For Michele Lynn, opening The Cove Cafe is as much an adventure as a learning experience.
The Milepost 19 farm owner recently opened Coupeville’s newest restaurant at the end of the Coupeville Wharf in the former location of Kim’s Cafe.
“After the raspberry crop failed, we were trying to figure out what the heck we were going to do,” Lynn said. “I’ve always been passionate about baking so we started baking and bringing items to the farmers market. We expanded to open sales at the farm and people loved it.”
Lynn was renting a commercial kitchen but said she longed to have her own space, one where she didn’t have to bring her items and then pack them up when she was done.
As a young adult, Lynn worked in the restaurant industry before working for 30 years in environmental science.
“I always enjoyed the restaurant industry,” she said.
She heard through the grapevine that Kim’s Cafe might be for sale.
“Things just kind of happen in the most unpredictable way,” Lynn said. “I came home one day and said, ‘Why don’t we buy the business.’”
Since quietly opening in early April, Lynn has been working out the kinks in her operation. She hired five employees, including former Coupeville Coffee and Bistro owner June Blouin, and is now ready to start expanding offerings.
“I wasn’t looking for a restaurant, but every time I walk out here it brings me joy,” Lynn said.
Since owning a restaurant is new to Lynn, she did everything she could to prepare for success. She hired Vincent Nattress, owner of South Whidbey’s Orchard Kitchen, as a coach.
“He really encouraged me to make things I’m passionate about, and I realized I really like comfort food.”
“I’d never been in the restaurant business,” Lynn said. “I wanted to get it right.”
That led to development of a menu filled with items that Lynn took time and care in creating.
Everything is made from scratch, except the bread. Lynn said she strives to obtain ingredients from local sources whenever possible.
While developing the menu, Lynn said she would have friends over to her home as she tested recipes to get them just right.
“Food is all about trial and error for me,” she said. “When you make it yourself using fresh ingredients, it really does take a lot of tasting to get it down. I think the icing on the cake is people are coming in and liking the food. It makes me feel successful to say my food is delicious.
“It makes all the long hours worth it.”
The Cove’s menu features some of Lynn’s favorite comfort foods as well as some odes to her East Coast background.
“I said I wanted to have a meatball sub on the menu because it’s a very basic staple on East Coast menus.”
Menu items include mussel chowder, fish and chips, sandwiches such the “Not-Your-Average BLT” and a Tuscan chicken sandwich. The Cove also offers salads and collection of sides such as apple-ginger coleslaw, fries and garlic bread.
Lynn said she’ll offer specials as inspiration strikes.
“It has to be consistent with the rest of the menu, but I like to be creative so who knows what’s going to turn up on my menu,” she said.
Lynn said she is having fun creating items with Blouin, who shares similar cooking styles and tastes.
Now that she has the food part of the business settled, Lynn said she can return to baking for customers. She is also working on grab-and-go items for people to take on the run.
At the cafe, customers can also buy Milepost 19’s signature raspberry mustard and other jams and treats.
At the farm, Lynn’s husband Jerry Raitzer is working on developing an apple orchard and new berry crops.
Lynn said she plans to utilize produce from the farm down the road.
Lynn said she hopes The Cove will be open year-round, but it just depends on how busy the restaurant stays during the shoulder season. Currently it is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
“There’s already people coming two to three times a week,” Lynn said. “There’s no better compliment than that.”