Fifteen years of Grandma’s cooking


“Everything is homemade like Grandma used to make it,” says Dale’s Essenhaus owner Dale Cockerell, as he inhales deeply, as if able to smell his grandmother’s cooking again. For fifteen years, the restaurant has prepared Thanksgiving dinners for local families. He smiles as he shares how customers tell him it’s the best meal they have ever bought.

Thanksgiving dinner packages are made from scratch at the Essenhaus and require a lot of time and care. The magic begins with a twelve-to-fourteen pound turkey that Dale coats with olive oil and sprinkles with salt and pepper. The turkey is placed in a large, double door Southern Pride smoker, along with fifteen other turkeys, for about six hours in the outside kitchen. Restaurant staff uses live oak firewood to give the turkey a distinct and rich flavor. The turkey is ready when it turns a golden brown color.

Another signature item is the cornbread dressing, which begins with cornbread baked in house.

“When that’s done, we pull it out and crumble it and mix it with what I call a concoction of boiled eggs, celery, chicken broth, onions, and spices. We put that back in the oven for 30 minutes or until it comes out golden brown,” explains restaurant manager Bonnie Warwick.  At that point the entire restaurant, inside and out, smells like Thanksgiving as the aroma of the smoked turkey fuses with the smell of baked cornbread.

Dale’s Essenhaus makes country-style giblet gravy that combines chicken broth, sage, salt, and pepper to give it a classic taste. Additional sides include a green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a sweet potato casserole.

While Dale usually prepares the turkey, Scott Vrabel, the kitchen manager, makes the side dishes. He cooks up the green beans with bacon, onions, seasoning, and salt until tender, mixes in cream of mushroom soup, and tops it off with crispy onion strips.  For those with a hearty sweet tooth, the sweet potatoes are made with the classic ingredients of nutmeg, cinnamon, and brown sugar topped with marshmallows.

The restaurant remains busy the week after Thanksgiving, when some families take a break from cooking dinners at home and opt to take their families out to eat instead. Turkey dinner packages are also available for Christmas.

“It makes me feel good that we’re doing something good for other people,” Dale says.

For pricing and to order Thanksgiving packages, call (512) 819-9175 or visit

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