Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009 | 12:55 p.m.
Sitting just off the patio at Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar, a light breeze wafting through in the late afternoon sunlight, you see why Arturo Coronel has such affection for the island-inspired brand.
He's worked at The Woodlands, Texas, and Sandestin, Fla., locations and now serves as general manager at Town Square Las Vegas, so he knows whereof he speaks.
"This will probably be the last restaurant I work for," Coronel said. "I've worked for so many different restaurants, and there's not one like this. It's a diamond in the rough, and it's beautiful."
A native of Houston, Coronel got his start in the industry waiting tables at a family-owned Italian restaurant, where the owner's grandparents would sit and drink Chianti during work hours. Tommy Bahama's fosters a similar attitude, he said, in that, despite its national name recognition, loyalty and customer service come first.
He refers to the case of a Florida couple, gumbo fans who were having trouble locating a decent version of the dish in the Sunshine State. Coronel had his executive chef, a scholar of Southern cuisine, whip up a batch for the couple, and they were hooked.
Years later, they greeted him with hugs and kisses when they crossed paths at the Town Square location.
"We created a friend for life," Coronel said.