The History of the Family Restaurant and owner Carlos Colon
The Family Restaurant was owned and operated by Carlos Colon from the mid-80s until his death in the late 90s.
Carlos Colon was born and raised in Puerto Rico, the second oldest of 14 children. In the 50’s he left Puerto Rico for New York City at the age of fifteen by himself with nothing but his brother’s shoes. The journey took several days - including an unexpected two-day wait for his family to pick him up at the airport.
Carlos’ first job in Manhattan was at a deli in Hell’s Kitchen. He started out as a busboy, graduated to delivery boy, and finally became a cook. His next career was as the owner of a meat route. The long difficult hours resulted in serious damage to his knees which required surgery. Later in life he proudly showed off his “war wounds,” scars from 36 stitches on his knees.
Around this time, Carlos met his future wife Carmen through mutual friends - she was a showcase model doing soapbox commercials during intermissions for the Jefferson Theater on 14th Street. The young couple fell in love, got married and moved to the Lower East Side, where they raised their family of three daughters and eventually bought and ran several supermarkets.
In 1986, Carlos opened the Family Restaurant in one of 2 buildings that he owned in Bushwick. Carlos and Carmen ran the business together until they separated and Carlos moved in next door to 24 Irving. His three daughters worked at the restaurant every weekend.
Neighbors remember Carlos fondly - he woke up at 4AM every day to personally prepare his famous pork recipe and worked until close at 6PM. The holiday season was the spot’s busiest time and Carlos' coquito recipe earned rave reviews. He is remembered as an incredibly generous man, always willing to give food to those who needed it.
Carlos owned The Family Restaurant until his death in September of 1999 at the young age of 59. His family proudly describes a man who came to this country with 5 cents in his pocket and with hard work turned it into a million dollars. His youngest daughter Adanette recalls asking her father if he considered himself Puerto Rican or Nuyorican and he told her that he lived the American Dream - “there's nothing I couldn't do here.”
The Family Restaurant sign was hand painted by a local artist and the scene depicts the mountains of Orocovis Puerto Rico where the Colon family lived. In the center of the sign is Carlos himself - roasting a pig in traditional style and wearing his signature guayabera.