What: Lakeside restaurant offering a diverse menu
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m to 9 p.m. Sunday
Where: Gainesville Marina, 2151 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville
More info: 678-450-1310 or www.skogies.net
A signature sauce, hand-battered seafood and a stellar view makes Skogie’s at Gainesville Marina a special summer dining spot, but it didn’t start out that way.
In fact, in the past four years the restaurant has changed drastically under the owners Tony and Heather Jonovitch.
The Gainesville couple bought the location on Lake Lanier from Rick Skogland in 2004 and immediately revamped Skogie’s from top to bottom. The Jonovitchs changed everything from the way the business was run to the menu items.
“When we bought the place, there were no table numbers or table service,” Tony said. “There was only counter service, and people had to wait hours sometimes to get their food.”
Therefore, the Jonovitch family brought in tables for seating inside the venue, adding a wait staff to serve the customers. This cut the wait time for food down to less than 30 minutes.
Focusing on the customer service came from Heather, who graduated from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, while introducing new dishes stemmed from Tony, whose recipes and cuisine knowledge come from 13 years in the restaurant business.
“We kept the core menu, but everything else, from the barbecue to the Caribbean plate is mine,” Tony Jonovitch said.
And one of the major menu changes was introducing breakfast for customers hitting the lake in the mornings.
“It’s really our niche,” Heather said. “Everything is homemade. It was a way for people that stayed on their boats overnight or got up early to go fishing could come in and get coffee or a bite to eat. We never expected it to turn into what it is.”
Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and Sundays. It includes biscuits and scratch-made sausage gravy, eggs Benedict with homemade Hollandaise sauce, omelets and more.
“We do sweet potato pancakes, and a southern eggs Benedict with a biscuit and the sausage gravy,” Tony said.
Although breakfast is only served on the weekends, Skogie’s is open every day during the summer and on weekends through the winter months, allowing customers to satisfy their seafood cravings year-round.
But the Jonovitchs are not content to continue the same-old routine year after year. The restaurant owners evaluate the menu each year, adding new selections and removing others. Tony admits he has a hard time taking items off the menu.
“We have added a few new items this year, like the shrimp and gouda fritters and smoked fish dip,” Tony said. “I don’t usually take much off. This year we took off a couple of pasta dishes that weren’t very popular.”
The popular dishes are the Caribbean plate and lobster macaroni and cheese. But Skogie’s signature sauce is key to the restaurant’s success.
“People put it on everything,” Heather said. “I’ve even had people ask for it as salad dressing and take it off the tables.”
The restaurant sells the creamy sauce for $5 per bottle. Tony noted it has 14 ingredients, but many of them are secret.
“It has mayonnaise, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, paprika and ketchup with a few other ingredients,” Tony said.
However, the Jonovitchs kept a few selections from the original owner such as the sauce, burgers, sandwiches and name, along with a bring-your-own-beverage drink policy.
“We don’t do beer or wine sales, so we charge a $1.99 regular drink cup fee, and people can bring up their coolers with beer or wine with them,” Heather said. “Eventually we hope to be able to expand and do beer and wine.”
Currently, the restaurant hopes to expand the kitchen to expedite service and accommodate more orders, along with building a deck for more seating.
“We are in an old house, so it’s pretty small back in the kitchen,” Heather said. “We are working on the kitchen in October, then working on the outdoors.”
Keeping certain items the same and adding new ones have proven successful for the Jonovitchs. The restaurant serves more customers than the original owner, thanks to tables on the outdoor patio, electronic points of service and dock delivery.
“We have 32 courtesy slips for our boat customers, and we deliver food down to the docks,” Tony said. “We also have live music on the weekends. Eighty-five percent of the place is revamped. The more we do, the more we want to do.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a reporter’s error, a story about Skogie’s on Lanier printed June 24 incorrectly stated the year Tony and Heather Jonovitch bought the business and the number of years of experience Tony has had in the restaurant business. The Jonovitches purchased the restaurant in 2011. Tony has 35 years experience in restaurants.