Inside The Kitchen: Scovie’s Gourmet in Charlevoix

This week we’re in downtown Charlevoix with the beautiful bay in front of us, and then behind us, a lunch and dinner spot that viewers have not stopped talking about. It’s Scovie’s Gourmet, and we’re going Inside The Kitchen.

Scovie’s first popped up in 2003 when owner Vi Keller started the restaurant with former husband named Scott. They combined their names for the business title and “Scovie’s” was born. But Vi says there’s been some misinterpretation over the years.

“We had a gentleman actually from down around the Traverse City area, and comes in and goes, ‘Who’s Mr. Scovie, who’s Mr. Scovie?’ And we’re like, ‘Well there’s no Scovie. Why?’ And he pulls out his drivers license and his last name was Scovie. He thought somebody from the area from his family had moved in and he didn’t know about it. So it’s kind of funny for us we’re like, ‘Oh, okay we’re going to use the name if that’s okay.”

This season marks Scovie’s 13th summer, serving everything from sandwiches to big plate entrees. And if you’re choosing from Vi’s dozens of goodies, don’t miss her Northern Michigan Carrot Cake.

It starts with shredded carrot combined with coconut and dried cherries. As for the batter, it’s all about one main ingredient.

“I love cinnamon, I love the flavor of cinnamon. I love nutmeg too, but cinnamon is the dominant flavor in my carrot cake.” Vi confesses. “And so when you’re tasting things, the flavor profile, you’re trying to pick out, ‘What is that flavor that I’m tasting that I can’t figure out what it is?’ I like to play with peoples minds a little bit too.”

Ingredients are creamed together and poured onto the carrot mixture for a thick, texture-dense experience.

After baking, the cake all comes together with cream cheese icing. That’s cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. The final touch is a hand-pressed layer of pecans, and then she’s ready for tasting.

“So we just hand pack them on. There are some spots that we miss but I’ll just go around and pack them.” Vi assures us. “Again, rustic is the key. It’s more home-baked, something Mom or Grandma would do as opposed to the refined pastries. It also makes it easier for you to take it to a function so everybody thinks you made it. Just trying to help people out.”

But the desserts are just the beginning of scratch baking. Because here at Scovie’s, they’re making homemade focaccia bread too.

It begins with water, basil pesto, oil, yeast and flour all mixed in the blender. 

“And then after it rises for about 20 minutes, we punch it down, give it its divots, and then we put a little more olive oil and I sprinkle a little parmesan cheese and we bake it.”

Baked and hot out of the oven, it’s stacked with a balsamic glaze, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Then she’s panini pressed and set for consumption.

I take a bite of the Vinosco sandwich, which is Vi’s take on the Caprice Salad. Immediate sweetness come out in the balsamic, with texture complexities of creamy mozzarella, and crunchy chewy bread. For meat lovers, feel free to add any of their top-notch deli selections. Left alone as-is though, this thing is awesome. 

And dinner is a whole new ball park, beginning with the Pecan-Crusted Walleye. It’s lightly floured and egg-washed, then sauteed and finished in the oven. Best part? The amaretto beurre blanc poured over the fish. 

And Vi’s comfort continues beyond the kitchen. Order out or dine in, Scovie’s is a spot to eat and be known.

“Somebody said to us, ‘Have you ever been to Boston?’ and I was like ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well you guys are kinda like the Cheers of Charlevoix.’ And I was like, ‘I wouldn’t go that far because I’ve been in the Cheers.’ But we definitely know a lot of our locals by name. It’s fun, we’re a family. and we like to keep it that way.”