As a child, I never got to really appreciate American barbecue due to lack of availability. The biggest locale for barbecue was probably Owensboro, KY but given its distance and being overshadowed by a “cooler” city (Evansville), it was often overlooked. It wasn’t until when I moved to Lexington did I didn’t get to experience barbecue on a more frequent basis.
My first memory is of the Famous Dave’s barbecue chain, which in my opinion is one of the better chains out there but for some reason, it closed down in Lexington. My most recent memories involve Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, another chain of barbecue restaurants found throughout the Southeast. Sonny’s is well known throughout the Lexington area mainly because 1) the advertisements they do locally, especially during UK football games and 2) it’s one of the few places for good barbecue in the area.
Sonny’s serves a wide variety of true barbecue which includes: 3 styles of ribs, pulled pork, sliced pork, smoked chicken, smoked turkey, and beef brisket. For those not into barbecue, there are a variety of sandwiches, non-barbecue platters, soups, salads, and even a salad bar to tide you over. Last but not least, their sidekicks (sides) include a wide variety of Southern favorites including, but not limited to macaroni & cheese, corn on the cob, coleslaw, cinnamon apples, and baked beans. With all that variety, it’s clearly obvious why Sonny’s Bar-B-Q is one of the better known barbecue restaurants in the area. To top that off, they offer different specials each day of the week offering a minor discount on specific menu items.
One of the reasons I like Sonny’s Bar-B-Q is because of the “All U Can Eat” special that they have all day, every day on their barbecue. While the prices vary depending on which meat you initially choose, I personally I always get the “Sweet & Smokey Ribs” ($12.99) to start with. The reasoning for this is because Sonny’s allows you to get refills on any meat that is equivalent or lesser in price to the one you initially order. So for example, if you went with the chicken “All U Can Eat” ($9.99), you can only bounce between that and the Sliced Pork. Choosing the ribs allows you to get everything offered on that menu. I almost forgot to mention that “All U Can Eat” also includes most of the sides as well.
As I mentioned before, I started off with the “Sweet & Smokey Ribs” with corn on the cob, green beans, and cornbread as my sides. At Sonny’s, I prefer these ribs the most because the sauce that they are cooked with turns into a deliciously sweet, sticky glaze that covers every inch of the ribs. The meat itself is cooked perfectly, as evident by the smoke ring. Each bite is tender and juicy. For those that want a little more flavor, Sonny’s has different sauces available at the table ranging from spicy, tangy, and sweet.
After a few plates of ribs, I wanted something different and chose the smoked chicken as my last refill. The chicken here is really good in my opinion. Other than the natural flavor of chicken, there is an intense smoky flavor that accompanies each bite. The skin is crispy while the meat of the chicken itself is very moist.
Of course there are the sides. All of them fare pretty good on the taste scale, but the barbecue eclipses them all. Among my three sides, I enjoyed the cornbread the most. I’m a big fan of sweet cornbread and Sonny’s cornbread tastes exactly like yellow cake. It’s that good! The corn on the cob was good as well. The kernels of corn weren’t too mushy or rubbery. They were crisp and had an excellent sweetness. The green beans were just ok. While the flavor was good, the beans themselves had the appearance of leftover green beans (some of them in bits and pieces rather than full strips).
So while the food rates high on my scale, the area where Sonny’s falls short is in service. Of the numerous times I’ve been there with different waiters/waitresses at different times of day, it’s the same slow service each time. I do not really understand why it takes so long for someone to see that that a table has just been seated (we sat for 10 minutes before getting noticed). Furthermore, refills of both food and drinks are far and few between.
In the Lexington area, there are a couple places that serves good barbecue but very few of them serve it in an “all you can eat” fashion at a good price. Despite the shortcomings of actual service at Sonny’s, I would still recommend it because the barbecue is real, the food is delicious, and you can guarantee you’ll leave satisfied.
109 North Plaza Drive
Nicholasville, KY 40356
Bill Total: ~$15