BISBEE — What Mike Donahue has done in seven months with a revamped restaurant in a neighborhood of Bisbee is enough to make any restaurant owner a little envious.
From quesabirria tacos and barbacoa tortas to vegan shrimp tacos smothered with chipotle aioli, Donahue has captured some of the most tantalizing Mexican cuisine that has put Los Hermanos on top of the charts for legions of restaurant-goers since it started late last year.
For many who have turned into diehard regulars of the little restaurant on Arizona Street in the Warren section of the historic mining town, they can’t stop praising both the quality and variety of food Donahue has been putting out from the day he opened the doors Dec. 27.
And the rave reviews Los Hermanos is receiving on the restaurant’s Facebook page singing the praises of his Mexican dishes is practically a testament saluting what Donahue has accomplished in the difficult world of pleasing customers in the restaurant business in a relatively short time.
The Bisbee native and Bisbee High School graduate is loving every minute of it.
“Once it got rolling, business has been great, and it’s continually getting better,” said Donahue who, along with a former partner owned the popular On the Vedge restaurant in Old Bisbee for a year before he closed it for personal reasons. “The overall response has been tremendous. The community has really come out and supported what I’m doing here.”
Los Hermanos — which was formerly Betos Mexican Restaurant that operated for about 20 years before it closed four years ago — has been a big addition to the Warren neighborhood. It’s one of two newer restaurants open in the evenings, which means residents don’t have to drive to Old Bisbee or the San Jose area looking for a place to eat. For many who live in the vicinity of Arizona Street, it’s walking distance. Donahue leased the restaurant last October and spent three months revamping it, including a new fire suppression system.
“Things get really busy at noon, 5 p.m. and right around 7 p.m.,” Donahue said. “There’s groups of construction workers, workers from two health clinics down the street and the staff from the Boys and Girls Club that fill the place up. And then there’s the takeout orders that seem to hit at about the same time. That’s when we really crank out some really great food.”
Cooking and bartending in practically every restaurant and bar in Bisbee since he was a kid, Donahue has the business in his blood. He started cooking at Burger King at 16, stepped it up a notch when he cooked at the Stock Exchange, tended bar at the Copper Queen Hotel, Table and the list goes on and on. Whether it’s American, Mexican, Thai or Italian, give the guy a skillet, some exotic ingredients to prep, and he’ll whip up something you’ve never tasted before but wish you could have it again and again.
“I absolutely just love cooking, it doesn’t really matter what kind of food,” he said. “I know how to put out some really special food.”
After his venture with On the Vedge, this time around Donahue is in it for keeps. But he also knows that for him to succeed in the restaurant business, which is often like walking a tightrope, he feels he needs diversity. He’s hoping to buy the Los Hermanos building, is in the process of purchasing a 25-foot food truck decked out with all the bells and whistles, cooks every Saturday at the Bisbee Farmers Market, has a catering business with four big jobs booked for October and is kicking around the idea of baking of line of croissants and baked goods he says are really terrific. He also has his heart set on finding the right bar to buy.
But for now, Donahue is enjoying having his hands full in his 10-table, four-barstool restaurant where he and his longtime friend Eddie Romero are attracting new customers to their already growing clientele, putting out food the community is finding irresistible. And Donahue knows how important that is to the growth of Los Hermanos.
“There has to be consistency in what you’re making, and lately we’re hitting our stride with that,” he said. “There’s a solid consistency with what we’re making and putting out. You have to have that.”
Donahue has been around the block long enough to know that going the extra mile and then some is what you have to do to stay alive in the up-and-down world of restaurant ownership. He’s got the ability, the chops and the drive to deliver his product, even if he’s locking the door after a long 10-hour day and a couple drives up wanting to eat. He unlocked the door and escorted them to a table.
“I wouldn’t turn anyone away just because it’s a few minutes after closing,” he said. “That’s not what I do. This isn’t some corporate restaurant. They drove all the way from wherever they came from. That right there is good enough for me.”
Los Hermanos is located at 123 Arizona St. It is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.