Fort Mill Times

DINING OUT: Sonny's

A Sonny's cheeseburger is served with a generous portion of fresh cut home fries and slaw.
A Sonny's cheeseburger is served with a generous portion of fresh cut home fries and slaw.

Sometimes ya just crave a good hamburger.

I was having one of those days, so I followed my sister's advice and headed to Sonny's Dutch Mill, the self-proclaimed "home of the best chili cheeseburger around."

Walking into the family-owned, Fort Mill restaurant, I found it decorated like a 1950s diner. We sat in red and white vinyl chairs and surveyed the Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Cash and Rat Pack posters lining the walls. There's also a giant mural by local artist Jerry McClure depicting classic cars at a drive-in movie, "The Ten Commandments." I've never had a burger with Moses, I quipped as we skimmed the menu.

Although the waitresses weren't wearing poodle skirts, and at one point I heard Madonna instead of Elvis on the radio, Sonny's Dutch Mill reminded me of the diner in "Grease" where the kids would hang out after school. I imagine that was the case 52 years ago, when the original Sonny's opened in Rock Hill.

According to Sonny's Web site, the restaurant started as "The Dutch Mill" back in the days of bobby socks and doo-wop. Originally a car hop restaurant in a windmill-shaped building beside a drive-in movie theater, it quickly earned a reputation for good times and great food.

I believe it.

There are seven types of burgers on the menu, ranging from a regular hamburger for $4.30 to Lu Lu's Rancho bacon cheeseburger for $5.50. Burgers are served with mustard, fresh-chopped onions and Sonny's homemade chili. Additional toppings are 50 cents each, except bacon, which is $1.

The sandwich selection includes pork barbecue made from Sonny's homemade secret recipe ($4.80), grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing ($4.90), flounder with tartar sauce ($4.50) and Kick 'n Kati hot and spicy chicken ($4.75). You can also grab a hot dog, slaw dog, BLT or ham and cheese sandwich for $2 to $4.50.

I ordered the cheeseburger plate, which was $6.95 and came with a chili burger, fresh cut home fries, cole slaw and a soda. My friend ordered the same, but with crinkle cut fries. Other sides include beer-battered onion rings, potato chips, slaw and cheesesticks.

I was apprehensive about chili on my burger at first -- I prefer chili dogs, not burgers -- but figured I was there for the experience. I had to find out if Sonny's really is home to the best chili cheeseburger around. And you know something, it is. It's also home to the best fresh cut potato fries I've ever had, and they pile so much on the plates you'd be crazy not to go home stuffed.

By the time I was a third of the way through my fries, I figured my diet was shot for the day. So why not splurge on the brownie sundae, I reasoned with myself, which at $4.50 was enough for two. Piled high on the homemade brownie was rich vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, drizzled chocolate and chopped nuts. Plus, a cherry on top. Eating that brownie was like tasting a piece of heaven.

I'll admit I spent an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill that night, but boy was it worth it.

The friendly wait staff, juicy burgers, delightful desserts and family-friendly atmosphere is evidence that Sonny's has built a rich tradition of good times and great food.

Sonny's Dutch Mill

• Location: 737 Stockbridge Drive, Tega Cay

• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday;

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

• Phone: 548-7100

• Web site: www.sonnysdutchmill.com

• Ambiance: Family-friendly diner known for its chili cheeseburgers

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