Scott and Alisha Costin were sitting on a bench during a visit to New Harmony, Indiana, when they saw a small boy on a bicycle ride down the road. The boy stopped at Chris’ Pharmacy and came out five minutes later with a Coke and a candy bar, like a Norman Rockwell painting. That’s when Scott and Alisha decided they might want to think about moving to New Harmony.
The couple moved to the area from Nashville, Tennessee, three years ago when Alisha was asked to help with the food and beverage program at the new DoubleTree by Hilton Evansville hotel Downtown. Then a couple years ago, the Costins found an opportunity to open their own restaurant in New Harmony, MaryScott’s Kitchen (Mary is Alisha’s first name).
“Any time you open a business there’s always an element of fear involved,” says Scott. “We’ve wanted to do this for a very long time, and the opportunity came up. A little bit of fear was not going to scare us away. We embraced that. It’s always a challenge opening up a business, and we love a challenge.”
The key for MaryScott’s Kitchen, located at 518 Main St., has been taking what Scott and Alisha already knew and applying it to their business. That meant cooking from scratch and using fresh ingredients — always. Many restaurants can truthfully say they make their sauces and dishes fresh each day only because they make a large batch in the morning that sits on a warming pan for the rest of the day, unlike at MaryScott’s Kitchen where sauces are made to order. The restaurant also is one of the few places in the area where guests can order a true hand-cut steak.
At MaryScott’s, everything is cooked to order except one item — the grits that provide the base for the mainstay shrimp and grits. Alisha makes a batch for the lunch shift and then a new batch before dinner.
“It seems like that’s a very new concept in the area, being not frozen, from scratch, and fresh,” says Alisha. “We talked to a lot of people, and they had a desire to eat healthier and to eat fresh. We live in a farming community, so it just goes hand in hand.”
Cooking fresh food from scratch each day also allows them to play more with the menu and not stay beholden to a certain product sitting in a freezer. Alisha says the menu undergoes a change at least three times a year, and since opening, the only items that have remained on the menu from the beginning are the Alfredo pasta, rib-eye steak, and shrimp and grits.
“Shrimp and grits was not what we intended to be our signature dish,” says Alisha. “It’s what our customers made our signature dish. It is the one thing on the menu they would probably kill us if we took it off.”
MaryScott’s customers often serve as inspiration for dish development, and Alisha and Scott listen to their feedback and cravings. When customers started asking for a dish with chicken and mushrooms, the couple started developing the recipe. Now, the menu features mushroom chicken with a grilled chicken breast, sautéed mushrooms, provolone cheese, and butter-herbed angel hair pasta.
That also is how salmon came to be on their menu, though Alisha was hesitant to make it a regular item and be stuck with pounds of leftover salmon. Customers continued to request salmon and fish dishes, but Alisha says she only serves fish if she can get it fresh — not delivered in cryo vacuumed containers, but packed on ice. The blackened salmon now is one of the most popular dishes on the menu.
The couple’s willingness to listen to the community and their customers has helped them be received with open arms by New Harmony and the region. They estimate about a quarter of their diners are regular customers who come on a weekly basis. The restaurant also is an opportunity to partner with other New Harmony businesses. MaryScott’s Kitchen is working with Black Lodge Coffee Roasters to create a signature roast and displays local art for sale on its walls. Every third Saturday of the month, the restaurant turns more into a bar and welcomes in the New Harmony Artists’ Guild, which brings in live music and performances.
MaryScott’s Kitchen takes care of their community, because the community takes care of them. Alisha recalls a busy Saturday night when one of their servers walked out. Scott and Alisha made a few phone calls and almost instantly three of their regular customers and friends gave up their Saturday evening to help.
“That is a small town,” says Alisha. “In a large town, chances are you’re not getting that. People in New Harmony look out for each other. The town wants everyone to succeed when they’re in business here, and they get behind that.”
Location: 518 Main St., New Harmony, IN
Dining Hours: 4-9 p.m. Monday; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday
Adult Beverages: Yes
Payment: All major credit cards accepted