Discover Sonker, a cherished North Carolina dessert steeped in tradition, through an adventurous journey along Surry County’s Sonker Trail, exploring seven unique stops offering diverse variations of this beloved treat.
Hit the Highlights
I visited all of the Sonker Trail stops and have details on them below, but if you’re short on time and can only taste a few, here are our absolute favorites:
Keep reading for specific details on all the restaurants and bakeries along the Sonker Trail.
Where to Stay: We love the Hampton Inn in Dobson. It’s the only Hampton Inn in the US with a wine bar in its lobby, and we stay there each time we visit Mayberry and the Yadkin Valley. Bonus: there’s a shuttle service to/from Shelton Vineyards!
What is Sonker?
Sonker is a cooked fruit dessert—a cross between a cobbler and a deep dish pie—with a sweet, juicy filling. It’s completely unique to North Carolina, specifically Surry County. These scrumptious country desserts begin with very, very ripe fruit, typically whatever is in season at the time.
Explore the Sonker Trail
The regional confection is so popular that Surry County launched a Sonker Trail with eight restaurants and bakeries serving up their own twists on the much-loved dessert.
Each stop along the trail offers a distinct variation of Sonker, allowing visitors to savor the nuances and flavors that make this dessert a beloved part of North Carolina’s culinary heritage.
We geographically tasted our way through all eight Sonker Trail stops, and I’ve listed them in the order we ate them.
Grab a spoon; let’s dig in!
1. Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies
153 N. Main St., Mt. Airy
I’ve been to Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies several times, and her sonkers, which she calls “zonkers,” have something no other sonkers on the trail have—MOONSHINE! She starts with an 85-year-old family pie crust recipe, then gives it a southern spin by soaking moonshine and honey into it. If that doesn’t hook you already, she also offers the option of a moonshine glaze—a must try!— and one of ten moonshine ice cream flavors from her ice cream shop next door.
I’ve tried a peach zonker with moonshine glaze twice, and I tried the blackberry peach zonker with moonshine glaze on my most recent visit. And if you’re trying to decide on a moonshine ice cream flavor, the peach moonshine ice cream is phenomenal!
2. Anchored Sweet Treats & Savory Eats
139 Moore Ave., Mt. Airy
Born and raised in Surry County, the owner of this cute little bakery still uses her Grandma’s sonker recipe but puts her own spin on it by adding her favorite spices to the fruit filling. The sonkers here are baked in large rectangular dishes; you can order a scoop (hot or cold) to eat there or take home.
Both strawberry and peach were available when we visited, so we ordered a bowl of each and had her warm them up. I’d describe the dough as soft and tender, sort of biscuity and pancake-y. I especially liked the strawberry because there was more dough in it!
3. Prudence McCabe Confections
192 N. Main St., Mt. Airy
Sonkers at Prudence McCabe Confections are baked in individual-sized pie tins based on owner Sue’s grandmother’s cobbler recipe. When we stopped in, they were baking peach, blackberry, and apple sonkers.
They showed us how they add grated butter to the top and a sprinkling of sugar, then broil them for 2-3 minutes.
We tried the blackberry and apple sonkers and took them to go, but we couldn’t resist digging in right away when we got to our car. The crust was very light, and they were the sweetest of all the sonkers we tried. They were good, but I think we would have liked them more if they weren’t quite so sweet.
4. Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards
286 Cabernet Lane, Dobson
We made dinner reservations at Harvest Grill, and took the free shuttle from the Hampton Inn to/from dinner—a nice hotel perk since we both wanted to have wine with our meal.
The restaurant’s farm-to-table fare is sourced locally as much as possible, and the freshness shines through. We devoured everything, but saved room for sonker!
The sonkers at Harvest Grill are unique in that their delicious fruit fillings are made with wine from Shelton Vineyards. Yes, please! We had a triple berry sonker loaded with blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries under a cobbler-style crust topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The fruit filling was infused with blackberry wine that subtly enhanced the dessert. We loved it!
5. Rockford General Store
5174 Rockford Rd., Dobson
You’ll find Rockford General Store out in the middle of nowhere, but oh my goodness, is it ever worth the trip! The old-fashioned general store has everything from glass bottled drinks to old glass candy jars filled with childhood favorites.
And of course, they’re serving up one of our favorite sonker desserts.
They were the first to join the Sonker Trail and they try to keep their version as historically traditional as possible. You can eat it inside the store or take it out on the porch and sit in a rocking chair.
We had a cherry sonker with vanilla ice cream on top and it was INCREDIBLE – best Sonker on the Sonker Trail, in our opinion. The crust was soft and biscuity-y with a most delectable fruit filling. My boyfriend doesn’t like cherry pie at all, but he LOVED this sonker and ate every bite. Rockford General Store is off the beaten path, but SO worth it!
Tip: Our GPS got us there, but we couldn’t pick up a signal when we were ready to leave. We drove back down the road to a church at the top of a hill and were able to pick up the signal again, but you may want to be prepared with a map or written directions for your next stop.
6. Southern on Main
102 E. Main St., Elkin
If you’re looking for a great meal, time your sonker tasting at Southern on Main with lunch or dinner. We started with fried mozzarella and then had the Main Street Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans. SO good!
And then we tried their sonkers.
Southern on Main’s sonker crust is more like a crisped biscuit pancake. It’s cooked in a griddle separately and then laid over the top of the heated fruit filling. A scoop of ice cream finishes it off.
We tried both the apple and the blueberry varieties. The crust was firm and hard to break apart with a spoon, making it a little difficult to eat, but we appreciated how different it was from traditional Sonker. We enjoyed it, but it wasn’t our favorite.
7. Tilted Ladder
105 W. Main St., Pilot Mountain
Our last sonker stop was at Tilted Ladder and we stopped in for lunch after hiking at nearby Pilot Mountain State Park. We were really hungry, so we ordered burgers and fries.
And then of course we tried sonkers—strawberry and peach. At Tilted Ladder, they make a biscuit-like topping instead of a pie crust topping and it’s served with milk dip— a cooked sweetened cream that tastes like snow cream. It’s served on the side and you pour it on yourself. And pour we did… what a delicious dessert! The milk dip was a hit!
Tips For Exploring the Sonker Trail
- Sonker Flavors: Flavors vary by day and location; they’re typically based on whichever fruit is ripest at the time. This also means you may encounter the same flavors at multiple trail stops. In the fall, you’ll often see more of the savory options like sweet potato appear.
- Map it Out: You can print a copy of the Sonker Trail Map or pick up a copy at one of the trail stop locations.
- Verify Participation and Hours: Sonker Trail participants change over time, and business hours change constantly, so you may want to double-check the locations you want to visit ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
- Arrive Hungry: It’s no fun if you’re full, so try to pace yourself. Either share a single sonker or time your tastings to accompany meals at the restaurants you visit.
- Turn a Day Trip Into a Weekend: We spent 2½ days in the area! Check out my posts about Mayberry/Mt. Airy and Yadkin Valley wineries for ideas on what to do between sonker stops. You may also want to take advantage of the great resources at YadkinValleyNC.com to help you plan your visit.
- Where to Stay: Each time I’ve visited the area, I’ve stayed at the Hampton Inn in Dobson. It’s great!
The Sonker Festival in Surry County, North Carolina, is an annual event celebrating, you guessed it… Sonker. Alongside sonkers, the festival features bluegrass music, flat-foot dancing, and old-fashioned fun.
The first Saturday of October each year – October 5, 2024
Sonkers Stops of the Past
I can’t help reminiscing about some sonkers that used to be part of the Sonker Trail—here are some of my favorites. I love how different they are!
Sonker Trail Wrap-Up
The best part about Sonker is that nobody makes it the same way, so you can visit all of the Surry County Sonker Trail locations and have a unique tasting experience every single time.
You’ll likely want to stagger your Sonker Trail stops over a couple of days (or just hit the highlights), but all the locations are within about a 30-minute radius of each other. Visit the Sonker Trail official website for all the details.