Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Salt Lick -- Bar B Q

Every Texan knows this basic truth: The only REAL Bar B Q in the land comes from Texas; and the BBQ King of meats is slow-smoked brisket.  Other folks in other places grill meats and roast pigs.  All good, but not worthy of the title. 

Beyond that self-evident understanding, however, Texans differ on particulars:  type of wood, fat up or fat down, dry rub recipe, to sauce or not.

But no one who has ever been to The Salt Lick  in Driftwood, Texas doubts whether he or she has just tasted BBQ heaven. The fork-tender brisket is spiced just right and slow-smoked so smooth you can close your eyes and taste a smolder. We liked the meaty fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs and moist, sweet smoked turkey too.  The only one that didn't take our fancy was the sausage, which seemed more salt and fat than spice and smoke.

The Salt Lick will serve you a plate with your choice of meats and sides of cole slaw and potato salad or you can order a one-price all-you-can-eat family style meal where they'll set down platters and bowls of  meats, cole slaw, beans and potato salad and refill them as often as you want.

And the sides are good.  The cole slaw is freshly made and flavorful with a light tangy dressing.  The potato salad is distinctive for a slight smokiness and smashed potato consistency with rich potato flavor.  We ate every bite.  Then finished the meal  with homemade blackberry cobbler nuanced with a hint of allspice.

Texas is known for idiosyncracy and The Salt Lick has a few.

You can tell when you walk in that the food is the star, which is the way it should be in a BBQ temple.  Rustic picnic tables line the dining rooms and folks are downright happy to sit on the hard benches and lean their elbows on the tables so they can get a better hold of the ribs.

Cash only (there's an ATM in the lobby in case you forget).  And no alcohol served, so BYOB if you want beer or wine.  We were there at lunch and enjoyed the (unsweet) iced tea but we're speculating that a bottle of Driftwood Winery's NV Syrah might be a fine marriage (more about Driftwood in another post).

Plan to stand in line if you arrive during lunch or dinner rush.  You're welcome to enjoy your libations while you wait.  The hours are 11:00am - 10:00pm most days but call before you go, 512-858-4959, to double-check.

The Salt Lick in Driftwood is not on a wide highway.  Driftwood isn't any bigger than a sneeze and nearby Dripping Springs isn't much larger.  But a person could leave downtown Austin and follow the line of pickups into the parking lot about 40 minutes later (not counting rush hour traffic).  The drive from San Antonio is probably only an hour and a quarter from the north-east side of the city.  And it's 45 minutes or less from New Braunfels or Gruene or San Marcos or Wimberley, so you could double up on fun and spend a morning or afternoon in one of these old Hill Country towns and then scoot on over to Driftwood to satisfy your hunger.  As a bonus, there are a couple of good wineries not far away, Mandola Estate Winery and Driftwood Estate Winery where you could enjoy tasting and pick up a bottle to drink with your meal or take home for later.

Don't take my word for it, take a drive and taste for yourself.  There's no mystery to this Hill Country heaven.


  1. Its funny how heated some discussions can become around food. Especially what constitutes "real" BBQ and/or Chili. I won't try to set the bar for anybody else but I know what I like and you are right - the food at the Salt Lick hits several of my "just right" spots.

    I'm impressed you could manage dessert however. I typically fall into a protein coma and forget all about saving room for anything past the meat and sides.

  2. Ah..The Salt Lick...I remember the first time our son and daughter-in-law took us out there. They lived downtown Austin back then. I wondered, 'where on earth are we going?'. But, the atmosphere was great, the food was great, and I can't tell you how many times we've been back.
    Now, we're 'just around the corner'. We drive past Driftwood Winery (another place, where we spend a lot time.) on our short cut up there.
    The Driftwood syrah is Mr. P's favorite.

  3. almost makes meat sound good.
    I'd try the potato salad though.
    My husband gets to Texas a few times a year for work. One day soon we'll have to make a vacation out of it, and check out some of your hits.

  4. TexasDeb and Linda, I'm not surprised you're fellow Salt Lick converts, you ladies know good food.

    Deb, if you do get to Texas, I'd LOVE to know ahead and get to play with you guys. And there are great vegetarian restaurants here too.

  5. You are so right. Whenever we have out of town guests who want BBQ, we take them to the Salt Lick. The food is excellent and the atmosphere is perfect.

  6. This looks utterly delicious and I wish I could try some. But I do have to put in a plug for North Carolina barbecue -- I ate it many a time while doing my undergraduate work at UNC and still drool a little thinking about its vinegary taste...

  7. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for adding your two-cents. We're going to NC in the spring and I'll be sure to try some. It you say it's good, it is.

    Vinegar vs tomato is a heated sauce controversy in Texas and there are converts on both sides. The Salt Lick's sauce comes down the middle, more vinegar and mustard than most, and it's good. They also make a Habanero sauce, spicy but not Texas hot, that was so good we brought some home.

  8. If and when , I'll let you know, Kathleen. That would be incredible.

  9. The Salt Lick brisket is really that good. I've smoked brisket many times and I must say tasting theirs was a humbling experience. And tasty, too.


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