By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - If the smell of barbecuing meat isn't the main reason to turn off U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie and head into Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q, it has to be at least in the top three.
The delicious smell hit me as soon as I stepped out of my car a few days ago when I visited the restaurant. I grinned with anticipation and quickened my step to meet the staff and enjoy some lunch.
Sonny's has been a staple in Port St. Lucie for about 15 years, and judging by the crowd on a regular workday, it's going to be here for a while.
"There are some wonderful people here in Port St. Lucie," said Ginny Hagler, manager of the restaurant. "We appreciate their support."
The bulk of their diners were returning customers, and I'm sure the friendly service has a lot to do with it. I was greeted by at least four people before I was even seated.
Looking over the menu, I saw what a person would find in a barbecue restaurant in the selection of meats. But that's where Sonny's breaks out on its own.
All the food is made on site every day, from the coleslaw to the cobbler dessert. Approximately 30 employees make it their goal to make sure customers enjoys their meals.
"The meat starts cooking at 7 a.m. every day," said Ms. Hagler. "People driving to work can smell it cooking."
Even though it was lunch, I was told I could order from the dinner side if I wanted. Knowing the large portions that come from the kitchen, I stuck with lunch and ordered the pulled-beef brisket with coleslaw, green beans and cornbread.
While waiting for my food, I took a sip of my huge drink and looked around at their recently renovated dining room. I noticed that no matter the person, there was something for everyone at the restaurant.
For those with large appetites, there's the all-you-can-eat menu, while those watching what they eat could put together a plate off a salad bar that had a not only fresh vegetables, but a variety of prepared salads such as pasta, macaroni, potato and carrot. There were even two soup choices and some puddings for dessert there.
For those watching their budgets instead of their waistlines, a variety of daily specials will have them leaving happily.
I was glad I ordered from the lunch menu and not the dinner menu when my meal arrived. The portions are large, but definitely not unwelcome.
My brisket came out juicy and flavorful, and I selected the "sweet" flavored sauce from the many choices on my table to complement it.
My sides came in separate dishes, and my green beans had a hint of spiciness to them that gave them a little extra kick. The coleslaw was cold and creamy, with bits of carrots and purple cabbage for color.
My meal also came with what I call dessert: a mini loaf of cornbread. It was warm and moist, but still broke apart in that wonderfully crumbly way that all cornbread does. I used cinnamon butter on mine, which melted right in.
The restaurant has a large assortment of barbecued meat to select from including: ribs, pork, brisket, turkey, chicken and catfish.
Combined with the many sides such as beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, fries, corn on the cob, a baked potato or a sweet potato, and I could see myself coming back many times and not having the same meal twice.
I was too full for dessert, but I will have to make it a point to come back and try their cobbler with ice cream, or maybe even the banana pudding.
From the huge drinks to the even bigger plates of food, Sonny's is definitely in the business of serving delicious food. And they're very good at it.
Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q is located at 10180 South U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call (772) 335-2983.