This month I visited family and friends in Texas! What a great trip I had! My visit consisted of lots of quality time with family and friends, a college football game, a Hill Country road trip, Texas wine tasting, The Alamo, lots of shopping, and fabulous BBQ! Along our road trip, I had asked my friend to take me to the famous Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood – located in the Texas Hill Country. The reputation precedes this BBQ joint – I have listened to many Texans, as well as Californians, speak of the delicious BBQ that they cook up. It is a destination location – not much surrounds the establishment – mostly rolling hills and live oak trees. Yet on a busy Saturday night, the Salt Lick feeds over 2000 hungry people. Now that is what I call, “turning some tables!”
The Salt Lick BBQ is located in the Hill Country of Texas – a beautiful verdant landscape of gently rolling hills, numerous live oak and pecan trees, meandering rivers, and lakes. The Hill Country consists of 19 counties. It is hard to believe that the Salt Lick is only 15 minutes from bustling Austin.
The Salt Lick BBQ is located on a quiet country road called Farm to Market Road – don’t blink or you will miss it. It is surrounded by many live oak trees and a vineyard – you really can’t see it from the road. This sign is truly the marker to locate!
I visited the Salt Lick BBQ on a Tuesday at 5pm. As you can see there were no customers sitting in the outside patio. The early-bird customers such as myself were inside the original building of this restaurant, which was established in 1967. The Salt Lick can accommodate up to 800 people at one time. But as I mentioned, on a busy Saturday night, this place is rocking and serves over 2000 hungry people. What is also unique about this restaurant is that it is cash only and B.Y.O.B! Cash and Yeti are King here! I love it!
Scott Roberts is the owner of the Salt Lick BBQ today. But it was his father Thurman Roberts who started the Salt Lick in 1967. Thurman learned his gift of BBQ from his grandmother Bettie Howard, who emigrated to Driftwood, Texas from Mississippi in a covered wagon with her husband James in 1867. It was she who perfected the BBQ style that the Salt Lick practices today. When Bettie and James were crossing the Texas prairie, she cooked her meals over open campfires. She would build a pit fire where she would sear the meat and then slow cook it over the wood coals for a long time. Her style of BBQ was past down through the generations to Thurman, who mastered her technique. And 100 years after Bettie and James came to Driftwood, Thurman started cooking BBQ for the community – and the humble beginnings of the Salt Lick were born.
This pit in the photo is the original limestone pit that Thurman built for the Salt Lick. Originally the pit was outside but eventually Thurman built a screened in room and porch around the pit to create a restaurant atmosphere.
On Salt Lick’s website, they speak of their BBQ method, “We sear the meat and then move it away from the hottest part of the fire to cook slowly. We finish our products over an open fire fed by live oak wood. Live oak is the most solid and heavy oak wood. It burns cleaner, more uniform, and the smoke particulates are finer. It gives a more distinct and lighter flavor and doesn’t become gritty on the meat. When the fire flares, we throw into the flames pecan hulls soaked in water. We put sauce on the meat four times during the smoking process. The sauce drips and hits the coals and the fire flares. The smoke from these flares gives the meat a unique flavor. Basting and caramelizing work to hold moisture in. Our barbecue sauce has no tomatoes so it won’t burn or become bitter. It does have sugar and acid, so it will easily caramelize.”
The Salt Lick’s menu includes all the traditional meats: beef brisket, pork ribs, turkey, sausage, and half chickens. They prepare a number of sandwiches from these meats as well. Sides are traditional Texan: baked beans, cold slaw, potato salad, and homemade bread. And lets not forget the sliced onions and homemade dill pickles! For dessert, of course there is pecan pie! Pecan trees grow throughout the Hill Country. But the Salt Lick kicks it up a notch by also offering a chocolate pecan pie version. And what is a southern BBQ joint without peach or blackberry cobbler! This place is not for anyone counting calories! My friend decided I had try a bit of all the BBQ. As promised, the meat was fall off the bone tender and juicy. The brisket was perfectly cooked and had the coveted smoke ring around each beautiful slice. The bbq sauce was unusual – especially for a California girl like me. Their sauce is made in the traditional southeastern style. I had never tasted BBQ sauce that was not tomato based. It was light, sweet, and tangy. Very good. And the rub on the meat was not overwhelming nor gritty. The sides were freshly made and very good. I really enjoyed the baked beans. I was too full to partake in the pecan pie – too bad. Next time.
The Salt Lick BBQ has been expanding their operation from their humble beginnings for some time now. The Salt Lick sells their BBQ meats, sauce, and rub online and ships all over the country. In 2009 the restaurant opened up their own wine tasting room on the premises, which serves Salt Lick Cellars wines as well as other Texan wines and beers. Salt Lick Cellars specializes in varietals such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Syrah, and some white grapes, which they blend.
Bocce Ball court out in one of the patios, which overlooks their vineyard.
Salt Lick Cellars tasting room
Salt Lick Cellars tasting room.
When in central Texas, and you have a hankering for delicious authentic Texan BBQ, stop by the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. They won’t disappoint! I surely wasn’t!
THE SALT LICK BBQ
18300 Farm to Market Road
Driftwood, Texas 78619