Keeping a restaurant open in Dallas is a bit of a challenge, given the high saturation of eateries in the city. However, at Miriam Cocina Latina, restaurant partner Miriam Jimenez is committed to boosting morale from within. As she says, when the employees are happy, the guests are happy.
“You spend more time with your employees than you do with your family,” Jimenez says. “Sometimes, you go home and you think of their problems. I try to think of ways for all of us to come together and bring positive energy to the restaurant.”
Jimenez originally hails from the Dominican, and she credits her hospitable nature to her mother. As a child, her family would host students who would come to the Dominican Republic to study.
“My mother likes to cook a lot,” Jimenez says. “Every time a person would come visit from another country, she’d tell me to learn a recipe from their country for us to cook.”
Although Jimenez grew up going back and forth between home and the United States to visit family in New York, she didn’t relocate to the states permanently until 2004. She first lived in New York upon moving to the States; but after three months, she considered returning to the Dominican.
A friend of hers later bought a house in Dallas and invited her to live with him.
“He said, ‘Come live with me in Dallas,’” Jimenez says. “That was on a Tuesday. By Sunday, I was in Dallas.”
Jimenez quickly fell in love with the city, noting many differences between here and New York.
“People are so friendly in Dallas,” Jimenez says. “They wave at you, they say hello. You don’t see that in New York.”
Jimenez didn’t have a job lined up when moving to Dallas but later began working as a server at Manny’s Uptown. She worked under the tutelage of restaurateur Mico Rodriguez and later helped open the first Mesero location in Addison.
“When I got [to Mesero], I asked, ‘Where is my station?’” Jimenez says. “Then Mico says, ‘No Miriam, you’re going to be my manager.’ I say, ‘I’ve never been a manager,' and he says, ‘I’ll teach you how to do it.’”
During her time with Rodriguez, Jimenez grew a great sense of admiration for him.
“He has great eyes for food, for combinations and for presentation,” Jimenez says of the restaurateur.
Jimenez later took a sabbatical to gain inspiration for other culinary projects. She traveled to the Dominican Republic and to Mexico to study the flavors and cuisines of those regions. She wasn’t sure what would await her after returning to the states, but she later received the opportunity of a lifetime.
Restaurateur Shannon Wynne offered Jimenez a partnership in the restaurant that would eventually become Miriam Cocina Latina.
“He said, ‘Miriam, I want to center the restaurant around you,’” Jimenez says. “I could not be more grateful that God sent him to me. He is a good person to work with. He has a good vision. Anytime he comes to talk to me, he always gives me the best advice.”
After seven months in business, Miriam Cocina Latina is proving to be one hot spot in Uptown. Jimenez believes this is because she encourages her employees to make a connection with everyone who walks through the door.
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“I always tell [my employees] that the person they take care [of] could be their doctor one day, or their lawyer, or the person that takes care of your kids,” Miriam says. “When you go out to eat, you want to have a good experience. When the customer chooses to come to us, I always say thank you. To me, making a connection is the most important thing.”
As of now, Jimenez is enjoying working in her Klyde Warren Park location. She loves chatting with the chefs from neighboring restaurants, including Luke Rogers from Savor Gastropub, and she looks forward to coming to work every day and creating a positive experience for every guest.
“For me, this is not a job,” Jimenez says. “I love to entertain. It comes naturally to me. Sometimes, I come to work at 8 in the morning, and I leave at 10 at night. I don’t mind. I take care of the last table the same way I take care of the first. This is what gives me the most joy in life.”
Miriam Cocina Latina, 2015 Woodall Rodgers Freeway (Uptown)