The Food Trails of Yadkin Valley North Carolina

Yadkin Valley North Carolina Food Trails - Ground Steak Food Trail and Surry Sonker Trail


Like art, food trails define a region. Some trails tell the story of the area’s past, while others give a little color to the city where these trails reside. While visiting the Yadkin Valley, North Carolina, to discover wine, I found two Yadkin Valley Food Trails that speak to the area’s history. They are the Surry Ground Steak Trail and the Surry Sonker Trail. You might ask, Are you hungry for history on both these food trails? Both trails tell a story passed down from generation to generation in Surry County.

Sonker Trail Anchored Sweet Treats & Heavenly Eats - CREDIT Sam Dean.
Sonker Trail Anchored Sweet Treats & Heavenly Eats. Photo by Sam Dean.jpg

Surry Ground Steak Trail

The ground steak sandwich began in the 1930s during the Depression when people wanted to stretch their meals. Some say it started at the old Canteen Restaurant in Mount Airy. It is now known as the cousin to the hamburger, but softer in texture and more tender.  This Ground Steak tradition started in Mount Airy and expanded into Pilot Mountain, Elkin, and Dobson. It lives on today with eleven mom-and-pop locations offering this creation. Each location has its version of the ground steak sandwich.

Ground Steak Trail Central Cafe
Ground Steak Trail Central Cafe

Cooks with limited resources could get more from ground beef by boiling or browning the meat, adding flour, water, or milk, and seasoning, usually salt and pepper. They placed the loose meat patty on a bun and topped it with mayonnaise, slaw, and tomato. The Surry Ground Steak was a popular lunch dish with the workers at nearby textile factories in Mount Airy.

The Surry Ground Steak Trail was started in April of 2023 by Travis Frye, coordinator of the Surry County Tourism Development Authority, and offers variations with or without the bun and each family’s recipe.

Ground Steak Trail Central Cafe - CREDIT Sara Brennan
Ground Steak Trail Central Cafe. Photo by Sara Brennan

Ground Steak Trail Stops

Here is a list of all the Ground Steak Trail by town:

Mount Airy

Aunt Bea’s BBQ of Mount Airy
(336) 789-3050
www.AuntBeasBBQ.com

Dairy Center
(336) 786-2349

Snappy Lunch
(336) 786-4931
www.TheSnappyLunch.com

Speedy Chef of Mount Airy
(336) 789-2396

Martha Sue’s
(336) 415-5253

Pilot Mountain

All Sauced Up BBQ
(336) 444-8300

Cousin Gary’s
(336) 368-1488

Aunt Bea’s BBQ of Pilot Mountain
(336) 368-2300
www.AuntBeasBBQ.com

Dobson

Central Café
(336) 356-2100
www.Facebook.com/CentralCafe2

Rockford General Store
(336) 374-5317
www.RockfordGeneralStore.com

Elkin

Speedy Chef of Elkin
(336) 835-4403
www.Facebook.com/SpeedyChefElkin

Surry Sonker Trail

The Surry Sonker Trail showcases a heritage dessert that has been in local families for generations. Think of a Sonker as a cobbler meets a deep-dish pie. This dessert blends fruit with a soupy consistency and unshaped dough, sweetened with sugar, molasses, and an occasional secret ingredient. Many serve it drizzled with a cream-based dip. Like the Ground Steak, the Sonker stretched the usage of fruit during tough times and afforded a use for fruit toward the end of its ripeness.

The Sonker offers various flavors: apple, blackberry, cherry, peach, raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, and sweet potato. Besides the flavors, the styles vary.

Yadkin Valley Food Trails Surry County Sonker Marker - CREDIT Travis Frye
Surry County Sonker Marker. Photo by Travis Frye

The Name Sonker

Many locals say the name Sonker comes from Scottish and Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley in the 1700s. Surry County was established in 1771. The word sonker comes from the Scottish dialect. It originally referred to a small, grassy knoll that could have been used as a seat. The meaning evolved to describe a seat or saddle made of straw. Either interpretation relates to the irregular dough covering the bumpy filling. Others say the name is derived from the word “sunk” because the Sonker crust sinks into the fruit filling. Over the years, in rural North Carolina dialect, perhaps “sunker” became “sonker.”

Prudence McCabe Sonker - CREDIT Sara Brennan
Prudence McCabe Sonker. Photo by CREDIT Sara Brennan

Sonker Trail Stops

There are seven Sonker Trail Stops, with each stop making its version of the delectable dessert. Some are handed down from family recipes, some make Sonkers in a skillet, while others use fruit from their family orchard. 

Harvest Grill Sonker at Shelton Vineyards - Credit Sara Brennan
Harvest Grill Sonker at Shelton Vineyards. Photo by Sara Brennan

I sample a Sonker at Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards. Due to allergies, my Sonker was gluten and dairy-free but still yummy.

If you have never tried a Sonker, you must stop at one of the Yadkin Valley Food Trail Stops.

Gluten and Dairy Free Sonker Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards
Gluten and Dairy Free Sonker Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards

Here is a list of Sonker Trail Stops listed by the town:

Mount Airy

Anchored Sweet Treats and Savory Eats
(336) 705-3449
Anchored Sweet Treats & Savory Eats

Prudence McCabe Confections
(336) 648-8160

Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies
(336) 786-1537
Miss Angels Heavenly Pies

Pilot Mountain

The Tilted Ladder
(336) 444-4194
The Tilted Ladder

Dobson

Rockford General Store
(336) 374-5317
Rockford General Store

Harvest Grill at Shelton Vineyards
(336) 366-3590
Shelton Vineyards

Elkins

Southern On Main
(336) 258-2144
Southern On Main

Yadkin Valley Food Trails

Both the Surry food trails define the Yadkin Valley and connect families to one another through the legacy of ground steak and the Sonker.

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