Monica Dimas grew up in Yakima, Washington baking with her mother and learning traditional Mexican dishes. Her first kitchen job came at 18yrs old with no professional experience or training. It was a natural fit that steered the course of her life. She now has three popular restaurants, Neon Taco, Tortas Condesa and Sunset Fried Chicken, all which live up to her companies vision: "good food in fun settings."
Chatting with Monica in her airy Capitol Hill apartment, you quickly see how she has obtained her success. She is incredibly focused and most conversations about free time steer back to brainstorming new concepts for the restaurants. But even with a career that belies her age, she is quick to a laugh and loves to have fun. She invites her neighbor to join us and chat about their mutual love of brunch; the two are soon to co-host weekend themed meals at Monica's apartment called "Brunch In, Brunch Out."
With her endless energy and drive to create, we agree that Monica will be one to watch. Her next project will take her to Portland with partner Rachel Marshal of Rachel's Ginger Beer. They are collaborating on a soon-to-open RGB and Sunset Fried Chicken. Monica shows no signs of slowing down with talks of expanding out of Seattle even further. We can't wait to see what mouth watering creations she dreams up next!
Photography by AJ Ragasa
I started cooking in a restaurant when I was 18, which was the first and only job I've ever done as an adult. I was working at a bookstore, but it was time for a change and everyone at the restaurant appeared to be having a way better time then me. I had to pretty much beg for the position as I had no experience. At that point I had never really dined out before, just burgers out with my family. Cooking in a restaurant was fun and felt like a natural progression of my life.
When I moved from Yakima to Seattle, I worked at higher caliber restaurants like Spinasse, Campagne, and with Ethan Stowell for a few years. At that point, I had hit a plateau and didn't know what I was doing anymore. The intensity you have to have in restaurants can be really tiring, especially with trying to maintain relationships. I needed to find happiness in all the craziness. I started collaborating with Rachel Marshall and Kate Opatz, of Montana and Nacho Borracho. We thought it would be fun to do these Mexican hangover food pop-ups. It caught on as they were deciding what to do with the food side of their bars. I took that over and it was really successful, which is what launched everything!
I eat out a lot, but I'm a total creature of habit and don't leave Capitol Hill often. I'll check out new spots and then just keep going to the same places. I love Cafe Presse, Ba Bar, Stateside and I eat lunch at Neon Taco and Torta Condesa often. It's easy when I know I'll like what I'm going to be eating. My restaurants have a pretty set menu with small seasonal variations. With the dinners I do throughout the year, like On the Boards and Smoke Farm Symposium Series, that is when I can play and have some fun!
My life consists of always picking up little pieces, trying to put it all together. So having free time is inspiring me right now. The fact that I have a minute to pause, to think about my restaurants versus the process feeling forced. Even when I'm just relaxing and all of a sudden, I'll have this idea! I also like to stay connected with the restaurants by physically being there as my part is no longer as hands on. I work at Neon Taco on Friday nights; it's just a fun environment!
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