Outdoor barbecue

Customers head into Black's BBQ in Lockhart. The town is known as the Barbecue Capitol of Texas.

Who has the best barbecue in the country?

Tennessee?

Florida?

Missouri?

Georgia?

The Carolinas?

According to some barbecue aficionados, the best barbecue in the country is right here in Texas — and some of the best places to get a plate of that sweet, smoky, tangy, mouth-watering goodness are right here in central Texas.

Weekend barbecue road trip, anyone?

A good place to start this finger-lickin’ excursion is just down south in Austin, at Franklin Barbecue, one of the most popular spots in the state, where people have been known to line up for hours to try some of Aaron Franklin’s legendary smoked brisket. Pulled pork, pork ribs, chopped beef and sausage are also on the menu, along with take-home bottles of sweet and peppery Texas BBQ Sauce, Espresso BBQ Sauce and vinegary Carolina-style Pork BBQ Sauce.

Right now, the dining room at 900 E. 11th St., is closed but on-line ordering and curbside pickup service is available. Go to franklinbbq.com for more information.

About 30 minutes southwest of Austin is The Salt Lick, a cash-only barbecue joint established in 1967. With recipes dating back to the 1800s, the meat here is smoked over a live oak fire, with briskets cooked for 20-24 hours. First item on the menu is all-you-can-eat beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, cole slaw and beans (bread, pickles, onions on request) for $28.95 per person. They also serve regular plates, small plates, sandwiches, meat by the pound, a variety of sides, desserts like blackberry or peach cobbler, pecan pie and chocolate pecan pie.

Indoor dining rooms are closed due to COVID-19, but guests are welcome to use the outdoor dining areas, where tables have been spaced 10 feet apart and a variety of safety measures implemented, including hand-washing stations, employees wearing masks and gloves and frequent sanitizing.

The Salt Lick is located at 18300 FM 1826 in Driftwood. See saltlickbbq.com for more information.

Meanwhile, four of the state’s most acclaimed barbecue restaurants can be found a half-hour southeast of Austin along State Highway 183 in the small town of Lockhart, known as the Barbecue Capital of Texas.

Along with the original Black’s Barbecue, one of the oldest family-owned ‘cue restaurants in the Lone Star state, Chisholm Trail Barbecue features a cafeteria-style serving line that has earned it a spot on Texas Monthly magazine’s list of best barbecue restaurants. Smitty’s Market has also made that coveted list, and Kreuz Market is the first place visitors will likely see entering town along 183.

Down in Llano, an hour-and-a-half southwest of Fort Hood near Lake Buchanan, is the famed Cooper’s Old-Time Pit Barbecue, another spot where hungry folks drive from miles around and sometimes stand in long lines for their turn to choose servings of beef ribs, brisket, cabrito, chicken, rib eye, two-inch thick pork chops, pork loin, prime rib, sausage, sirloin and turkey right off the barbecue pit.

The dining room at Cooper’s, established in Llano in 1962, is now open, and on-line ordering and shipping is also available. Go to coopersbbqllano.com for details.

About an hour south of Austin, another highly-rated spot that boasts “world-famous” barbecue is the Original City Market BBQ, 633 E. Davis St., in the heart of downtown Luling.

Finally, and last but certainly not least, there is Louie Mueller Barbecue in downtown Taylor, about an hour’s drive south of Killeen-Fort Hood. This self-described “cathedral of smoke” dates back to 1949, and has been in the Mueller family ever since.

Such items as sliced and chopped smoked brisket, sausage and jalapeño sausage, smoked turkey breast, beef ribs and pork tenderloin are on the menu, and on-line ordering and shipping is available www.louiemuellerbarbecue.com.

So, skip breakfast or at least save plenty of room, saddle up and head on out soon for a lip-smackin’ taste of Texas.

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