To get to Sonny G’s Place, inside the Kounty Line BP Station in Fairview, you take a left at a Lotto display and turn right at several rows of chewing tobacco. The old-school diner is hidden from plain view, its path a bit circuitous — but so is the route that owner/chef Sonny Gasperson took to open his new down-home eatery.
Sonny has been serving up food in creative locations since he got his start in the restaurant business at age 13. Today, he grills mostly short-order fare and slices world-class cakes at the restaurant in Fairview that bears his name.
Although he now sticks to such basics as hamburgers, egg sandwiches, and the too-often-overlooked livermush sandwich — a traditional, disappearing Southern delicacy — Sonny is no stranger to upscale food. He trained at the Boathouse, a notable Charleston restaurant, before starting an outpost of the high-end seafood restaurant in Asheville. He went on to become executive chef at High Vista Country Club in Mills River before opening his first place, Hooper’s Creek Café in Fletcher, which was known for its top-shelf prime-rib dinner.
Photo by Tim Robison
Balancing a restaurant and a young family was a struggle, though, so he took some time to regroup and decided to scale down his restaurant goals.
“Look,” he says ruefully, taking off his hat and pointing to the white streaks in his hair. “I used to have black hair.”
Not wanting to reduce the quality of his food, he made the focus of his new restaurant down-home favorites that use high-quality ingredients. But the most important thing to know about Sonny G’s is to save room for dessert. A humble white board with the words “Try a Slab of Homemade Cake” reveals a list of rich, intriguing options, including lemon ice, red velvet, pistachio, and key lime.
The double-decker applesauce cake with cinnamon frosting is a testament to the emotional power of sugar. Don’t ask if it’s organic or gluten-free: Just dig into this tower of indulgence. The cakes are made from scratch by Sonny’s mom Sherry, a cancer survivor with a will to bake. When she was undergoing chemotherapy, Sonny would sit by her side, and together they dreamed up menus for his future restaurants.
Photo by Tim Robison
With several years of remission behind her, Sherry is devoted to her son’s business, and reigns as the queen of desserts at Sonny G’s Place. The applesauce cake is a work of art, but Sonny notes, with a gleeful tone, “It’s not even in my top-five favorite cakes she makes.” The rest must be mighty fine, even if the location is a bit out of the way.
“I never thought I’d be slinging it in a gas station,” Sonny says. “But you can see it’s huge and clean and busy. I go nonstop.”
Sonny G’s Place, 195 Charlotte Highway in Fairview. 828-298-4888.