I love uniquely regional travel experiences, and if you do too, you need to travel the Sonker Trail in Surry County, NC!
What’s a sonker?
It’s a delicious homestyle, feel-good, make your insides happy dessert, and it’s a North Carolina thing. Surry County, to be exact.
A sonker is a combination of cooked berries with a dough or crust topping, and the fun part is that no two recipes are alike. It’s all based on family tradition. In fact, the sonker is such a beloved regional confection in Surry County that there’s a Sonker Trail and a Sonker Festival to celebrate it.
I made it my personal mission when I was on a Yadkin Valley FAM last summer to visit as many of the Sonker Trail locations as I could, and I made it to all but one!
The key to a great sonker is to use very, very ripe fruit. The origin is believed to have come from the desire to waste nothing, so all the freshly fallen fruit in the orchard is perfect for sonkers!
Other than type of fruit used, I found the biggest difference between them was in the crust, which varied from dropped dumplings to rolled crusts to a southern style cobbler topping. Fortunately for everyone visiting the Sonker Trail, they were all worth trying (and believe me, I’ll get back to the one stop I missed eventually).
Sonker Trail Stops
Southern on Main (downtown Elkin, NC) – This blueberry sonker had a nice thick biscuit-style topping with plenty of berries below. It was the first sonker I tried, and when I tried it, it wasn’t yet a part of the Sonker Trail so it was kind of a freebie intro. Lucky for you, it’s now on the trail!
Roxxi & Lulu’s (Elkin, NC) – Based on grandma’s recipe, the sonkers here are made with either a biscuit mix or a from-scratch sweet dumpling batter. The summer berry sonker with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries I tasted had the biscuit topping. They use butter and shortening in their mixes, and it shows. Delicious! In the fall, they’ll often serve sweet potato, butternut squash or apple sonker — sometimes even mixed together!
Down Home Restaurant (Mt. Airy, NC) – The sonkers at Down Home are made by first cooking the fruit on the stove, then pouring a liquid batter over the top and baking it. It was very different from all the others I tried. Some say it’s the most traditional of sonker styles.
Old North State Winery (Mt. Airy, NC) – We enjoyed strawberry sonker at this downtown tasting room and cafe. Our server said they use a little cake mix in their recipe, and she described it as a combination of pie and cobbler. They often serve sweet potato sonker at this location.
Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies (Mt. Airy, NC) – Miss Angel is a native New Yorker, and she likes to do things her own way, so sonker is “zonker” here, and her recipe is uniquely her own. Miss Angel starts with an 85-year old family pie crust recipe, then gives it a southern spin by soaking moonshine and honey into it. She also offers the option of a moonshine glaze and one of ten moonshine ice cream flavors from the ice cream shop next door. I tried a peach zonker with moonshine glaze and peach moonshine ice cream. Phenomenal!
The Living Room (Pilot Mountain, NC) – Sonker here is made with a buttermilk biscuit pastry cut with whole milk ricotta and butter. They make both sweet and savory sonker flavors, and I absolutely loved the pear, ginger and buttermilk sonker she served us. This was my favorite sonker of all!
Putters Patio and Grill (Dobson, NC) – The sonker here was the most cake-like of all the sonkers I tried, and it was absolutely delicious. It reminded me of bread pudding a little bit, and I loved it!
Sonker flavors vary from day to day and location to location, and are typically based on whichever fruit is ripest at the time. In the fall, you’ll often see more of the savory options like sweet potato appear.
To appreciate all the sonkers, you’ll likely want to stagger your Sonker Trail stops over a couple of days, but all the locations are within about a 30 minute radius of each other. Visit the Sonker Trail official website for all the details.
Check out my posts about Mayberry/Mt. Airy and Yadkin Valley wineries for ideas on what to do in the area between sonker stops, and take advantage of the great resources at YadkinValleyNC.com to help you plan your visit.