As part of my research for an upcoming project, I wanted to try several varieties of sonker. So what the heck is sonker?
I think virtually anyone who tried sonker would answer, “Oh, it’s a cobbler.” And in fairness, it basically is. But the New York Times recognized the variation as unique to Surry County where Mount Airy is located, so “sonker” it is. Most say it differs from a cobbler in that it is deeper and contains more fruit making it juicier. My experience was it depends on where you are having the sonker.
The Surry Arts Council has established a “Sonker Trail” so I wanted to try a variety of the options while I was there. The knowledgeable innkeeper at the Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast where I spent the first night said it was generally agreed that the best sonker in the county was at the out-of-the-way Rockford General Store. Rockford is a small community on the banks of the Yadkin River in the southeast corner of Surry County, Rockford used to be an actual town. In fact, when what is now Surry County split off from neighboring Stokes County, Rockford was founded in 1791 to serve as the county seat. (The county seat was moved to Dobson in 1851.)
My friend, Mike, was also attending the Mayberry Meet-Up by himself so we hung out together a good deal of the time, visiting wineries and eating lunch at the Dairy Center. Mike liked the restaurant so much he and his wife Carol ate there not once but twice during Mayberry Days a couple of months later.
But during a period when we were not together, I made the drive to the Rockford General Store. The old-time store is only about 20 miles from Mount Airy but due to the only access being winding country roads, it took more like half an hour to get there.
The store was great. It serves a more utilitarian function to people in the area as there is not an abundance of restaurants. The store opened in 1890 and has the same, days-of-yesteryear ambiance as the Mayberry Trading Post in Virginia. The wood floors are uneven and creak when you walk on them. Lots of old photos hang on the walls and there are plenty of glass jars with what was at one time known as penny candy. But of course, I was there for the sonker.
The type of sonker I would really like to try is sweet potato sonker, which would be unlike any cobbler I have ever had. But I was happy to get a dish of whatever they had available. And that was cherry sonker.
When I ordered a serving, it was spooned out of a relatively large baking dish, but not a huge industrial dish. Rather, the same type most people have in their kitchens. It was served in a styrofoam bowl and I opted for the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. While it still tastes like cobbler to me, it was delicious. I should add that they make it throughout the day. I was told if I wanted to wait about 25 minutes, they would have a batch of peach sonker ready.
While the Rockford General Store may not be on the way to anywhere in particular, if you are looking for a short side trip while visiting Mount Airy and a really beautiful drive through the countryside, I would recommend it highly. And while the sonker was excellent, I would have to say it was the second-best I had during my trip. The best I had was in Mount Airy itself. But you will have to wait for the completion of my afore-mentioned upcoming project to hear about that.