This article appears in the September issue of 400 Life.
Chances are, if you’ve ever had a bite of the Forsyth-famous steak fajitas from Los Rios Mexican Restaurant in Cumming, you’re already a regular. And while you may not need a reason to keep going back, getting to know a little bit more about the family behind the fajitas will only add to your next visit’s satisfaction.
No matter what you order — or when you go — you can count on fresh, delicious food, consistent and excellent service and both done with a heck of a lot of heart.
That heartbeat celebrates a decade this year and a fancy new food truck in its culinary armory (catch them at Dawsonville’s Food Truck Fridays on Sept. 3). But as great as things are going now for the Granados family, it was an uphill battle that has made the success that much sweeter (err, spicier).
“Food was always my passion, but unfortunately, it was a rough time to get into that passion because of the economy,” said Miguel Granados, who runs Los Rios with his sister, Mayra Granados and a slew of other family members — their dad Salvador, Granados’ wife Nadia, his brother-in-law Omar Sanchez and Nadia’s uncle, Cesar Taboada. “Everyone told us we would fail. Restaurants were closing all around us.”
What happened wasn’t anything to prove naysayers wrong. In fact, Miguel Granados will be the first to tell you that their first week — the first year, even — was a big challenge. The difference? The Granados family believed in what they were doing, because this was their livelihood, and failure wasn’t an option.
That’s a mindset well engrained in Granados’ head. His family moved to Forsyth County in 1992 from Guanajuato, Mexico. Times were tough. They spent their first few years sharing a room in the garage, and if Granados needed something for school, he’d have to seek out a way to pay for it. That’s how Granados found his way into restaurants as a young teenager, his first job with the now-closed Austin’s Steak & Seafood in Cumming.
When the restaurant struggled, Granados worked for a year straight, never taking a day off and swapping duties with family members to cut costs. They all waited tables, helped in the kitchen, washed dishes — whatever it took to get to the next day, including giving up tips to pay their handful of employees.
Somewhere along the way — they earned a little reputation for themselves.
“People just started hearing about us,” said Granados. “People heard maybe how we had changed things, or how good the service and the food was. Ten years later, it’s just incredible the support people have given us. It’s something that shows how hard work pays off, and we really just feel blessed by it.”
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It doesn’t take much for Granados to list the reasons people why love it — the menu and the experience speak for themselves, at least for the ones who still have to look at the menu to know what they want. Regulars know their servers by name (and vice versa) and are most likely ordering the aforementioned fajitas, or anything with their delicious cheese dip.
What everyone may not know is that several Granados family recipes all the way from that central city in Mexico have made it to the menu as well, including the rice, salsas and the pastor marinade used on the pork.
“Everybody can be from Mexico, but there are different concepts of food in different regions,” said Granados. “These are from our hometown, and we’re honored to share them with the people who come here.”
A spicy wink from Señor Granados is one element of why the food is so good. The other is the high quality products they buy and the quality with which it is prepared and served. Food is prepped every day, starting with the rice and beans at 8:30 a.m. and a trip to a local farmer’s market for fresh produce.
And although the menu is constantly adding specials that quickly become favorites, there’s one thing that will never change.
“Our prices are very low, and that’s on purpose,” Granados said. “We come from a family who rarely got to go out to eat. It just wasn’t something we were able to do. So now, we want to give that opportunity to our customers.
“Doing this restaurant was something that we had in our heart,” he said. “No matter how hard it was, we just had to go forward with it. And now, it’s something I always thank God for. Lots of people open Mexican restaurants, but we’ve been able to succeed and gain a large following. We want to return that favor.”
On behalf of fellow cheese-dip lovers across the city, gracias, amigos.
Story by Jennifer Colosimo for 400 Life.