Shaken Or Stirred, Koko’s Bartini Opens With A Twist

By Wendy Culverwell Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Nichon Green and Dana Slovak spent nearly two years creating their martini bar "Koko's", which takes its name from Kokopelli, the fertility icon.

KENNEWICK, Wa.

With a menu offering nearly 60 versions of the classic martini, the opening of Koko's Bartini on Friday promises to be one of the most cheered events in town.

Koko's Bartini will serve up its martinis shaken or stirred, serene or sweet, exotic or adventurous -- even non-alcoholic.

Owners Nichon Greene and her fiance Dana Slovak have spent the better part of a year building Koko's Bartini, a martini-only bar, inside the Cynergy Center in Kennewick's Southridge area.

It opens to the public Friday off the 27th Street roundabout at 4309 W. 27th Pace.

Koko's will feature a small plates menu, boasting fresh ingredients including seafood and nothing fried, all served in a space designed to encourage conversation. There are no televisions to distract from conversations.

Greene said she wanted a place where guests can relax, visit, hear and be heard.

"We want people to socialize with each other," she said.

James Bond makeover Koko's will not be your grandpa's martini bar.

The menu includes the classic booze-heavy versions, like the James Bond fave, Vesper. Koko's version can be made with gin or vodka along with vermouth and lemon peel.

The menu evokes beach vacations (Orange Tropical Breeze), warm after-dinner moments (Chocolate Kiss) and family milestones (X Sister In Law), among others.

Green and Slovak spent nearly two years creating Koko's, which takes its name from Kokopelli, the fertility icon.

The pair first bonded over their shared interest in starting a business.

She had moved to Eastern Oregon from Portland to be closer to family. Slovak is a truck driver based in Washington.

Inspiration struck when she took him to her favorite watering hole in Portland, Urban Fondue and Bartini, a low-key restaurant and martini bar with a long menu and no TVs.

They loved the vibe and decided to borrow parts for the Tri-Cities.

Cozy neighborhood They spent five months working with Scott Howe, a commercial broker with Kenmore Team, looking for just the right spot. They initially rejected the street-level space at Cynergy Center. It was open to a neighboring office and they thought it would be too big for their cozy vision.

When the two spaces were divided, they circled back. Ample parking and ample patio space won them over. So too did the neighborhood.

They love the idea of being in a highly-visible office building, surrounded by the Southridge shopping district, its four-going-on-five hotels and the residential neighborhoods just off Highway 395.

They want Koko's to be the go-to neighborhood spot for an after-work drink or celebratory get-together.

The restaurant seats 55 inside and 30 on the deck during the warmer months.

Koko's version of a martini bar keeps its sights focused on martinis. Beer and wine are absent from the menu but Slovak said that's a nod to the excellent wineries and brewpubs that dot the local landscape.

They hired an executive chef and charged him with avoiding standard pub fare. There is no fryer but an ambitious list of fresh fare.

The menu, which hasn't been released, will emphasize seafood, sourced through Pacific Seafoods out of Portland.

Greene is a new entrepreneur, but Slovak is a veteran business owner.

He's owned a transmission shop in the Midwest and a tax shop in California. He worked in real estate until the Great Recession knocked the pins out of the industry.

The former Marine returned to his military roots and started working as a truck driver. He'll continue to drive while Greene helms the business.

The couple estimate they've invested about $100,000 to launch the business, tapping into their savings and retirement accounts. They kept costs down by completing much of the construction work themselves.

Hours are 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 4-10 p.m. Sunday. Follow Koko's online at kokosbartini.com.

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