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BBQ near Austin

From what I've seen on this board, folks recommend going outside of Austin for the best BBQ. A few years ago, we went somewhere in the Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio to a great BBQ place, but I no longer remember the name. I know it was in a dry county, and folks brought coolers of beer, and it was in the middle of nowhere. Could anyone point me back in that direction, or somewhere else with equally great BBQ? We'll be coming to Austin from San Antonio for a weekend, and going back to SA afterwards, so something that's roughly close (say 50 miles or so) of either city would be great.

Thanks, folks, and if you ever need advice on midwest Ohio dining, I'll be glad to reciprocate!


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  1. you're probably talking about the Salt Lick in Driftwood. It's not a dry country (don't think there are any dry counties in Central Texas) but it is BYOB. Most posters on here will tell you to avoid Salt Lick for the food, but I think it's decent enough and the atmosphere makes up for it. I think there pork ribs are pretty tasty, but the brisket is just so-so. They also have better sides than most bbq restaurants. If you really want to sample some of the best bbq in the state, head over to Lockhart or Luling, both of which are east of I-35 between Austin and San Antonio, or head northwest from Austin to Llano. Have fun.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ftf

      how long is the drive to lockhart or luling out of austin? and if there i'm not going to be able to get out of the city, where would you recommend i go?

      1. re: daimyo

        Luling is around an hour away. Lockhart is about 45 minutes out from downtown (as is Taylor).

        Check out this thread for barbecue in the city: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/336293

        1. re: Knoblauch

          From Downtown, Lockhart is more like 30 minutes, Luling about an hour, and Taylor about 45 minutes. I make these drives with some regularity. Don't speed through Mustang Ridge (about mid-way between Austin and Lockhart) and you'll have a happy trip.

    2. Yes, you're right - it was the Salt Lick in Driftwood, and I liked the ribs and the sausage. But maybe this trip we'll have to try to hit Lockhart or Luling; where do you recommend?

      Thanks in advance!

      7 Replies
      1. re: Niki in Dayton

        Between Lockhart and Luling, I would opt for Lockhart. Luling has some good BBQ too, but Between Kreuz's, Smitty's and Black's in Lockhart, you can't really go wrong. Especially if you haven't been.

        1. re: Homero

          Thanks; I did a search for Luling and Lockhart on this board and we plan to hit Lockhart; I'll report back after.


          1. re: Niki in Dayton

            As a Boston Yankee, I have to suggest that you go to both Luling and Lockhart. In Luling, try City Market for some ribs and sausage and then drive on back to Lockhart (about 10- 15 minutes) for some brisket and sausage at Smitty's and/or Black's. Since you order by the slice, link or pound, you don't have to over do it and you can sample a little from each. It is truly barbecue heaven. Agree that Salt Lick , while a fun place, is inferior barbecue to the others.

            1. re: Northender

              I googled Lockhart and Luling BBQ and found a bunch of links about the "texas BBQ trail" which included info about the vendors, hours, etc. Our plan right now is to hit both places on a Saturday afternoon, sort of on the way from SA to Austin. Then I think a late-ish dinner of burgers at El Camino, and maybe Sunday a visit to Little Thailand. I appreciate all the advice from the hounds on this board!

              1. re: Niki in Dayton

                If your plan is Luling, Lockhart, Casino El Camino, and Little Thailand, then let me be the first to say:

                You have planned an AWESOME chow trip! Congrats, and best of luck!

        2. Salt Lick is in a dry precinct so it's BYOB. It's down on the good BBQ scale though. Probably not in the top 10 for meat but it definitely has the best sides, cobbler, and experience.

          1. I'd also nix Salt Lick...weird sauce if nothing else.

            Considering that Luling only adds a little over an hour to the pilgrimage I would include City Market. 2nd best brisket next to Black's, 2nd best sausage next to Smitty's. Don't ask for utensils unless you like dirty looks...

            1. Note -- some of the best BBQ places concentrate on getting the meat ready for lunch hours, so they either close early, run out, or have overcooked leftovers by dinnertime.

              Also note -- many of the best are closed on Mondays, holidays, or even Sundays so it is best to call and check ahead.

              I'm a tourist with family in Austin so I get there once a year or so and have sampled several of the major local BBQ places. Tastiest by far, but across the tracks and decidedly divy, is Sam's. Brisket was great, chicken ok, and will get the ribs next time.

              1. Sam's seconded. We live blocks from Sam's and not only is it a stone's throw, it is some of the most authentic; it is especially great when you live so close to the owners and support staff.

                My lady-friend and I were in a play at the Gas Light Theater when we first started dating; we had the opportunity to try just about everything in Luling. Closing night of the performance fell on a Saturday, and we arranged for family and friends to see the last performance after doing the BBQ tour. I suggest if you do "Luling BBQ," frame it not unlike a wine tour of [your favorite appellation]. Start early, end late, and try a little bit of everything at each location...just don't buy the t-shirt.

                1. Thanks again, folks! I'll report back after our trip (about a month, but one of the fun parts of planning a trip for me is reading the local chowhound board and figuring out where we'll go to eat.) I appreciate the wine tour advice, and we certainly plan to pace ourselves and try to sample some of the best of each place. And, Tom in Austin, thanks for the validation ;-)


                  1. Just a quick FYI... don't drink and drivel. The BBQ tour we enjoyed before the show at the Gas Light was in Lockhart (and here I'd like to thank the last bottle of Black Chook for confusing me.) The Luling-->Lockhart connection with BBQ is heralded but should probably be broken down in days, as opposed to one day. And if you're in Central Texas from afar, I do not think the BBQ experience in Luling-->Lockhart is such to warrant days of scheduling and commitment; there is way too much to do and eat in Austin proper. This said, there are some great fruit stands in Luling... if you can stand the smell of burning sulfur.

                    1. Between Austin and San Antonio might have been the old German place outside New Braunfels.....think it was Swampkreugs, or something like that. Also, as mentioned by others, the Salt Lick is not far from Austin, and quite good. City Market in Luling and Smitty's in Lockhart are great, and Llano has a couple of great places....also good Q in Marble Falls.

                      1. About the cobbler at County Line....discovered that it, like many other Q places, serves the Cisco prepared cobblers....and admittedly, they are all great! Just about as good as most homemade, in my opinion.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: austxtinker


                          Please go to Ben’s Longbranch Barbecue and have their housemade peach cobbler as soon as possible. The only downside to tasting it is that you’ll want to kill yourself the next time you visit and discover that they’ve run out for the day.

                          The presence of Sysco's pre-prepared food on a menu has more to do with convenience and profit margin than with true deliciousness.

                          There’s an interesting article about Sysco’s market dominance here:

                          There’s also a discussion of this article on Chowhound’s Food & Media board:


                        2. Hey, Niki..for sure try Sam's which is near downtown....also, I like the Iron Works just behind the Austin Convention Center on Red River at Caesar Chavez.....actually located in an old metalworking shop that was Weigle Iron Works. I think it's as good as any in Austin.....and there's also the County Line Q places...one On The Hill...the other On The Lake. Huge beef ribs.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: austxtinker

                            Having recently tried Sam's, I think it's critical to note that, while the 'cue ain't Lockhart/Luling, it's pretty decent, and particular emphasis should be made on ordering the mutton, which I think is their best offering.

                          2. Thanks, again, folks! No worries about drinking and driving; I don't drink beer so will save my alcohol consumption until I'm in Austin and walking :-) And I'm not going to try to get to *everywhere* on the BBQ trail; probably just hit the hot spots in Luling and Lockhart. I appreciate the road trips (no speeding) cause I do have a heavy foot at times. Unfortunately, I only have one day in Austin as I'm actually in San Antonio for business. This will be my second trip to Austin, and I'm really looking forward to it. My last trip, the most memorable chow was a taco from a trailer set up at the Old Pecan St Art Festival; really great chow with really HOT picco on the side!

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Niki in Dayton

                              I'm taking the family to Austin for our first "vacation" since the kids were born (4yrs and 2 years old). For killer BBQ, I was planning on taking the drive to Lockhart and going to Kreuz. But then someone mentioned Coopers in Llano was awesome and a more scenic drive. Opinions? Don't want too far of a drive with the little ones limited attention span.

                              1. re: Chicago Wine Geek

                                Cooper's is only an hour drive from Austin, but it tends to be more of a day trip for me as there's plenty to see out that way. I like Smitty's ribs and sausage the best while Cooper's pork chops, jalapeno sausage and tangy sauce compliment the mesquite flavor. Smitty's uses post oak which gives their cue a sweeter more carmelized taste. I find Kreuz to have too much seasoning. Have fun.

                                1. re: crippstom

                                  Went to Coopers this weekend. I really do love this place and the potato salad is really unique. However, about half way there (which means a lot shorter driving time) we passed Opie's. Now, imho Opie's is VERY close to Coopers in flavory-goodness. After spending all that time in the car, I wish we had just stopped at Opie's instead. Has anyone been since they moved into the larger location closer to the road? Have they maintained their integrity?

                                2. re: Chicago Wine Geek

                                  You're probably looking at about 45 minutes to Lockhart or 1.5 hours to Llano from downtown Austin. This will vary depending on where you start. The drive to Llano is more scenic and you can go to Lake Buchanan or Lake LBJ while you're out that way. There's not really anything else to do by Lockhart. As a rule, I like the beef better at Coopers and the pork better at Kreuz/Smitty's. The Cooper's pork chop can sometimes be very dry, but they have the best beans I've ever eaten. You can't really go wrong here, but I think either Smitty's or Cooper's make a better tourist experience than Kreuz, which is more sterile. I love the food at all three.

                                  1. re: Brian Lindauer

                                    Well, the trip is going to be just for food so I'm now thinking Smitty's....

                                    1. re: Chicago Wine Geek

                                      I think of Smitty's as kind of a BBQ church. Very impressive as it's an old building coated w/smoky memories.

                                      1. re: Chicago Wine Geek

                                        If you go to Smittys, Blacks and Kreuz are only around the corner.You can hit all three in about an hour.I like the brisket at Blacks best.

                                        1. re: cameronaus

                                          Be shure to get there early in the day,about 11:00

                                3. Sam's in Austin is greaat. Take the time to make the pilgrimage to Lockhart, but beware, you may never want to leave there.