After 33 Years, Bonnie’s Country Kitchen Closes; Soul Food Sensations to Open

Ever since Black Monday plagued the stock market and Bon Jovi fans started “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Bonnie Hawker has been serving up food in Lovettsville. That changed two weeks ago—and now, there’s going to be a new kind of food served in the same spot.

Hawker opened Bonnie’s Country Kitchen in June 1987 after years of wanting to open her own restaurant. Since then, she’s served hundreds of thousands of meals to town residents, visitors and commuters on their ways to and from the city. But it was in the past few months that she decided to step back to focus solely on her Keedysville, MD, restaurant, Bonnie’s At the Red Byrd. She closed up shop in Lovettsville on Nov. 22. Now, Soul Food Sensations is slated to open in the same location.

Hawker started working in the restaurant industry at the age of 13 as a waitress at a Jefferson, MD diner. When she walked through the door for her first day of work, the cook was walking out the door on his last day. The diner’s owner taught Hawker how to cook.

“It was something I took to,” she said. “I just loved it. It got in my blood.”

Hawker worked at that diner on and off for a decade, then worked different odd jobs in the restaurant industry until she landed a position working at McClain’s Grocery in Lovettsville. And that’s how she met her landlord, Fred George, who also owns the building where Hawker runs her Keedysville restaurant.

When George bought the 1950s building at the northeast corner of Berlin Turnpike and Town Square in 1986, he asked Hawker if she’d like to open her own restaurant in the road-facing portion of the building.

“Of course, I did,” Hawker said of the opportunity.

Eleven months later, Hawker was all moved in. At the time, there were only two restaurants in town. Now, there are close to a dozen. But Hawker said the influx of new restaurants opening through the years never hurt her business, since her customers were so loyal.

And it wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent restrictions on businesses and social gatherings that led Hawker to close her doors last month. In fact, she said her last three months were some of the best she has ever experienced in Lovettsville.

“Lovettsville people are some of the best customers in a pinch. They’re right behind you in a hard time,” she said.

Hawker, who turns 65 this month, said she just wanted to “back away from it a little bit” and focus on her Keedysville restaurant, which she opened in 2011 next door to her home.

“I just knew it was just time, I want to get a break from it,” she said. “It’s time for someone else to get a chance.”

Mark and Sybil Terry will open Soul Food Sensations Dec. 19 in the former Bonnie’s Country Kitchen restaurant location off Berlin Turnpike in Lovettsville. [Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]

Soul Food Sensations

And that chance is going to the husband-and-wife duo of Mark and Sybil Terry, a former wine distributor and the assistant principal of Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, respectively. The couple is planning a Dec. 19 grand opening of Soul Food Sensations.

The couple has been selling food at the Farmers Market at One Loudounsince March and has seen success there.

“People were angry if we took the day off,” Mark said.

In early October, when they heard Hawker was moving out of Lovettsville, the couple decided to “give it a whirl,” Sybil said.

Throughout the past two months, George has been working to clean the space and support the Terrys.

“He [and his wife, Anne, have] been behind us 100%,” Mark said.

The Terrys advertise “fine southern cuisine,” like fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy and much more.

“We’ve just taken what we were taught [by our families] and tried to incorporate that into the restaurant,” Sybil said.

As for Lovettsville residents still wanting a taste of Hawker’s food, Bonnie’s At the Red Byrd is only about 20 miles out of town.

“Whenever you’re missing my food, I have the same food there,” Hawker said.

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Bonnie Hawker closed her Bonnie’s Country Kitchen restaurant in Lovettsville last month after 33 years to focus solely on her Bonnie’s At the Red Byrd restaurant in Keedysville, MD. [Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]

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