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Sonny Bryan's

2202 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX - (214) 357-7120
Posted By Michael Stern on May 1, 2008 12:05 PM
Sonny Bryan’s is the definition of Texas barbecue: brisket basked in hickory smoke until moist and flavorful, and so tender that it virtually falls apart when you pick up a slice. Piled high in a sandwich, the meat needs no condiment; but Sonny Bryan’s sauce also happens to be marvelous – tangy and complex, a great companion to the gentle-flavored beef. Turkey, ham, pork, pork ribs, and sausage are also on the menu; and every one is superb. It is possible to have sandwiches that include two kinds of meat, and even cheese. But if you are coming to Sonny Bryan’s for the first time, please have a simple brisket sandwich – chopped or sliced, it doesn’t matter – and you will understand why Texans are passionate about barbecue.

Years ago when he was asked to tell the secret of his delicious barbecue, Sonny answered, “The only secret is that there is no secret. No spice, no tenderizer, no liquid smoke. Just good meat. Meat, time, and smoke.”

On the side with whatever meat you choose, Sonny Bryan’s offers a slew of good side dishes, including French fries, barbecue-sauced beans, potato salad, black-eyed peas, cole slaw, potato chips by the bag, and corn on the cob.

The Bryan barbecue dynasty goes back to 1910 when Elijah Bryan, Sonny’s grandfather, opened a smoke shack in Oak Cliff. The Sonny Bryan’s on Inwood Road opened in 1958, and it still features awkward but irresistibly charming school-desk seating. Sonny Bryan himself has since passed on, but the family tradition of great barbecue continues at about a dozen Sonny Bryan restaurants all around the Metroplex. For a list of all current Sonny Bryan locations, log onto the Sonny Bryan website.
5 star rating
Overall Rating

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Posted By Mike Avery on December 4, 2013 3:21 PM
I've been to several Sonny Bryan's locations. And, honestly, I don't know what the shouting is all about. They don't serve barbeque. In Texas, barbeque is meat that has been cooked slowly in the presence of smoke. There is no smoke taste. It's roast beef folks! If they called it "Sonny Bryan's Roast Beef", I'd give it 5 stars.

The people are friendly, the ambiance is funky, the service is good. The onion rings are large, crisp, not greasy and tasteless. All in all, I'd bet there is a better option withing blocks of any Sonny Bryan location.

If you're driving, Lockhart Smokehouse in the Bishop Arts district is excellent, as is Pecan Lodge. Pecan Lodge is a little better, but the lines can be brutal. Also, Pecan Lodge is about to move, so look them up before you go there.
1 star rating
Overall Rating
Onion Rings
Sausage
sliced or chopped brisket
Brisket

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Posted By Mark on September 1, 2012 10:38 PM
What killer BBQ. Amazing staff, great history. True Texas cooking! You will not be disappointed in this meal.
3 star rating
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Posted By Jim Hainer on April 23, 2011 11:23 AM
My wife and I truly enjoy our annual pilgrimage to the original location of Sonny Bryan's on Inwood near the Harry Hines. In the summertime they set up picnic tables under canvas cover with misters in their parking lot, the perfect ambiance in which to enjoy their fine smoked meats, tasty sides, and ice cold beer.
3 star rating
Overall Rating
Onion Rings
sliced or chopped brisket
pulled pork
pork ribs
Brisket

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Posted By Otis Maxwell on April 23, 2011 11:15 AM
I've been eating at Sonny Bryan's for at least 40 years and want to clear up a couple of things. First of all, the Inwood location is the only one you should visit. I am not sure what the relation is to the others but I've heard they are not as good and why mess around with a good thing. To complain about the downtown location is like complaining about chicken because you don't like fish.

Second, it's true that the food quality declined briefly during a management change about two years ago but it is definitely back on top as of early 2011 and exactly as Michael Stern's original review describes it. The brisket isn't the smokiest you will find but it is definitely good eating. My personal lunch preference is the "po boy," a generous amount of meat on a soft, long bun with two sides. Both the cole slaw and the potato salad are excellent.

This is not the best BBQ in Texas (you have to go south to Snow's in Lexington for the best I've experienced) but, yes, it's worth a 100 mile trip.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
sliced or chopped brisket
Brisket
pulled pork
pork ribs
Onion Rings
Sausage

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Posted By Twinwillow on April 23, 2011 12:48 AM
Sorry, Michael. With all due respect, I have to totally disagree with your high opinion of Sonny Bryan's. If indeed, as one reviewer stated, you were at the Sonny Bryan's downtown, then you really gave this horrible BBQ much more than its due. Even the original location on Inwood Road, as much as it's better than their other locations, is still not really a whole lot better than any Dickey's location. When Sonny died, his family sold the restaurant to a group of lawyers who expanded the business purely for profit, not to serve world-class BBQ like they'd have you believe.

My first visit to Sonny Bryan's (at their original Inwood Road location) was in 1963, shortly after I first moved to Dallas. I gave up going for two reasons: 1-Because the food went downhill fast after Sonny died about 10 years ago and the business was sold and expanded. 2-Because after that, I discovered real Texas BBQ in Central Texas. I never went back after that.

Next time you're in Dallas, go to Oak Cliff and try Lockhart Smokehouse. It's arguably the best BBQ in Dallas. It's owned in part by the same family that owns and runs Kreuz Market in Lockhart, outside of Austin.
1 star rating
Overall Rating
Onion Rings

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Posted By BRENDA on October 27, 2010 12:02 PM
I have to agree that i do not think of sonny bryans as a roadfood. Basically if you have eaten at any bbq place in texas you might as well have eaten here. Just the same old bbq....The bbq sauce tastes pretty much like the national chain of Dickies and the meat is smoked..but who in texas doesn't smoke their meat! Prices are fair but there just isn't that one dish that just draws you back to talk about at length.
0 star rating
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Posted By Scott Javine on September 9, 2009 11:49 AM
Neither Roadfood (the book) nor the website has ever let me down. Until now, that is. Wow, Sonny Bryan's on Inwood in Dallas was a disappointment. The restaurant has many things to recommend it, but the food here is not one of them.

Sonny's has a great Roadfood sign, a beautiful dark patina of grease and smoke inside, and the prerequisite oddball counter types, one of whom made a rhyme out of whatever anyone said and the other loudly yelling "add that sauce!", "pour it on!", and "what you want? what you want?" repeatedly. The line up to order works, oddly, and is confusing, and even that adds to the whimsy of the place.

But to me, the meat was so laden with sauce, I didn't even recognize it as what I consider BBQ. I guess someone back in the kitchen took counterman, with his "add that sauce" mantra, to heart. The brisket was not sliced brisket, but meat pulled apart a la pulled pork. It was then soaked in sauce and served in a bowl. The pork ribs looked promising, but they were soaked, I mean soaked, in that red sauce. Ugh. Very unappetizing to a guy who likes his Texas BBQ smoked and served. Sauce hides something, folks, and I'm afraid there is much to hide at Sonny Bryan's.

To be fair, the onion rings were darn good, big, not greasy, and delicious. I'd eat them again anytime. But, I'm afraid, they alone are not worth the trip.
1 star rating
Overall Rating
Onion Rings
sliced or chopped brisket
pork ribs
Brisket

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Posted By Steve Tomashefsky on May 12, 2009 10:58 PM
This review applies to the Sonny Bryan's location downtown on Market Street. I don't know how closely connected it is to the original location, but if the food at the original is as good as people say, the downtown outpost must be tenuously connected at best.

First, there was no smoke smell outside or inside, nor did I see a smokestack anywhere. That suggested the food was smoked off-site and brought in, probably not optimal for the best flavor. I ordered the sampler plate, which contains sliced brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, sausage, and a thigh portion of chicken. None of the meats had much smoke flavor. The brisket and the chicken were tender but dry, almost cottony. My personal preference is for a bit of fat to moisten the meat, and here there was none. The pulled pork was just mushy, and the sausage was more like a hard salami than a well-seasoned link. Only the ribs were accepable -- at least they had some fat and were moist. But still no smoke flavor worth mentioning.

The sauce comes in old beer bottles on the side. I've never been a big fan of pouring cold sauce on unsauced meat. Frankly, if it needs sauce, it's already deficient. Dry as the meat was, I didn't find that the sauce solved the problem.

The sides -- mac and cheese and coleslaw -- were good, and I really liked the very yeasty warm bread. But if this location is a fair representative of the Sonny Bryan's experience, I can't imagine what the fuss is about.
2 star rating
Overall Rating
pork ribs
sliced or chopped brisket
pulled pork
Brisket
Sausage

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