Hands down, Texas has the best barbecue in America, but the Texas Hill Country has the best barbecue in Texas.
If Texans know one thing, it’s barbecue. We travel across the state to sample tried-and-true classics along with newcomers making names for themselves. We eat it at weddings, funerals, graduations, and any sort of gathering, really. It’s a big part of what makes Texas so special, and the Hill Country in Central Texas is a great place to road trip and find good ‘cue. Here are six of the best barbecue spots in the Texas Hill Country.
Located in Llano, Texas, this place has been on the map for more than half a century and serves up old-school barbecue. Cooper’s is known for the “Big Chop,” which is a giant juicy pork chop, but fans also enjoy the pork ribs, beef ribs, and cabrito (goat). The hardest part will be choosing your meat from the main pit when you arrive. Sides to choose from include beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and more. Dessert is cobbler: apple, blackberry, peach, or pecan. Cooper’s also has another Hill Country location in New Braunfels, so plan accordingly.
Another old-school barbecue joint doing things right is Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. Bring a group and order family-style, which includes all-you-can-eat brisket, sausage, pork ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, and beans. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t come with a crowd, they also serve plates and sandwiches. Be sure to take a look at the impressive barbecue pit where your meal comes from, and bring cash, as that’s all they take. Bonus points for having another location in Round Rock, just north of Austin.
A relative newcomer on the barbecue block (open since December 2016), 2M is gaining quite a following. The San Antonio establishment serves up mouth-watering brisket, turkey, and pulled pork that you can have by the pound or on a sandwich, but what’s best is ordering them in taco form, with homemade flour tortillas. Top it with pico de gallo, or try their pickled nopales (cactuses), pickled serranos, or pickled bell peppers. The Serrano pepper/Oaxaca cheese sausage is also a popular menu item, and homemade tres leches cake makes for a sweet ending. Don’t forget your booze, as they’re BYOB.
Topping the meat charts is Austin’s Franklin Barbecue. Open for almost a decade now, Franklin Barbecue has risen through the ranks quickly. Owner Aaron Franklin earned a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2015, the first pitmaster to ever win the coveted award. Carnivores line up religiously to try and get a taste of his famous brisket, while other favorites are the turkey and the “Tipsy Texan” sandwich – chopped brisket and sliced sausage in between a bun. Desserts like bourbon banana pie are lauded over, and beverages like Big Red (a Texas staple), local craft beers, mimosas, and wine tie together this memorable meal. Pro tip: Get in line early – like 8 a.m. early – for a better chance at lunch. They open at 11 a.m. and close when they sell out, which is usually around 1 p.m.
Right off I-35 in San Marcos, you’ll find Hays Co. Bar-B-Que. The solid menu means you can’t really go wrong anywhere, but favorites include the brisket, jalapeno-cheddar sausage, creamed corn, and surprisingly, their beans, which are self-serve. If the space looks too crowded, head out back where they have extra seating.
For almost 20 years, Opie’s has been pleasing customers with dynomite barbecue and top-notch desserts. The Spicewood establishment is known for its sweet-and-spicy baby back ribs, brisket, snappy sausages, and giant pork chops. Noteworthy sides include tater tot casserole, beans, and spicy corn. Dessert includes apple caramel crisp cobbler, banana pudding, brownies, and more.