Plano native Laura Gadness is cooking up a slice of Key West in North Texas. She recently opened Sloppy Mess Kitchen at 107A North Greenville Avenue in Allen. It specializes in sloppy Joes and other Florida-inspired items with a Texas twist.
Inspiration for the new business came during a trip to Key West. She discovered a bar that served sloppy Joes. It was a dish that she enjoyed as a child when her father made them.
“I wanted to bring some of that feel here because everyone likes to go on vacation to Florida,” she says.
To further that vibe, she decorated her restaurant to resemble one in Key West. That city claims to have invented the sloppy Joe. Also included in the décor are references to Ernest Hemmingway. Legend says he suggested the sandwich name in honor of a Havana bar.
Of course, Sloppy Mess’s Joes aren’t exactly like the ones Hemingway had. One of Gadness’ friends describes them as “bougie” sloppy Joes. They are served on brioche buns and diners can choose from a wide array of fancy toppings.
Other menu items include the Lone Star Cuban, a grouper sandwich, half-pound burgers, hand-cut fries, spuds and salads. There is also a rotating selection of desserts, though the homemade key lime pie is always on the menu.
“It’s the real stuff,” Gadness says, “Sometimes in Texas, key lime pie tends to be some lime flavoring with Cool Whip, but that’ not what key lime pie is. This is the real deal.”
If some of the menu items look familiar, it’s because a few used to be popular at her previous business, the bar W.W. Fairfield’s on Spring Creek Parkway. Pandemic-mandated shutdowns left businesses with that type of liquor license closed for months, even for take-out orders. The prolonged closure combined with other challenges ultimately led to the bar’s demise.
While that was tough to deal with, Gadness is now ready to turn the page to a happier chapter. Half of her staff from the bar is now working at Sloppy Mess.
“It’s been awesome to have them back,” she says. “They are like family to me, and they were displaced from their jobs with the pandemic as well.”
Not working in a bar also means that her two daughters can visit her at work. They are all enjoying the time together. Her oldest even helps at the register.
Ultimately, Gadness says she wanted to create a bright spot that evoked happy childhood memories. She regularly plays 80s and 90s music and says that Sloppy Mess Kitchen can best be described as more than “fast-casual” but not quite a fancy restaurant.
“I just wanted this to be a fun place where people can come in and feel good,” she says.