When Jonathan Swan launched his Latin fusion restaurant Dorado five years ago, business was slow. Now, it has transformed into a hot spot on Park Avenue.
During the first few months, the 32-year-old entrepreneur faced several challenges, including obtaining a liquor license and dealing with the stress of paying for all the restaurant expenses while business was sluggish.
Swan took over the space on Park Avenue in August 2008, after starting JC Swan Inc., which does business as Dorado, and spent more than three months completing renovations. Contributing to the laid-back atmosphere of Park Avenue, Dorado's decor exudes an authentic vibe with colorful paintings of food, people and scenery on the walls, as well as Latin music playing softly in the background.
"That's the fun part for me; it comes naturally," Swan says of renovating the space.
Swan came up with the menu, which "started very small, but I have grown it a lot. I thought that the Latin fusion concept would work well because it is different from other restaurants in the area," he says.
A fan of tex-mex dishes and some of the Mexican restaurants in Rochester, Swan wanted his menu to have a fresh take on traditional dishes to appeal to the young demographic in the Park Avenue neighborhood. Dorado's customers range from businessmen and women stopping in on their lunch hour to neighborhood residents hoping to grab a drink with friends.
"I have done some cooking myself, but was mostly inspired by my traveling and the foods I liked in the Caribbean and Mexico," Swan says. "Some of the foods are things my Mom cooked me when I was young."
The menu features a variety of Mexican and Spanish dishes, including tacos, burritos and original Latin entrees, such as the Mexican spicy fish, which is a spice-rubbed mahi-mahi filet sauteed with tomato, onion, jalapenos and lime.
Swan has made improvements to the menu to meet customer demands.
"We recently added a late-night menu that is doing really well. It has cheaper options, like a la carte tacos," he explains.
"Customers come in for fish tacos and margaritas all day long. That's definitely what we are known for," Swan says. "We use fresh ingredients and the menu changes, sometimes on a weekly basis, based on the produce that is ordered."
Dorado's lunch and dinner options range from $10 to $15. The restaurant also offers a selection of cocktails and wines, in addition to nine types of margaritas. Cocktails and margaritas cost $5 to $10.
The restaurant is in its busiest time of year; Park Avenue is a popular spot for outdoor dining and people watching during summer days and evenings.
Although the restaurant had a slow start, things have turned around; business has been on a steady incline each year since, he says. Dorado has 15 employees and serves nearly 2,000 customers a week.
Swan is open to expanding in the future but wants to keep the restaurant's inviting atmosphere created in part by its location on Park Avenue. Swan also has continued to feed his entrepreneurial spirit with a recent venture, Daily Refresher, a bar on Alexander Street.
"I'm fortunate enough to have had a great deal of success with Dorado, and I am looking for other business opportunities," he says. "If a bar or restaurant nearby closed down, I would definitely take it over."
Katie Burgstrom is a Rochester Business Journal summer intern.
Small Business is a biweekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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