Review: Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q

Sonny's BarbecueI have been forever spoiled for all other barbecues because of Pat’s Rib Place. I really wanted to like Sonny’s Barbecue in Lakeland, Fla. I really did. After protesting for years to go with my brother, I finally convinced my hubby and father-in-law to check it out after a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and before our drive back to Tampa.

During my teen years (well before I became a barbecue fan), I refused to eat anything barbecue. My brother still regrets not just going to the Sonny’s near Kissimmee and just having me fend for myself as a picky eater. Alas, we ended up – probably – at some chain restaurant for a generic hamburger or sandwich instead.

In some sort of repentance for my young naivety, I tried to make up for my misdeeds and check out this barbecue joint that has been on my brother’s wishlist for years. Sadly, I can’t say it would live up to the pedestal that he has placed it on. So let’s take a closer look…

Dining room at Sonny's BarbecueSonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q was founded in 1968 by Floyd “Sonny” Tillman in Gainesville, Fla. Today, there are 128 restaurants in nine states including Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Wooden booths line the restaurant, which has a country-kitchen type of feel with knickknacks on the walls and old photos in the frames.

Salad bar at Sonny's BarbecueSonny’s ‘Garden of Eatin’ is an all-you-can-eat spot for the greens-lovers in your party. There are 30+ items to fill your tummy.

Sauces at Sonny's BarbecueSonny’s has four different sauces – sweet, Sizzlin’ Sweet, Smokin’ and Mild. You can buy them online if you want to bring the taste home with you.

Fried corn nuggets at Sonny's BarbecueWe started our meal off with the fried corn nuggets – creamed corn that is battered, then fried and served with a little powdered sugar on the side. These were okay but I was hoping for a little more from them. Once they started to get cold, there was no chance for redemption.

Beef brisket, corn bread and baked beans at Sonny's BarbecueI opted for the slow-smoked pulled beef brisket with barbecue beans and corn bread. I don’t know what it is lately – but food just isn’t coming out piping hot anymore. I was much too tired and famished from a day of park hopping to even complain.

Macaroni and cheese at Sonny's BarbecueThe mac ‘n cheese – while it was called ‘homemade’ on the menu – had a nondescript plasticky cheese flavor and was starting to congeal by the time it made it to the table.

Beef ribs and sweet potato at Sonny's BarbecueHubby ordered the pork 3-ways with pork ribs, pulled pork and sliced pork with a side of cornbread and sweet potato. He noted that it was fatty and cold with no smoky flavor. Just a disappointment.

Cole slaw at Sonny's BarbecueThe cole slaw was your standard cabbage and carrot mixture.

Drive-thru at Sonny's BarbecueThis Sonny’s location also had a drive-thru to satiate your barbecue needs.

I’m so sad that this meal didn’t live up to my expectations (or those of my big brother’s). I really really wanted to like it, especially since so many other people seemed to be enjoying their meals. Even the service was lackluster.

Sigh. Maybe I just needed my big brother with me to enjoy it?

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5 thoughts on “Review: Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q

  1. Great write-up! I wish it had been a better experience for you, too. (For the record, I’ve never eaten there either.) I’m definitely going to have to try Pat’s next time we’re back in town, though!

  2. Nice descriptive review and photos. I can’t say this is a totally accurate depiction of Sonny’s, perhaps its because of the items you ordered, which are a little opposite of what I order. I’ve been going to Sonny’s for decades, overall there has been little changes to the food with the exception of the beef. Sonny’s used to have an A-1 excellent quality of beef but not anymore since a few years ago when they changed to a lower quality cut. I don’t order beef anymore, I’ve switched to the pork which hasn’t been ruined yet. I strictly order the sliced pork for sandwiches and only on the bun rather than the soggy garlic bread. Their BBQ chicken is delicious and so are the ribs. I love their BBQ beans and crazy for the corn nuggets (you gotta eat em while they’re hot!). Sonny’s has a wonderful salad bar, you can’t go wrong. I never order the pulled pork or the macaroni n cheese. I love the sweet potato with cinnamon butter. The french fries are good as long as they are cooked to crispy, not halfway. The cole slaw is delicious when served creamy. I think you should give them another try. Of course service is everything, it can make or break a meal. Ask for a man server, you can’t go wrong!

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