Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on September 28, 2023.
Sonker is a heritage dessert that has survived many generations in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, specifically in Surry County. The deep-dish pie (or cobbler) is juicy, sweet, and designed to feed a crowd.
One thing that makes this dish stand out is that no two sonkers will ever taste the same. But, of course, that’s just another reason you need to keep coming back for more.
If you’ve never enjoyed this yummy dessert, we’re here to share more about its background, along with where to eat it. So grab a spoon as we dig into one of our favorite NC dishes.
- What is a Sonker?
- The Filling
- The Crust
- Where to Find (and Eat) Sonker
What is Sonker?
Before we share where to eat this yummy dish, we first want to answer the question: what is a sonker?
The dish is first reported to have arrived in Surry County in the 1800s. Its name derived from a Scottish word, which refers to a straw saddle.
It’s rumored that the dessert’s name was originally “sunk” because the pie sinks to the bottom. Rural Western North Carolina twang helped the name evolve to its current form.
Most locals say that sonker evolved in Surry County to make the most of the fruit crop, especially toward the end of the growing season into winter. Overripe fruit adds to the juiciness that distinguishes a sonker from a pie or a cobbler.
There are multiple sonker recipes and its slightly different, depending on which family cooking it. As a result, things get a little heated when describing the recipe in public settings.
The filling and crust vary from family to family, and everyone has a secret ingredient!
This adds to the mystique but makes the dessert tougher to define. However, no matter how it’s made, there is a consensus definition that sonker is a deep-dish pie prepared in a large enough quantity to feed a crowd.
There are crucial components to this dish: the filling and the crust.
As we mentioned, the sonker’s filling is generally juicier than a cobbler and popular fruit fillings include blackberry, peach, raspberry, and apple. Some who make it have even employed traditional sweet potatoes.
Whatever fruit mixture you choose, it typically gets sweetened with sugar or sorghum cane molasses.
The crust can either resemble pie dough or be reminiscent of biscuit dough. If made from pie dough, then the crust usually lines the sides of the pastry, while the biscuit version is usually misshapen and baked on top.
Depending on the family and recipe, the dough may line just the outside or even be in the middle.
Where Can You Find (and Eat) Sonker?
One thing that’s not up for debate is where to eat Surry County’s favorite dessert.
A wonderful way to get the full experience is through the Sonker Festival, which kicks off each October! Held at the Edwards-Franklin House just west of Mount Airy, this free festival offers various family recipes in one place.
Outside of the festival, there is also a Sonker Trail in Surry County! That way, you don’t have to know someone who can make it.
Currently, the trail features eight restaurants in Elkin and Mount Airy (among other towns) where you can find sonker and enjoy it.
- Anchored Bakery (Mount Airy)
- Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies (Mount Airy)
- Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards (Dobson)
- Prudence McCabe Confections (Mount Airy)
- Rockford General Store (Village of Rockford, Dobson)
- Southern On Main (Elkin)
- The Tilted Ladder (Pilot Mountain)
The Surry Sonker Trail offers a fun way to experience this tasty dessert and southern living in quick fashion!
Ready to Find and Eat Sonker?
Sonker is such a delicious and unique treat and something that everyone in North Carolina must try at least once! Whether you are enjoying a tasty bite at one of the restaurants we mentioned or visiting a friend who has a family recipe, we think you’ll enjoy this special dessert.
Have you ever tasted this delicious dessert? We’d love to read your thoughts on it.
Also, if you have any stories of this dish that you’d like to share, we’re here for them. So please feel free to share with us below!