We're doing some cross-marketing with them. In fact, the other day, a couple of Hispanic guys came in and looked at a menu, then went and opened the door, and"--he makes a "c'mon in" gesture--"about a dozen more of their friends walked in." Hispanics who work in restaurants are likely to be, Branham reasons, tough critics and not rich, but he thinks he can pull it off.
One of his Mexican cooks "brought in the recipes he cooks at home: the rice, the flautas, the chilaquiles. Chilaquiles is just a simple workingman's lunch that you see in Mexico: chips, spicy salsa verde, topped with an egg or some chicken. Jacqueline Rodriguez, another one of my cooks, brought in the chile rellenos recipe. But we added a little twist--we had the smoker from the previous restaurant, so we smoke our poblanos first."
He also smokes corn on the cob, which turns up in a lot of the dishes, such as the sweet potato cakes.