A bucket list item realized!
Visiting family and friends is always a rare treat; and it’s sweetened when you get to check an item off your bucket list during the same trip! This was the case on a recent trip to visit family in San Antonio, TX.
A few years ago, a coworker had to travel to San Marcos, TX for a seminar, and he had the good fortune to be able to eat at Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, TX. He came back to the office raving about the experience, citing the picturesque location and quality BBQ. He told me to look it up online, and one of the first things I saw from the search results was an image of Salt Like BBQ’s indoor pit.
Salt Lick BBQ’s pit is a glorious site to behold! A glimpse of the image conjures the scent of time and smoke, and the crackle of an oak fueled fire under greasy, rich BBQ. As soon as I saw a photo of this iconic pit, I knew I had to try their ‘Que!
Some time went by and I found myself planning to be in San Antonio for a wedding. The thoughts of Texas BBQ soon became a part of my plans, and I faced an important choice; where do I drag my wife for some Texas style brisket?
You see, since having learned about Salt Lick BBQ, I had become obsessed with another notable BBQ establishment in Texas; Franklin BBQ. And I had to make a choice while planning that wedding trip; was I going to drag my wife to Salt Lick BBQ or Franklin BBQ? I chose Franklin BBQ after agonizing deliberation. I was told Salt Lick BBQ was a tourist trap eatery by many that serves “reheated BBQ,” and this in part helped me decide. It was a choice I don’t regret, but Franklin BBQ is a story for another time. Salt Lick BBQ went on the back-burner.
Fast forward to this past week; I was asked to fly out to San Antonio to help my mother bring a car home, and an opportunity to get more Texas BBQ was presented to me. Well hell yeah! My mother asked if I’d like to head back to Franklin BBQ, a place I’ve thought about every day since I’ve tried it, and I suggested, “Let’s try that other place I’ve been wanting to try. Maybe they have a shorter wait!”
The day of our lunch started nicely with me sleeping in. On my previous trip out to San Antonio, the excursion out to Franklin BBQ necessitated an early morning; up at 5:00 AM and out the door no later than 6:00 AM. What’s the point of going if you’re going to wait in line and not get a chance to get some good brisket before it runs out? Aaron Franklin’s BBQ is known to draw big crowds of people, early. I had a feeling this wouldn’t be the case a Salt Lick BBQ. Thank goodness!
Our run to Driftwood was briefly interrupted by a spectacle in New Braunfels, TX called Buc-ee’s. A gas station that seemed the size of a Walmart with a couple of hundred gas pumps drew us like moths to the flame. But I resisted the urge to load up on junk food, and after buying a couple of tacky souvenirs, we resumed our trip towards Texas brisket. Yes, the gas station is such a spectacle destination that it sells souvenirs!
Eventually, we arrived in Driftwood, and amongst the tangled vines of a vineyard, we found Salt Lick BBQ. The surroundings were beautiful and in contrast to what I would characterize as the boring flat landscape I’m used to seeing in Texas! (Sorry my Texan friends! Different strokes for different folks!) Our arrival was blessed with good timing, as we pulled in as the restaurant was opening at 11:00 AM. After finding the front door, we were seated immediately; being escorted to our table after walking by that iconic BBQ pit.
Seated there, at a long and roughly aged table meant for large groups and families, I was struck by how comfortable and cozy Salt Lick BBQ is. The building is a collection of stacked stone and old beams, with a peaceful view of the surrounding vineyard. It’s dark in the dining area; a cozy darkness that makes you want to stay awhile and relax. Salt Lick BBQ’s atmosphere is wonderfully genuine and authentic!
The staff was also great, especially our server. Our server seemed to pick up pretty quickly that this lunch was an important event to me. She took the time to answer my questions and provided quick and efficient service with a genuine smile.
Ordering for me was easy as I was focused on what I see as two staples of the Texas BBQ scene; Texas smoked brisket and sausage. I ordered a brisket and sausage plate, and of course a sweet tea. I was surprised to learn a plate came with three sides; coleslaw, potato salad, and beans. I was also given a choice of two BBQ sauces (regular and hot) and a pickled jalapeno to accompany my lunch.
I was thrilled with the meal! I can’t help but to compare the brisket to Aaron Franklin’s brisket, and I hate to say it doesn’t compare. Franklin BBQ turns out a very rich brisket, in my opinion, and I haven’t had anything like it since. But Salt Lick BBQ’s brisket is damn good. The brisket was moist and flavorful with a nice pull to it. It was very moist! The smokiness was perfect; not too overpowering or bitter. The sausage was good. It wasn’t knock your socks off awesome, but it was good. The sides were a balanced accompaniment to the flavor of the smoked meat. I thought the sauces were also well done, and was surprised by them seeming to be mustard based like some Carolina style BBQ sauces. I couldn’t bring myself to put it on my brisket, but I did use it on my coleslaw, and learned it’s an ingredient in the potato salad. And the little star of the meal was the pickled jalapeno. It provided a great flavor that went well with the meats. I rather enjoyed it and will have to try to replicate it for myself!
After we had paid, I had to do the usual tourist thing and take some pictures and buy a t-shirt. I was shocked when I asked if I could stand in between the counters to get a picture in front of the pit, and they told me to just go behind the counter to the business end of the pit! Hey! Some people get excited by an encounter with a famous person. I get my jollies by getting up close and personal with an awesome BBQ pit!
Overall, I have to say I highly recommend Salt Lick BBQ. Have I had better brisket? Sure! But this was some damn good brisket in an incredible environment. I left feeling satisfied and wishing there was a place near me in Georgia with a similar authentic and genuine atmosphere.
- Bring cash! Salt lick BBQ is a cash only business. There is an ATM on site, however, if you forget.
- Go early! We arrived at opening, 11:00 AM, on a Tuesday. We had ZERO wait!
- Ask for a pickled jalapeno with your meal! The pickled jalapeno just perfectly rounded out the flavor of the plate!