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Coronado's Downtown Dream Comes at a Cost

By David Markland
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011, at 11:55AM

Father and son duo Gilbert and Robert Coronado hope for a bright future for their namesake restaurant.

“Ever since I was a little boy I always wanted to own a restaurant,” said Gilbert Coronado, owner of Coronado’s on 5th near Spring. But for Gilbert, the dream has has proved to have its price.

Gilbert reminisced that he’d started coming Downtown when he was only seven years old. “My brother and I would ride bikes from East L.A. to Main Street to play in the penny arcades.”

When he turned 18, “suddenly the neighborhood went downhill.” As a result, Gilbert decided to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant elsewhere.

Using some business acumen and recipes passed down from his mother, Gilbert opened Coronado’s in San Gabriel. Gilbert’s son Robert, who had worked at restaurants during his college years, quit his job at a brokerage firm to join his father.

The San Gabriel eatery was busy at first, but as the once predominately Hispanic community became more Asian, business dropped. Eventually, a rent hike led them to shut down that location in February 2010.

While the pair had settled on moving to the Alexandria Hotel at the end of 2009, they didn’t sign a lease until August 2010. Among the holdups was waiting two months before the Health Department could confirm the space was zoned for restaurant use.

“When we first looked at this place, it was supposed to be a restaurant,” Gilbert said. “But the city said it was retail,” Robert added. Though the waste management department verified the location had previously been a restaurant, Robert said it took seven weeks before the Health Department confirmed the information.

While their San Gabriel location opened in just three months, it took close to a year to get the proper permits to open Downtown. “The city sent five different plumbing inspectors, and each one wanted additional things,” he said, approximating that this added $30,000 in costs and three months of opening delays.

Once business picks up, the pair plan to operate 24 hours a day, perhaps with a late night menu that will serve “nothing but omelettes.”

In the meantime, with the help of their next-door neighbor they’ve created a bar menu to serve to patrons at the Down and Out, offering American fare like Philly cheese steaks, sliders, chicken wings, and macaroni and cheese. Coronado’s also plans to provide food service for the Mezz on select nights upstairs at the Alexandria.

Coronado’s menu “is basically a lot of my mom’s recipes,” Robert explained. “We never use lard - I have this thing about grease. And we have no cans here,” except for the corn used in their menudo. “You can taste the freshness.”

In addition to the tacos, which they say customers have hailed as the best in town, the Coronados are proud to talk up their home style chili relleno and carne asada fries.

On Yelp, Coronado’s eight reviews for the new location are unanimous in their praise for the food, and the San Gabriel location closed with four and a half out of five stars.

Coronado's/212 W. 5th/213-784-1055

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