Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

May 21, 2012

A one of a kind meal is only a (sticks and) stone’s throw away

By Bart Doan
CNHI

BROWNSBURG —  

 Main Street in Speedway has been undergoing a major revitalization and Dawson’s on Main has become a fine dining staple in the community there. The owners of that business are hoping their latest project, Dawson’s Too! Sticks and Stones in Brownsburg, will find just as much success here. Especially since “here” is home to them.

Brothers Tony and Chris Hill, their partner Greg Rose, and all of their families are working hard to make Dawson’s Too “the” place to dine in Brownsburg.

Tony said partnering family values with his love for the business that he conceived while still in college, he aims for their restaurant to be “different.”

Dawson’s on Main in Speedway, the inaugural restaurant, met that challenge for the community there. He’s counting on Dawson’s Too in Brownsburg to do the same.

“There are six of us who own this place,” Hill says of Dawson’s Too. “You’ve got to count our wives ... because they allow us to come in and really do something we’re passionate about. You either love this business or you hate it, and we love it. It’s kind of funny, when we first opened the doors there were so many parts of the puzzle you have to have to make it work. All need to gel to be successful — from the busser, to the hostesses, to the sound in the restaurant.”

He said it’s the staff that makes their business different. With very low turnover, he believes simply being a good boss, allowing creativity, and letting employees have a personal hand in the success is a key.

Look no further than the kitchen. Or the menu. You’ll notice items that exist on no other menu in the world. That’s because they’re creations of the people making them.

“We have a lot of talent back in the kitchen,” Hill said. “I’m huge into instead of being the boss, I like to empower my guys and gals to do their own thing and bring their creative juices to the table, so to speak. If one of the guys or gals in the back have an idea, I want them to explore it and if they want to try something new on the menu, we’ll all take part in it. They have a ton of autonomy back there, and that’s where I think we’re different from most restaurants.”

The two chefs at Dawson’s Too are Robert Boyd and D. Scott Rawlings I. Boyd has worked at various restaurants in Hendricks County for the past 15 years. Rawlings studied at the Chef’s Academy and was once the private chef for Marylin and Eugene Glick.

Rawlings’ signature touch is all over the restaurant’s popular Jamaican jerk tuna sandwich, a recipe that he picked up years ago during his studies that took him across the country, picking up unique flavors and ideas.

“The best part about working here is the freedom and independence,” Rawlings said. “My bosses really let us have the freedom to be creative and that’s really nice to have.”

Hill says the owners and staff of Dawson’s Too have worked hard to make it a place that everyone wants to visit.

“All of our fish, everything we have is fresh,” he said. “Our steaks, I think, are our signature. Very few restaurants age their beef more than 21 to 28 days. We have specs that go all the way back to 45 to 60 days. The longer you age beef, the more tender it is. We use all natural specs, meaning that with our cattle, there are no steroids, no enzymes, no special antibiotics, nothing in the last 365 days of the cattle’s life. That’s important to us. Our beef, seafood, pastas, and stone pizzas are killer. I’ve had great teachers.

“Another thing that’s really, really different from ours and most restaurants that are around, especially in Hendricks County I think, is every single shift you’re going to find an owner here in the restaurant. Every shift, whether that’s in the kitchen or the front of the house.”

Hill is also proud to roll out one major difference from their popular Dawson’s on Main: seating capacity. The group, which also does catering at West Chase Golf Club in Brownsburg, is very big on being able to finally optimize the ability to serve large groups and banquets.

“The one thing we wanted to do more than anything was do some banquets,” Hill said. “I can’t tell you how many times we had to turn down 40 to 80 tops at Dawson’s on Main because of the space. We wanted to have the ability to do that here when we took over this space. We can do events in the other room for over 40 people, and then we have the banquet room for over 100 people.”

Hill has a separate kitchen and bar to accommodate those big parties.

“It’s basically another little restaurant back there,” he said. “Now we don’t have to check the book over here if someone calls and wants a 40 top or something like that at 7 p.m.”

The motif is unique, playing on the Sticks and Stones.

“We tried a lot of different scenarios,” Hill said. “And the sticks and stones, you see the stone in the bar, the woodwork, the stuff like that is what we tried to theme it after. Plus, our signature stone pizza oven. Nothing here is pre-bought, and I think that gives a uniqueness to us. There are a lot of really good restaurants that have pre-bought stuff, don’t get me wrong, I’d just rather do something else if I can put my own stamp on it.”

Hill said he was thrilled to bring the family’s vision to their hometown.

“We’ve lived in Brownsburg most of our lives,” he said. “You know, there isn’t a ton to choose from in the town. It’s no disrespect to the other restaurants, but we’re limited. We thought if we brought bits and pieces of Dawson’s on Main to Brownsburg, we’d be very successful, and so far we have been.

“We felt like this side of town needed a restaurant like this too. This town is big enough for more restaurants. What we’d like to do is keep people in Brownsburg from having to go to Avon, Plainfield, or the north side to get something they want to eat. If we can give them the food and the service they want, without having to get out of town, that’s what we want.”

And running a restaurant, especially running two of them, is truly a family affair.

“Greg, Chris, and really, like I said, our wives, are huge in this,” Hill said. “If we didn’t have them as partners, we wouldn’t be here. That’s a fact. We’re all pretty lucky. But that’s one really good thing about this, when you have three guys, six different owners, when somebody can’t be here and we want to get to our kids’ games, we can. None of us miss our kids’ games, choir, Scouts, anything. Our families are important and this restaurant is absolutely secondary to that.”

Dawson’s Too Sticks and Stones is at 773 E. Main St., Brownsburg. For more information or to see the menu options, visit the website at Dawsonstoo.com or see them on Twitter @DawsonsToo. To make a reservation, call 858-8400.

bart.doan@flyergroup.com