The Salt Lick BBQ: Feasting Beyond Family Style in Driftwood

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During the nearly biennial trip to Austin with my father and brother, we inevitably sweep the surrounding Hill Country, filling cracks in our barbecue education one pit at a time. We rarely revisit venues, with one exception, The Salt Lick BBQ, a restaurant about 30 minutes southwest of downtown Austin that’s become about as well known for its setting as for its Family Style ‘cue.

The Salt Lick was always popular, and since our last visit in 2008, they’ve added even more elements, including a massive parking lot that feeds a take out window (no doubt to alleviate the high volume) and a wine tasting room that offers five pours for $5. In some ways, The Salt Lick has become like a well-oiled BBQ theme park, but as long as the food stays good, so what?

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Even though we already spent three days indulging in barbecue and farm-to-table cuisine, The Salt Lick has always been our last stand, so we filled up a large swath of our communal table.

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Order Family Style ($19.95) and receive a bottomless platter of snappy pork sausage, lacquered pork ribs and sliced brisket. They provide burnt ends if people ask. By all means, ask! Every plate comes with earthy pinto beans, vinegary cole slaw with spicy celery and sesame seeds, and German potato salad folded with onions. For first timers, or even 10 timers, this is the way to go.

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After Bobby Flay ate at The Salt Lick, he hyped their Beef Ribs Plate ($16.95, regular) as the best thing he ever ate. They ribs arrived in a size would suit a mastodon, with good caramelization and short rib-like shreds that resulted from more than five hours in the smoker. The beef ribs were good, though they were by no means the best thing we ever ate. They weren’t even the best thing we ever ate at The Salt Lick. That honor would go to the burnt ends.

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Even though my T-shirt said “Pork trifecta,” it was still easy to like the lacquered beef ribs.

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Pitmen smoked chicken ($15.95) for two-and-a-half hours over live oak, but that still didn’t deliver crispy skin. They slathered on spicy habanero sauce, which lent the chicken lasting heat, but that still couldn’t overcome the skin’s limp texture.

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They’ve also increased their sides ($3.95 each) to include creamy green bean casserole folded with cream cheese and crispy fried onions on top; and gooey, Cheddar-heavy potatoes au gratin. Both sides were very heavy, but neither was worth the heft.

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At this end of the meal, we recapped our experience. We all agreed that when eating The Salt Lick, sticking with the core trinity of brisket, ribs and sausage works best. In general, we’ve eaten better barbecue around Texas Hill Country, but The Salt Lick will remain our family touchstone.

Note: Cash Only

The Salt Lick BBQ: Feasting Beyond Family Style in Driftwood

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Sunday lunch is the best…a 30+ oz cut of smoked prime rib or racks of Baby-back ribs are the best dish they serve. You can’t go wrong.

I’ve never tried Salt Lick’s smoked Prime rib. Sounds amazing!

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