What about Cooper's?
The thread started by "overresearched" about Texas Monthly's top 5 BBQ places made me wonder: what do other people think about Cooper's up in Llano? I've been there a couple of times and both times I loved the sausage and brisket. I think the expansion place they built in New Braunfels isn't as good as the original, but I think the one in Llano is probably at least as good as Mueller's or Smitty's.
Cooper's in Llano is great and has been for years, just a little erratic. The problem is the drive, at least for me: I hate to drive so far out of town for a mediocre experience when such solid options are half as far. Especially now that Franklin is here, so local and so consistent. Aaron is a scientist and bucks the BBQ trend by producing impossibly consistent results, at least in my experience.
'Other hand, if I'm on my way to Midland, Ruidoso, or anywhere else out west, I never fail to make a pit stop at Cooper's. On a good day, their best brisket is as good as I've ever had, surpassing all but Snow's. In my opinion, this is largely due to their mastery over mesquite, and you'll find that the further west you go, the more dominant mesquite is as the barbecue smoking wood of choice. I've found that mesquite is a harsh master, requiring more skillful maintenance but offering more compelling flavor. I have always preferred Cooper's best brisket to anything offered in Lockhart.
The tourists come for the ribs and brisket, which leaves the best for everyone else- the porkchop. The regulars drool and dream of their porkchop,....something that the tourists never even try. Fine by me,....
No love for the Coopers in Mason? I do remember it being #1 by Texas Monthly not too long ago.