Humans of Cranston: Jonathan Vasquez and Nary Vann

By JB FULBRIGHT, Photo by Tim McFate
Posted 12/6/23

Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston residents’ community involvement, diversity and unique life perspectives.

Jonathan Vasquez and Nary Vann are the …

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Humans of Cranston: Jonathan Vasquez and Nary Vann


Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston residents’ community involvement, diversity and unique life perspectives.

Jonathan Vasquez and Nary Vann are the owners of Dos Mundos, a new Cambodian-Guatemalan fusion restaurant located on 1 Starline Way.

Jonathan: My family comes from food. I’m originally from Los Angeles, but my family, we’re from Guatemala. A lot of my aunts, uncles, all came from either bakeries, butcher shops, or cafeteria style food, so food’s been around in my family forever. I lived in Guatemala when I was a child, and I remember seeing my mom start a business in our garage. I saw her build it with wood and tarps and overnight, she built a counter, and the next day, she was serving food. She became the talk of the town, because she was making very authentic traditional food, and as a kid, I was like, wow. I was just inspired to see my mom – my mom’s a single mom of four – doing this with nobody backing her up, and we were just young kids running around, causing havoc instead of helping … I always liked food. I wasn’t a picky eater; I ate a little bit of everything … Everybody’s like, how’d you learn how to cook? And I’m like, I think cooking really comes deep from you. Somewhere inside of you, you have a passion for something, and for me it was to cook, you know.

Nary: Growing up, I had six sisters, and my mom’s always been in the kitchen. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my father obviously had to work, so there was a lot of cooking in the house, and my grandparents lived upstairs. My mom always didn’t want me to touch anything, she was more like, “get out of the kitchen!” but I’ve always watched. I watched everything, everything my mom ever did, just from her boiling the water, starting up the food, just the aroma of the lemongrass, the galanga, the ginger, it just smelled so good, the lime leaf, and I was just like, “oh, she’s cooking, she’s cooking!” Like, some dishes weren’t easy to make, but I definitely would have to say I learned from my grandma. My grandma was more hands-on. She would say, “I’ll give you fifty cents if you do the taro,” and I would slice the taro. … My grandma was more gentle; she had patience, so she would teach me how to roll egg rolls and make fried rice. My grandpa worked at a restaurant called Phnom Penh – it used to be on Elmwood. He was like, the best chef there, and he would bring the equipment home, the wok and stuff, and do it in the backyard. That’s what brings the family together, so growing up, I was very family oriented. I’ve always cooked a lot for my family because I like the feeling of being with my family. It’s comforting, it’s the love that’s within the household, and we always look forward to that.

Jonathan: The name Dos Mundos translates to two worlds – Guatemalan and Cambodian. My son is half-Guatemalan and half-Cambodian, so we’ve been around [both cultures] … and obviously [Nary] is Cambodian, so she’s been around Cambodian people her whole life. I’ve been around Cambodians my whole life too, since I was a young kid, so I gravitated toward hanging out with different people than from what I was used to, and you start to realize that we’re all kind of the same. So then, that’s how we got the name; we took a trip to Guatemala, and there was a hotel named Dos Mundos, and we never thought nothin’ about it, we stayed there.

Nary: It’s a beautiful hotel. Just Guatemala itself, it’s beautiful, just breathtaking, like, I never knew that it existed. This special place that we went to called Semuc Champey, it just was breathtaking. It was in the high mountains, people had their traditional outfits, handmade tortillas, and it made me just appreciate life more. Like, coming here to a whole different country and seeing that was just like, wow. It just inspired me a lot.

J: That’s just kind of how we came up with the whole concept of the restaurant, and it took a while to see it come together. You can have a great idea, but it takes a while to execute that idea, and it hit me one day when someone ordered tacos and noodles, and I’m like, that’s pretty amazing to go to one place, cuz usually you would have to go to two places, right? And you could get tacos and then you could get noodles. And a lot of people, people would be like, oh, you’re a Chinese restaurant – no, we’re not Chinese – or they’re like, you’re a Mexican restaurant – no, we’re not a Mexican restaurant. A lot of people have a concept of food like, oh, that comes from China, that comes from Mexico, but we all have our own versions of it. Like, our tortillas are handmade, they’re Guatemalan-style. Our seasonings, everything, they’re influenced from Guatemala. Same thing with her dishes, they’re influenced from Cambodia. Even though it might be similar, you’re still putting your own twist to it. And then, to bring in the food together, we do offer authentic food, but we also do offer fusion food, where we’ll put an idea that’s maybe a Guatemalan spice with some Cambodian spice. One of our hot sauces that people love and ask us to bottle it all the time, it was just us in the kitchen working together, like, “hey! Put this, put that,” and all of a sudden, you’re crying because it’s so hot! But people love it.

N: It’s like, you would never think people would be like, “oh my god, this is so amazing,” and you have customers come in and ask, “can I get that special hot sauce?!” It’s the little things like that, because you’re just back there mixing it, you’re coming up with these recipes, and to them, it’s big. To us, we’re just back there like, “what can we do, what can we do?” but people really love it. They just keep coming back and they want us to bottle it in a bottle and sell it, but the process of making that hot sauce is a lot of work. Like, y’know, we choke, we die every time. (laughs)

Jonathan: What we would like people to take out of this is, yes, we are a start-up business, we’ve made mistakes, but we try, we really do try. To everyone who walks through this door, we greet them, we treat them like the humans they are, because they come here to support our business, and we’re very passionate about it, so we’ll go the extra mile. I have people who walk in before we close and they’re like, “oh no, we’re leaving!” and we’re like, “no, you made it in, you came hungry, I’m gonna feed you, even if I have to start up the kitchen.” … My mom taught me that no matter what you have, even if it’s a bowl of rice and a bowl of beans … if somebody’s hungry, you share it. You split it, whatever you have to do, because everybody eats.

The second season of this project has been made possible by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the efforts of the OneCranston Health Equity Zone of Comprehensive Community Action, Inc. in partnership with the Cranston Herald and Timothy McFate. The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of Humans of Cranston participants do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the aforementioned parties. The presented stories are voluntarily provided, unpaid, and given verbatim except for correcting grammatical errors. 

Want to nominate a Cranston resident to be featured? Email JB at

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