We arrived in “the deer capital of Texas” to find a row of motorcycles parked outside Cooper’s and a line of customers near their impressive mesquite smokers. Seven or eight years ago, we ate at the revered barbecue restaurant and had an earth-shattering dining experience. Once again, we chose to tussle with memories of great meals past, always a dangerous pastime.
One of the massive smokers featured trays of spice rubbed pork tenderloin, lamb ribs, brisket, pork chops, sausage, chicken and ribs. We gave the pitman our order and he asked if we wanted “sauce.” We did, and he speared our desired chunks of meat and dipped them in a bucket of sauce before tossing them on a plastic tray.
Walls held the requisite amount of deer heads, plus a lynx poised to pounce on customers dining at the picnic tables below. The walls also featured photos of famed Texans who have dined at the restaurant, including W., UT football coach Mack Brown, and Governor Rick Perry, who evidently went to school with owner Terry Wootan at Texas A&M.
The chicken was tremendous, smoky and luscious. If the bird had crisper skin, it could have achieved poultry perfection. The big chop was similarly outstanding, peppery and moist. The sausage link featured nice snap, but could have been grainier.
Cooper’s barbecue wasn’t as staggering as I remembered, but the food was still very good. Of course it was a little tough to gauge after eating three other barbecue meals, but I’d still rate it in Hill Country’s Top 7 or 8.