OVER A HOT SMOKER — Michelle and Jesse Flores Jr. check on the smoked chicken they were preparing for Thursday’s lunch crowd last week. The couple have expanded their catering business to offer take meals from 520 S. Fifth St.

SUNNYSIDE — A new eatery with a locally known name has opened in the downtown core.

Jesse and Michelle Flores, Jr., who have spent the past four months renovating the building at 520 S. Fifth Street, opened Jesse’s Smokken Hot Meatz on May 21.

They are ready for phone orders and walk-up take-out orders, Michelle said.

“We do plan to have an inside dining room by September,” Jesse explained. “We’re still a work in progress.”

There is plenty of outside seating available and there is more across the street at the Heroes Park.

The Flores’ have catered large and small events from working at the beer garden at Varietal Beer Company across the street to catering Darigold’s 100th anniversary, and cooking at the Uncorked Festival and Fresh Hop celebration in Yakima.

“We’re also going to be working the Summer Night events on Thursdays in Yakima beginning June 13,” Jesse added.

Business by accident

The couple started the catering business in 2017 by accident.

“I bought him an Oklahoma Smoker as a wedding present,” Michelle explained, and the die was cast.

“Jesse decided to smoke the brisket and pork for our wedding reception,” Michelle said.

“I put a 36 hours smoke on that meat,” Jesse added.

People seemed to like it, and while on their honeymoon, they discussed, whether starting a catering business was a good idea. They agreed it was, and Jesse’s Smokken Hot Meatz was born.

From there, the couple traded up to the giant smoker. Soon, they were busy catering small events, weddings and various special events throughout the valley.

“We got a big leg up from friends Doug and Laurie Berchman of Berchman’s Brewery in Yakima, who pointed out all the events that were happening in the valley and how to get connected,” Jesse commented.

Last winter, while freezing during cooking outside in the Varietal’s beer garden, Jesse started looking for a place to rent so they could bring their business indoors.

“That is when we discovered that the place across the street was for rent,” he remarked.

“Now this is where we are making our smoked goodness,” she noted.

The couple’s future business plan includes obtaining a liquor license.

“That could take while,” Michelle pointed out. “It’s a long process.”

“Until then, folks can get their pulled pork from us and beer from Varietal Beer Company,” Michelle stated.

The couple are planning a grand opening and ribbon cutting on Saturday, June 1, at noon.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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