Sonny Bryan’s

Review by: Michael Stern

Sonny Bryan’s brisket basks in hickory smoke until it is 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 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, 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 continues at several Sonny Bryan restaurants all around the Metroplex and two in Utah. For a list of current Sonny Bryan locations, log onto the Sonny Bryan website.

What To Eat

sliced or chopped brisket

pulled pork

pork ribs

Onion Rings




Sonny Bryan’s Recipes


What do you think of Sonny Bryan’s?

4 Responses to “Sonny Bryan’s”

Mike Avery

December 4th, 2013

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.


Otis Maxwell

April 23rd, 2011

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.


Scott Javine

September 9th, 2009

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.


Steve Tomashefsky

May 12th, 2009

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.


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