Burgers, pies, retro sci-fi makes recipe for a Hot Mess

Horror movie-themed restaurant to open in Richland’s Parkway

In addition to managing a cafe, owning a micro-bakery and parenting four children, Chris Nokes decided to add restaurant entrepreneur to his list.

He’s opening Hot Mess Burgers & Pies at 619 The Parkway in Richland, where Cheese Louise used to be.

“When we came in here in December, I just fell in love with the spot,” said Nokes, owner of Hot Mess. “My wife and I had been talking about two to three years out for opening a restaurant, but once we both came in here and saw everything, we both decided we need to move ahead.”

Nokes has been in the restaurant business for 15 years, working at various fine dining establishments, like Richland’s Fat Olives, Mojave in Prosser’s Desert Wind Winery and the now-closed Katya’s Bistro and Wine Bar in Richland.

Most recently, he manages Kagen Coffee & Crepes in Richland’s Uptown, where he helps design and photograph the monthly specials and sells pastries from his micro-bakery.

Seeing the success of Kagen’s café affirmed his belief that the region is ready to keep supporting locally-owned restaurants.

“The Tri-Cities, up until recently, has not had a lot of support for those smaller restaurants,” Nokes said. “But I feel like in the past five years or so, the whole demeanor has changed. Now Tri-Citians are very proud of our area and we’re starting to reclaim it as our own. We’re starting to get to the point where Olive Garden doesn’t win ‘Restaurant of the Year’ every year.”

Which begs the question, why do burgers, when Nokes has the skills to create finely-crafted entrees?

“There’s nothing more fun than just a big, greasy burger. You ask any chef, and they’re not going home and making truffled potatoes. They’re getting burgers. As much fun as I’ve had making really high-end, fun things, I’ve never had more fun than when I was working for Willingham’s Grill (formerly at 334 W. Columbia Drive, Kennewick) and we were just making greasy spoon burgers. I wanted to get back to that type of cooking,” he said.

The restaurant will have a retro science-fiction theme with both the décor and the menu, which will include offerings like: Teenage Beach Party Massacre Burger, with a beet barbecue sauce designed to be blood red, and the Lemony Wobbly Thymey Whimey pie, inspired by Dr. Who.

Hot Mess also will serve milkshakes made by a vintage machine, including one called The Twilight Zone, using white and dark chocolate.

Nokes and his wife are on the hunt for a retro pie case with rotating shelves to showcase the eight standard pies on the menu, along with seasonal offerings.

“Very few places in the Tri-Cities do pies,” Nokes said. “They’re very uniquely American. We took the whole concept from the English tradition, but there’s nothing more American in terms of desserts than pies, and it’s so regional, too.”

There also will be poutine, salads, fish and chips, and a vegan burger made with falafel. The restaurant will serve beer and wine, but not liquor.

Nokes is investing at least $35,000 into the remodel of the 2,400-square-foot building on the southern end of The Parkway, near Casa Mia, where he signed a month-to-month lease.

“The Parkway is perfect. It’s becoming a dining destination,” he said.

His goal is to open in time for the Richland Farmers’ Market, which runs from May to October. Hot Mess hasn’t ruled out the idea of a Friday, Saturday or Sunday brunch, but right now it’s not part of the plans.

The current schedule would have the restaurant open every day but Sundays.

An online fundraising campaign through Kickstarter is helping to cover the investment costs of Hot Mess.

Nokes has a goal of $10,000 and had already raised nearly $1,000 within the first week. Supporters can earn everything from a logo sticker to free burgers and pie for life, depending on the amount of backing.

Thanks to a long history in the local service industry, Nokes has already hired most of the nine employees he expects to need.

Family and friends currently are working on the remodel, but Nokes expects to use Western Restaurant Supply & Design for the kitchen installation.

The restaurant will seat 87 people indoors. Outdoor seating will not be available to start due to the limitations that come with a liquor license.

The Parkway also is the site of a planned expansion of Frost Me Sweet, the new second location of Foodies Too and the anchor location of Porter’s Real BBQ, which was recently featured on the Food Network.

“We’re starting to create a food scene in the Tri-Cities and it’s beautiful,” Nokes said. “It’s such a great time to be here and I wanted to throw my name in the ring with my burger shop.”

Hot Mess Burgers & Pies: 619 The Parkway, Richland; Facebook.

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