On a Wednesday night, a couple who frequents Hawthorn Grill is seated at their table and greets owner/chef Candace Rinke with enthusiasm about dinner. They notice the autumn-inspired entrees and rave about trying the pumpkin risotto and pan-seared walleye, which only appear on the menu seasonally. The couple’s sentiments echo why the Kettering-based restaurant is a beloved destination for dining enthusiasts who embrace Rinke’s commitment to and passion for creating made-from-scratch meals using ingredients in season.
Every dish at Hawthorn Grill is given the attention to detail by Rinke that illustrates the “homemade” concept. Since the menu is geared towards the changing of the seasons with fruits, vegetables and even chicken and fish that are currently available, that guarantees ultimate freshness.
“There was a time when it was commonplace to have local ingredients and know that you were eating fresh and healthy meals,” Rinke said. “We strive to create awareness of the ingredients and where their food originates.
“Americans are becoming more discriminating about the food they eat, and how the ingredients are sourced and prepared,” Rinke explained. “We look at the integrity of every ingredient in our kitchen, so you can feel confident that the food you are eating is bursting with flavor and is high quality.”
Hawthorn Grill is the realization of a lifelong dream for Rinke, who developed a fondness for cooking from her grandma “Buscia” and her mother, Gloria. That love grew when she spent time in Germany as a child and worked in the kitchens of fine dining restaurants earlier in her career. After studying engineering at the University of Michigan, she realized that becoming a chef was her true passion, so she earned her culinary degree and worked in back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house positions to learn every aspect of the restaurant industry. Hawthorn Grill, which is named to honor the Wright brothers’ home, illustrates Rinke’s at-home cooking preferences.
“What you see on the menu is what I love to cook for my family,” said Rinke, who has won several chef competitions and is a featured chef on WDTN’s “Living Dayton” morning show. “Our meals take time because they are homemade from beginning to end. For guests who have gluten sensitivities or other dietary restrictions, chances are we can modify a dish to fit within their guidelines since we make everything from scratch.
“One of the many blessings of being an independent restaurant is that we not only keep signature dishes that regulars like, but we also regularly update our menu based on what is available in season,” Rinke added. “Our guests can expect consistency because of our ingredients and our attention to detail.”
Ed Hill, a farmer from Xenia, raises free-roaming chickens free of antibiotics and hand grinds open pollinated corn meal, both of which are featured on the restaurant’s winter menu in dishes like chicken liver pate; grilled polenta; the chicken in the chicken, shrimp and grits; and stuffed chicken breast. In the kitchen at Hawthorn Grill, nothing is made from a box. Potatoes are peeled, fish is hand-battered, bread is made from flour and yeast, desserts are baked in house, and pasta is rolled out. Even the margaritas are handmade at Hawthorn Grill.
Rinke is also committed to responsible culinary choices. In addition to chicken and corn meal from Ed Hill, Rinke incorporates fresh produce from Bellbrook’s Lucas Family Farms and DuBreton pork made from pigs that are raised humanely on small family farms in Canada without antibiotics or steroids. Containers that are recycled and landfill friendly are used for carryout and catering orders.
Hawthorn Grill is renowned for its’ special culinary events, like Oktoberfest (which features favorites Rinke learned during her time in Germany) and Duck-a-palooza. Currently, the restaurant is accepting orders for Thanksgiving dinners, which include farm-raised turkey from Ed Hill and a la carte or package side items, like mashed potatoes and white wine gravy, sweet potato mash, bread stuffing and cranberry sauce among other homemade delicacies.
“We are fortunate to have a loyal following of regular guests since the doors opened in 2010,” Rinke said. “These guests have become more like family members than acquaintances. I think that is appropriate since our concept was inspired by my grandma and mom, and how they taught me to share the love of cooking. This restaurant is my passion, not just my livelihood, and I strive to make that evident in every dish that is served.”
What: Hawthorn Grill
Where: 1222 E. Stroop Rd., Kettering
Contact information: 937-298-2222 and www.hawthorngrill.com
Hours: Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and for brunch on Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.