I moved to Florida 16 years ago with my friend Steve. Besides having a Lil’ Champ convenience store nearly every other block, there was a barbeque place we kept seeing called Sonny’s. We weren’t real into bbq back then but were lured into the place by the all-you-can-eat pork special.
And eat we did. So much so that when we got back to my Uncle Larry’s place in Orange Park we both collapsed from food comas.
That night was the begining of a long and wonderful relationship. I loved Sonny’s so much that years later my wife and I chose it as the place for our wedding rehersal dinner.
When I hit my thirties and became a competitive cyclist, the Sonny’s pork barbeque plate (with beans, sweet potato and cornbread) was an almost magic elixir when it came to refueling my body after the very toughest workouts. Something about that mix of sugars, carbs, protein and fat could bring me back from the brink.
Then about three years ago the food, and the service, started getting bad.
The first thing I noticed was that the baked beans started to go…I don’t know how or why they changed them but something that was smooth and sweet suddenly became awful. Then the pork…the staple of southern bbq…started to go. Instead of a plate of pork bbq, you would get a plate with some bbq and about just as much burnt trimmings. Not good like chitlins either, just nasty dregs they threw on to fill out the weight on the plate. It looked a bit like burnt cat hair with red highlights.
Then the service, which was always fast and friendly, became as nasty as the beans. The waitresses were surly and disinterested. After I got served by two versions of America’s Worst Waitress in 2007, I quit going. Where I went to Sonny’s about once a week before it went to less than once a year, and when I did go after it was always somebody else’s treat. Watching Sonny’s decline was like watching a beloved alcoholic relative die slowly.
So this week, while you were sleeping and before sunrise, I was out on the road doing a cycling exercise called a “CR interval” that basically entails going as hard as you can until you throw up. By Wednesday I was feeling pretty rough and then I remembered how well Sonny’s used to refuel the engine. So I went there for lunch, expecting to be spat upon.
But I was pleasantly surprised. The service was good and the food was back to where it was before, pre-2007. Ane even better my legs had some pop on Thursday that I hadn’t seen in a week. So I hit lunch there again on Thursday. Same good food, same good service.
I am cautiously optomistic. Is Sonny’s truly back? Only time will tell but its money I’ll be there after intervals next week.