Austin, Texas – The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que (Driftwood)

 

 

Restaurant: The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que
Cuisine: Barbeque/American
Last visited: July 23, 2010
Location: Austin, Texas (Driftwood/Southwest Austin)
Address: 18001 Fm-1826 Driftwood, Texas
Price Range: $10-20USD

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4.5
Service: 5 (I’m biased, I got to visit the kitchen)
Ambiance: 6
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • 40+ years
  • “The best BBQ” in Austin, Texas
  • Most famous BBQ in Austin, Texas
  • Voted “Top 50 Best Texas Joints”
  • Long lines/Busy/Hour long waits
  • Award winning BBQ
  • Featured on Food Network
  • Middle of nowhere
  • Must go to original Driftwood location
  • BBQ sauce to go
  • Live country music
  • BYOB
  • Huge indoor BBQ pit
  • Popular to locals/tourists
  • Touristy experience
  • Family style (basque/long table) dining
  • Catering available
  • Cheaper for lunch than dinner
  • CASH ONLY

**Recommendations: BBQ Beef ribs and ordering “Family Style” (all you can eat) – highlights are beef brisket, potato salad, cole slaw, peach cobbler a la mode

Salt Lick Bar-B-Que (BBQ) is Austin, Texas’s most famous and beloved barbeque restaurants. Since 1999 the Austin Chronicle has named Salt Lick Bar-B-Que “Best Barbeque” and “Best Restaurant within 60 miles” year after year. It’s even been featured on the Today Show and on Food Network’s Every Day with Rachael Ray. It’s no doubt a local favourite and a must try if you’re traveling to Austin. Salt Lick Bar-B-Que is a family owned restaurant, with family recipes that have led them to numerous award winning barbeque titles.

Salt Lick BBQ has 2 locations, one in Austin and the original location in Driftwood. Ask any local and 99% of them will tell you that the Driftwood location is way better and worth the drive. Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood is located in the middle of nowhere. It’s a whole lot of hill country and then suddenly out of nowhere pops out Salt Lick BBQ – a huge restaurant with an outdoor waiting room and acres of gravel as a parking lot. People make the 45 minute drive (which can be easily over an hour drive with traffic) from Austin to Driftwood just for this famous barbeque. Then upon arrival there’s pretty much a guaranteed hour long wait before actually being seated. Despite it’s location, Salt Lick BBQ is no local secret or hidden find, it’s an obvious choice for the “Austin, Texas BBQ experience”. It’s a place that everyone knows about and that everyone flocks too, and it’s a great place for tourists. It’s the most popular barbeque place in Austin for over 40 years and counting.

Luckily there’s live country music to entertain the starving customers eagerly waiting for their number to be called.

This is where it all started. There’s a lot of family history behind The Salt Lick BBQ but this is basically the famous barbeque pit built in 1967 by the 2 sons of the owners.

I talked to the kitchen manager and they go through about 125 slabs of pork ribs and 75 beef briskets a day.

This is me behind the “kitchen” – there are buckets of fat lying around and I asked them about it. It’s pretty cool because they use all the meat fat for composting in the family vineyard they have next door. I didn’t even know meat fat made for good compost. Being from beautiful Vancouver, BC I was happy to hear their eco-friendly initiatives.

I thought the food was very good, but overall the experience was more impressive for me and it made the food taste even better. If I had ended my quest for Texas’s best BBQ at Salt Lick BBQ then I would have been quite satisfied… however I didn’t. Thus Salt Lick BBQ became #2 after I tried Smitty’s Market (look for that post soon). I really am comparing the best with the better and they’re all in the same league of “award winning BBQ” – so I would still recommend Salt Lick BBQ to anyone, but I did try even better BBQ in Texas.

The boys hard at work slicing all the meats. Everything is sliced upon order and they never stop slicing because there’s ALWAYS an order.

The thing that does bother me is that the briskets are ordered all over the place – some local, some from Nebraska etc. On top of that they sometimes order Angus and other times it’s Black Angus, it just makes me question the standards and consistency of the food. Red and Black Angus pretty much taste the same (it’s just the colour), but how the cattle is raised and what it’s fed from each supplier would affect the qulaity of the meat… so I’m just throwing this detail out there…

This is only half the restaurant and it’s constantly packed. Part of what makes the food so good is probably the hype and anticipation after waiting hours for a table. It is good though!

I obviously indulged with the “Family Style” (all you can eat) and a plate of beef ribs… YES I DID! I attacked those beef ribs.

That’s just a portion of our orders…

On the table:


**Family Style

  • ALL YOU CAN EAT! Beef brisket, pork ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, beans $18.95 per person
  • You’ll be full after just one order… for sure after 2 orders. The plate above was 2 orders and they just keep refilling the same plate with more and more meat.
  • Helpful hint: You can take your last (refill) order to go

**Beef Brisket – 5/6

  • They do an awesome job on the charring on all their beef brisket. You can even ask for only the outside charred edges of the beef brisket. It’s all the fatty flavourful crispy caramelized bits and it’s absolutely delicious! It’s almost like crackling you get from roasted pig – super crispy and almost dry like jerky but very flavourful from all the sauce and fat that crisps up.
  • I found the brisket a bit inconsistent, some were drier than others, but overall it was the best meat on the meat platter. Make sure you request “fatty brisket” or they give you a lot of lean pieces that nobody wants.
  • The pieces that were more fatty were very juicy and falling apart as you picked them up. It’s smoked beef brisket so there is wonderful flavour throughout.
  • The glaze was actually more mild than expected. It’s a sweeter mustard based BBQ sauce they base it with and it has a peppery kick that’s not necessarily spicy.
  • If you really know your beef brisket then you’ve probably had better, but it you only have it once in a while then you know there’s probably better. For me it as solid, until I really started exploring beef brisket in Texas. Surprisingly, popular Texas chain restaurant, Rudy’s BBQ, has even juicer brisket (if you order the super moist cut).

Pork Ribs – 4/6

  • I’m a fan of baby back ribs so regular pork ribs just never really do it for me. I know it’s completely different, but these ribs just aren’t falling off the bone.
  • These are pretty fatty and greasy pork ribs. They had a good amount of meat on them and they were very good, but not the juiciest I’ve had. They were smoked nice and pink with a nice caramelized crispy edge. They aren’t the ooey gooey saucey sticky ribs, but it’s a very smoked to the bone rib were the juice comes from the fat and oil.
  • For some reason I could taste the freshly cracked black pepper a lot more on the ribs than on the beef brisket, but maybe I just had a batch that got very crusted.
  • I also found the ribs sweeter, but maybe because they had more surface area for the sauce.

The BBQ Pork Ribs Plate ($11.95) has better looking/saucier pork ribs. It made me want to order some of the meats separately next time.

Sausage3/6

  • I found the sausage quite regular actually. It had a great snappy skin, but it didn’t have that homemade sausage taste. It’s all cooked on the same pit so they were very oily and greasy on the outside, and decently juicy on the inside. It tastes like a good brand of mass produced sausage links. Still good and tasty, but not the best in Texas – that goes to Smitty’s BBQ hands down!
  • That big black piece you see in the centre is the best part of the beef brisket – also the most unhealthy, but who cares.

The Salt Lick BBQ Sauce – 2/6

  • This really depends on your taste buds because people either hate it or love it. This is not your traditional BBQ sauce at all.
  • It’s a mustard based BBQ sauce and to me it tastes more like mustard than BBQ sauce. It was very strong with ground mustard flavour and it has quite a tang from the vinegar. It’s also a bit sweet, but not honey like because they use sugar cane to sweeten it. It’s also a yellow colour and that’s enhanced with Turmeric powder.
  • I like the traditional “adult” BBQ sauce – the thick, bold, rich and dark BBQ sauce that’s sweet, tangy and has a kick from Worcestershire sauce and maybe even a little hot sauce.

**Potato Salad – 5.5/6

  • This was awesome! The is not your traditional potato salad either.
  • This is a warm potato salad that tastes like warm mashed potatoes flavoured with their BBQ sauce – that’s pretty much exactly what it is.
  • They’re creamy and moist from the BBQ sauce which means they also have a tangy sweet mustard flavour. That’s why they’re yellow as well.
  • It’s a very chunky mash, but they’re very soft and tender and a great surprise. Loved them!

**Cole Slaw – 4.5/6

  • Again! Not the traditional cole slaw. If you like traditional cole slaw then this won’t be for you, but I liked this version.
  • This cole slaw has no mayo so it’s very light. It’s refreshing and crunchy and almost like a cabbage salad. There’s not much else going on in here, and it looks boring, but it’s not.
  • The cole slaw dressing is actually a sesame seed vinaigrette. I think they should enhance the flavor with sesame seed oil though, rather than just using toasted sesame seeds. The cost may go up, but so would the flavour.

**BBQ Beef Ribs6/6

  • Regular $14.95 Large $19.95 (I ordered the regular)
  • This was the winner for me. It’s NOT offered on the family style menu so they’re often overlooked, but it’s totally worth it to order it separately. I devoured these beef ribs and they had more flavour than all the other meats.
  • BBQ beef ribs are not offered at many BBQ places (even in Texas) so if it’s on the menu – order it!
  • These were the real treat for me. They’re 3 huge BBQ beef ribs and they were super saucy with what seemed like a thicker and richer BBQ sauce.
  • The meat was almost completely coated with a caramelized charred crust, but it’s not burnt in flavour. It was just smoky and the meat was quite juicy and more fall off the bone than the pork ribs for sure. It still wasn’t falling off the bone, but the quality of meat was better than the pork ribs. It made the pork ribs seem like they were for sissies or kids.
  • For beef ribs not usually having much meat on them, these one’s actually had quite a bit of meat.

Baked Beans – 1/6

  • This is also an unlimited side to the family style menu.
  • This was the most disappointing side since the other two were so great. The beans taste very smokey and very plain. There’s also some onions and celery in the mix and it was just not very good. The best baked beans I’ve had are actually from Nordy’s BBQ & Grill in Colorado.

Turkey Plate

  • $9.95
  • I know. What!? Who orders turkey at a BBQ restaurant? BUT wait… it’s actually pretty damn good turkey!
  • The turkey was more like turkey ham than turkey though. It’s extremely moist though and very juicy and tender. It really could have been ham to me, but less salty.

Bread – 3/6

  • There must be some Asian influence because this was very unexpected bread. Just like the cole slaw, there’s sesame seeds on top of the bread too.
  • Personally at a BBQ place like this, I always prefer cornbread. However this was almost like an Asian butter bread with a very soft and quite fluffy texture. It’s also a sweet bread  that’s probably made with some sugar and white flour. You’ll barely touch this even though people really like it.

Pickles and onions upon request. Every great Texas BBQ has to offer them!

Desserts

Homemade desserts in a separate portion of the kitchen. I’m not sure if they were really THAT good, or if the desserts here are just so perfect to end a hearty BBQ dinner with. Regardless I wouldn’t skip out on dessert… I never do anyways though. The portions are big and very shareable.

**Peach Cobber4.5/6

  • $4.95 A la mode $5.95 (Always get it with ice cream)
  • I really like the peach cobbler here. It’s old fashioned, simple, very sweet, very moist and super saucy.
  • There were large wedges of tender peaches, but I couldn’t really taste them for some reason. It could have used a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg too.
  • The pastry part was very cake like almost like a soaked shortcake. I did miss a crunchy baked biscuit topping as well, but this one was still very good.
  • It’s served nice and warm and it’s almost like a dessert stew.

Blackberry Cobbler4/6

  • $4.95 A la mode $5.95 (Always get it with ice cream)
  • The blackberry cobbler is a summer special. It’s more tart than the peach cobbler, but it’s still very sweet. There’s lots of berries in it and it’s extremely saucy with a lot of berry juices.

Homemade Pecan Pie3.5/6

  • $4.95 A la mode $5.95 (Always get it with ice cream)
  • This was the most sweet out of all of them.
  • The crust was a shortbread crust and it was a bit bland and very generic. It was very white so it almost looked unbaked.
  • The filling is super rich and sweet and made from corn syrup, eggs, and butter. This one is super moist, sticky and stick to your throat sweet.
  • Thank god there’s ice cream or it would be way too much.

If you’re too full, or if you like them a lot, they sell whole pecan pies to go.

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