4 Fantastic Food Road Trips
The Barbecue Trail in... Texas
In Texas, "barbecue" is a noun, not a verb. For those of you who love driving fast under the big open sky, Texas’s great highways are the epitome of hitting the wide-open road. While great barbecue can be found all over the state, it’s best to concentrate on a few choice places located near Texas Hill Country, where you can enjoy rolling hills and colorful wildflowers. Be warned: This highly carnivorous trip is not for the faint of heart.
Mileage: Approximately 240; Days: 2-3
Begin the tour by easing into barbecue culture in a beautiful setting. The County Line on the Lake in Austin has one of the most pleasant decks in the world on which to sip a cocktail, have some jalapeño poppers, and watch the turtles swim by. As an added bonus, it’s off one of the prettiest driving roads in Austin, RM-2222. Since there’s always a wait, you may as well enjoy your time and prepare your stomach for a meaty onslaught. Meat is king, and sides, while delicious, are usually an afterthought. Many barbecue joints don’t even offer sides, but here your meal will be served with potato salad, beans, coleslaw, and freshly baked bread.
The next day, get up early and head out quick if you want to make the first stop on this tour. Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington, has repeatedly been named the best in Texas. To try her brisket and famous pork shoulder yourself, though, you’ll have to be at the pit by 9 a.m., on Saturdays only. Brisket for breakfast? Absolutely. Once you’ve nibbled on the edge of a rib, just for a taste, you won’t be able to stop, no matter what time of the day it is. Thankfully, Snow’s is only an hour and a half east of Austin. Why the early hour? Snow’s closes when the meat’s gone, and it’s always gone by noon at the latest.
Fight the urge to take a nap, and head down to Lockhart, Texas, via TX 21 West, the home of one of barbecue’s most bitter feuds. In the late '90s, the Kreuz family dominated barbecue, but there was a problem. One sibling owned the restaurant, but the others had the recipe. When they came to blows, the brothers with the recipe moved down the street and opened their own place. The old restaurant remains open under the new name of Smitty’s. Which is better? You decide.
At Snow’s, Smitty’s, and Kreuz, the barbecue is served on butcher paper without utensils, so you might want to pack a few essentials in your car: paper towels or wet wipes, utensils if you must, an ice chest, and containers for leftovers. After this meaty odyssey, head back to downtown Austin for dinner, where you can cleanse your palate at one of Austin’s many vegetarian options.
The next day, work some of that fatty brisket out of your system with a visit to Hamilton Pool nature preserve west of Austin. A winding path leads through the woods down to a huge grotto with crystal clear water where you can swim and picnic. You can either bring your barbecue pickin’s from the day before or pick up some provisions at Austin-based Whole Foods market. From Hamilton Pool, drive south to Driftwood, Texas, for one last barbecue meal out in hill country at the cash-only BYOB Salt Lick Restaurant (pictured above) whose rustic surroundings and ranch style décor are the perfect ending to your beef-themed trip. Explore the winding farm to market roads around the area, and pick up a six pack of Shiner, the local beer, to cap off your Texas odyssey. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/I'll Never Grow Up)