Florida Foodie: Brother Jimmy’s proprietor shares unexpected journey to restaurant ownership

Mike Daquino runs restaurant at ICON Park with his wife

When Mike Daquino moved to Florida from New York, he did not plan on running a restaurant.

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Mike Daquino moved to Florida from New York, he did not plan on running a restaurant.

“No, not at all,” Daquino said.

He had previously worked with Brother Jimmy’s BBQ for 15 years in New York City, where the chain started in 1989. Daquino was a New York native and had lived there most of his life, but his family was looking for a change of pace in 2019.

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“So my family and I moved down (to Florida) to work for what was a franchise company that was opening a few quick service locations (of Brother Jimmy’s BBQ) and one full service at point Orlando,” he said. “Then when the world shut down (due to the pandemic), that company ran out of funding, which was OK. Brother Jimmy’s got me to Florida and got us out of New York, which was what we wanted to do.”

Daquino then shifted gears, moving into real estate.

“I got into the real estate market right away. I still currently work for Douglas Elliman real estate,” he said. ”That was awesome. It was something new, something challenging. I used all my skills from running a restaurant. Business, at the end of the day, is people — talking to people, it’s dealing with people, it’s filling a void that someone needs help with. It’s just being a good person — to be able to help people get from point A to point B.”

Check out the Florida Foodie podcast. You can find every episode in the media player below:

Daquino was enjoying his new role but said he felt pulled back toward the restaurant industry.

“A restaurant is just so much more intentional serving,” he said. “You serve someone a plate of food, and they instantly eat it and are gratified and love it. It’s just such a nice feeling.”

Daquino happened to find himself at a traffic light near ICON Park. At the time, Jimmy Goldman, the owner of Brother Jimmy’s, was in the process of opening a new location at the tourist attraction. The chain saw a big contraction during the pandemic and was forced to shut down all of its New York locations, leaving only one Brother Jimmy’s in Maryland.

Daquino said Goldman, who he had known from his previous work with the company, had decided to pull out of his plans for an ICON Park location.

“So I said, ‘You know what, I’ve become pretty good friends with Chris (Jaskiewicz), who’s the president of ICON Park, let’s just go have a conversation with Chris and see if maybe there’s something that we can work out and we can see if we can still get the store open,” Daquino said.

Daquino and Jaskiewicz talked through what had gone wrong with the deal between ICON Park and Goldman and what it would take to get the restaurant back on track.

“So he said, ‘Alright, write me a proposal, put me together some logistics and show me you can do the funding and show me you can get it done. If you can do that, we’ll do it,’” Daquino said.

He managed to bring it all together, even traveling back to New York to gather up all of the furniture and décor from the now-shuttered restaurants there, shipping it all back to Orlando.

After three months of work, the new Brother Jimmy’s location opened on Aug. 12.

In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Daquino talks about how he first became involved with Brother Jimmy’s and how he met his wife while working in one of the restaurants. He also talks about some of the menu highlights and what guests can expect when they stop in for a meal.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out her children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”


Florida Foodie is a biweekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it and the impact that has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find new episodes on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.



About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.