The site of the old Big Sky Drive-In at 1016 West Broadway in Missoula has been a vacant eyesore for a couple years now, but that’s going to change soon.
Kari Brittain and Kim West, two Missoula entrepreneurs with backgrounds in landscape architecture, farming and Mexican cuisine, have grand plans to renovate the building, expand it, and reopen it as Tia’s Big Sky restaurant in late September. Construction is set to begin on June 19.
They will also rent out spaces at the site for a Portland-style "food truck pod," and eventually the duo also hopes to add a large edible garden with outdoor tables.
“We’re going to do everything in phases, so the first phase will be to get the restaurant up and running along with the food pod where people can access different food trucks, hopefully year-round,” West explained. “Phase two will be the whole community garden center. We want to incorporate art and have art shows and art carts and really make it into kind of a hangout space with like, three or four different restaurants.”
The third stage will be to expand the main restaurant toward Broadway and enclose more seating indoors.
West, who currently operates the popular Tia’s Tamales food truck at the local farmers markets and on Tuesdays at the corner of Toole Avenue and Scott Street, says she will do most of the cooking at the new eatery.
“We’ll be serving the tamales and the basic menu that we’ve always done in the truck,” she said. “And then we’re adding on as one of our main elements the rotisserie lime tequila-marinated Mexican-style chicken with sides. So we'll have frijoles charros, frijolesnegros, slaws and lots of sides.”
She said her two most popular tamales are the pork and the pumpkin varieties.
The old building has to be completely gutted and the drive-in portion will be removed, but the new restaurant will initially have seating for 10 and a public bathroom, which the old building lacked. There will be plenty of angled parking on the site.
“We’re going to do a lot of landscaping and gardening,” West said.
The second phase of the project includes ripping out much of the ugly asphalt.
“We are going to try to do a little Kickstarter campaign in there, especially for the garden,” West said.
The duo still have some minor permits and applications to finish, but they plan to ask the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for tax increment financing to do facade work and help beautify the site, which is located within Urban Renewal District II.
“It’s a new ballgame for us,” West said. “It’s a new and exciting process.”
The women will close on the site soon, and space will be available to food trucks shortly thereafter. Electricity and advertising will be provided for a small lease fee.
The site will liven up what has been just an ugly mark on a main thoroughfare since 2013.
“It is an eyesore, but we’re going to transform it,” West said. “So it’s going to be mostly recycled materials from Home Resource. We want to recycle our water systems. We want to be local and sustainable.”
Brittain operates a farm in the Orchard Homes neighborhood.
“She’s going to be growing a lot of our food, sourcing a lot of our meat,” West said. “That’s her niche. She’s an excellent businesswoman. To have a partner that is actually doing the growing and sourcing is amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. I’m super excited about that part. There’s not a lot of places that you can get that. There’s restaurants in town that serve healthy food, but they’re not focusing on that. And it’s hard to do that.”