Written by: Amber Thompkins, Food Editor | Photography by: Chris Redd, Chief Photographer
Whether you’re in a lunch time crunch or you want to sit back and enjoy dinner with family, Sonny’s BBQ strives to make dining an enjoyable experience for all. The restaurant has two locations to choose from in Ocala; one on SR 200 and one on Silver Springs Boulevard. When driving by you may have noticed the recent facelift that both locations have undergone. But that’s not all that’s changed, the smokers have been moved out front so people can smell and more importantly, see the meats “smoking all night for your lunch tomorrow.” Sonny’s wants to be very clear about the preparation of their meats. Nothing comes precooked from a corporate headquarters. All meats are smoked in-house, some for as long as 14 hours. They offer a wide variety of freshly smoked meats including brisket, ribs, pork, chicken and turkey.
For some, the highlight of going to Sonny’s is being able to get four meats on one plate: smoked pork, beef brisket, BBQ chicken and ribs (Sonny’s Sampler). For others, it’s the unlimited soup and salad at their fresh garden bar. The restaurant offers various traditional BBQ side items such as baked beans, coleslaw, french fries and baked potatoes. But in addition to these local favorites, Sonny’s creative team is always developing new yummy recipes for patrons to enjoy. If you haven’t tried the Redneck Eggrolls – they’re a must! Josh McCall and Kyle Dixon came up with these bad boys. Crispy egg rolls loaded with slow-smoked pulled pork, homemade coleslaw and Pepper jack cheese. Lightly fried until golden and served with a side of smokey ranch dipping sauce. They are a real Pitmaster’s take on egg rolls. The spice of the pepper jack cheese and smokey ranch dipping sauce really ignites the full flavor and helps to balance the sweetness of the coleslaw and pulled pork, all enveloped in a crispy egg roll – yes, please!
Each restaurant has their own local pitmaster whose in charge of smoking the meats and making sure they meet Sonny’s quality standards. To become a pitmaster, one must go through Pitmasters Academy and complete all of the necessary training and certifications. This includes attending workshops, class lectures, hosting their own BBQ classes and being the head cook at an official sanctioned BBQ competition.
The grand champion award-winning Ocala pitmaster team took about eight months to perfect their competition rib recipe. “They need to be just tender enough, but cannot fall off the bone- that’s a competition rib,” boasted Josh McCall, head of the pitmaster team and Director of Operations for Sonny’s BBQ Ocala’s dedicated pitmaster crew is comprised of Josh McCall, Matt Strate (General Manager of the SR 40 location),Jim Faircloth (General Manager of the SR 200 location), and Kyle Dixon (area director for Sonny’s BBQ} Their competition rib recipe has placed six times and taken first place at half of those competitions. While they are very proud of the titles they have won so far, the momentum doesn’t stop there. The team is thrilled and honored to be a part of “The Royal” in Kansas City. “This is one of the top 3 BBQ competitions in the world … to win is to be nationally known,” explained the pitmaster crew. They are already prep-aring for the worldwide BBQ competition that will take place this October and include 180 hand selected teams. Everyone will bring their best BBQ on the table and let the meats speak for themselves.
Although these award-winning competition style BBQ Ribs cannot be ordered off the menu at any time, the restaurant does run a campaign once a year when customers can come in and enjoy them. The hardest decision you will have is which of their sauces to use!
4102 E SILVER SPRINGS BLVD,
OCALA, FL 34470