The Salt Lick is nestled in the Texas Hill Country and reputably makes some of the best barbecue in Texas. The restaurant has won many awards and has been shown on several television shows including “Man vs. Food” and “The Best Thing I ever Ate.” So, when our family was in the Austin area, we decided to make the extra half an hour drive to the small town of Driftwood, Texas to eat at The Salt Lick.
The food served at The Salt Lick has been cooked in the same way for generations. The meat is still seared and then slow cooked over coals with the only changes being to the recipes which now include local flavors and spices. The restaurant grew up around the barbecue bit that Thurman Roberts, father of the current owner, built in 1967. The idea was number 14 on a list of 54 things that Thurman and his wife considered to try to stay in Driftwood, unlike his father who had to travel constantly working in construction. From this modest idea The Salt Lick now serves around 2000 people on most Saturdays.
Driving up you can’t miss the huge parking lot filled with cars. I had heard that they are able to seat over 800 people, but that still didn’t prepare me for the size of the parking lot. There is even a guy who drives a small shuttle to take people from the parking lot to the main restaurant entrance. What I didn’t know until we arrived was that they have their own vineyard surrounding the restaurant and the Salt Lick Cellars where you can taste and buy local fine wines.
The restaurant's weathered wood and stone walls may look a bit old and worn on the outside, but the inside is beautiful and full of rustic charm. There is a large open barbecue pit cooking meat and filling the restaurant with a smell of the feast to come. The restaurant is a beehive of activity with waitresses crisscrossing hurriedly with large trays of meat to all the tables.
What to Expect
Guests are seated at long wooden picnic tables next to other families so don’t be afraid to chat with the people around you. Some have traveled a long distance just to eat there. You can bring your own alcoholic beverages and they will put them in a metal tub full of ice at your table to keep them chilled if needed. They only accept cash so come prepared. Most people order the family style platter which is all the beef, brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, and beans that you can eat. There are no fancy plates, just really good food and plenty of it.
My husband ordered the family style while I elected to have a chopped beef brisket sandwich. My sandwich was probably a good 4 inches high with 3 of those inches devoted to meat that was extremely well cooked with a wonderful flavor that is only enhanced by the barbecue sauce. An interesting note about the sauce is that it doesn’t use tomatoes which can sometimes burn and make a sauce turn bitter. They also serve bread, pickles, and onions on request. I loved the pickles which tasted as if they were homemade so don’t miss out trying them. On the family style platter you can choose fatty or lean brisket with the difference being a finger sized strip of fat on the one brisket. Either way, they cook the brisket to perfection. The sausage was my son’s favorite, and my daughter couldn’t get enough of the turkey so we all found something to enjoy.
The wait staff is very attentive and will keep bringing you more food until you realize that if you don’t stop soon, you won’t have enough room to try their peach cobbler. The reputation is that the peach cobbler is divine, but when I found out that they served blackberry cobbler as well, it was hard to choose. However, the waitress made it easy and told us we could have half of each. The cobbler comes in a bowl still warm and with a big scoop of cold ice cream on top melting creamily over the bread topping. Interestingly, we all picked the peach as our favorite after sampling both of them.
Our family had a wonderful visit to The Salt Lick. I’m not sure that we will turn into one of those families that return each year, but I can definitely say that I’m glad we took the opportunity to go and sample some really good barbecue.