Growing up in Highlands Ranch, brothers Luis and Daniel Ramirez didn't get to hang out with friends very often on the weekends. Instead, they peeled shrimp and potatoes and cleaned silverware at their father Jose Ramirez's Mexican restaurant, Los Dos Potrillos, at 8251 South Holly Street in Centennial.
"We became old souls pretty quickly," Luis says with a smile.
But they also learned about hard work, about the restaurant business and about the value of doing things in an old-school way. Now Luis and Daniel, who are 29 and 26, respectively, are partners in Jose's three-restaurant empire — and they're planning to add some new-school touches.
Last month, the Ramirezes bought FanDraught Sports Brewery, a poorly conceived sports bar, restaurant and brewery at 19340 Cottonwood Drive in Parker, which closed after only ten months in business. They plan to reopen it as a fourth Los Dos Potrillos in September. Instead of doing away with the brewery and the equipment, however, the family decided to keep it — an unusual decision in the world of Mexican restaurants.
"There aren't any other Mexican restaurants with breweries in Colorado, but I guarantee you there will be some others that follow us by the end of the year," says Jose, ticking off the names of several competitors.
"We are always asking ourselves: 'What will set us apart? How do we become uncommon?'" says Luis.
There also aren't that many Latino brewery owners in Colorado — though that is changing quickly. In 2017, at least two breweries, Lady Justice and Cheluna, opened with some Latino ownership. In 2018, at least six more breweries with at least partial Latino ownership opened or have plans to open. They include Atrevida Brewing in Colorado Springs, Coal Mine Avenue Brewing in Littleton, Novel Strand Brewing in Denver, Jade Mountain Brewing in Denver, Raices Brewing in Denver and now Los Dos Potrillos in Parker.
"To break into this, it's cool. There's no other way to say it," says Luis. A trained sommelier who began working for his father in earnest right out of high school, Luis adds that he is looking forward to learning more about the nuances of beer flavors and about how to pair the restaurant's dishes with various styles.
Although the whole family enjoys drinking beer, none of them have brewed, so they hired former FanDraught head brewer Robert Bell to handle the six-barrel system. He will likely focus on Mexican-style lagers that pair well with Mexican food, but also on seasonal offerings with Mexican ingredients.
The beers will be served on fifteen taps, alongside canned and bottled Mexican classics like Corona, Dos Equis, Pacífico and Modelo. The craft beers probably won't be on tap at the other Los Dos Potrillos locations, however, since they primarily serve the canned and bottled Mexican beers, Jose says.
The new location is 6,400 square feet and can seat 300 people, but the family plans to add a rooftop patio as well. They are currently building a rooftop patio at their third location in Highlands Ranch, which seats around 340 people. The other two locations, in Littleton and Centennial, seat another 350 and 209 people, respectively. "As my father always says, 'That's a lot of burritos,'" Luis points out.
The patios and the craft beer are part of the new-school way of doing things, explains Daniel, who adds that a mentor once told him that mixing old school with new school creates an unbeatable product.
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And it was Daniel who pushed the idea of keeping the brewery. When they found out about the FanDraught building, the family had been searching for a new location for a year, accepting and then rejecting at least two other spots. "We walked in and saw the brewery and asked, 'What if this is Los Dos Potrillos and Brewery?'" Daniel remembers. His father responded by saying, "You will make me grow crazy, son." In the end, they decided to take a leap of faith and do something new, something that would set them apart.
The old-school ways still work as well, though. Jose, who is fifty, came to the United States with his family when he was five — the seventh of fifteen children — and grew up in Globeville. He got a job as a bag boy at the age of thirteen and began working in the restaurant business as a dishwasher in 1986. From there, he moved up the ladder, eventually becoming the server manager at Las Palmas in Littleton.
Later, Jose and his sister Maria opened Tia Maria Mexican Restaurant on Pecos. By 2002, Jose had saved up enough money to head to the southern suburbs and open the first Los Dos Potrillos location in Centennial. The recipes for the menu came from the Zacatecan food that his mother cooked; Los Dos Potrillos recently won the Top Taco award for its tacos.
Today, those tacos are served at three locations that cover a wide swath of the southern suburbs. And soon in Parker, you'll be able to wash them down with Los Dos Potrillos beer.