Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Salt Lick - Driftwood

Whenever I am introduced to somebody, it sometimes goes like this: “This is Chris, he likes BBQ.”  I have other redeeming qualities but it never fails that when I am introduced as Barbecue Guy, it is responded to with a “Oh, you like BBQ? Let me tell you about this place called ‘The Salt Lick’.”

Of course I have heard about The Salt Lick.  Even people that aren’t into smoked meat have heard about the place.  After all, the place is probably the largest BBQ joint in Texas.  I have always assumed The Salt Lick to be over-rated, but it has bothered me as a snob that I have not been able to respond with a educated opinion based on my own experience.  If we are being honest, that is the reason I made a special trip to The Salt Lick.


Our waitress brought us menus and I opted for the Thurman’s Choice on the menu, which is my typical order anyway: “Brisket, Pork Ribs, Sausage (No Substitutions!)”.  It was delivered rather quickly, drizzled with a bit of sauce.

The meats looked pretty standard sitting on the plate, though I will know next time to request no sauce.

Thurman's Choice: Brisket, Sausage, Pork Rib

The sausage was good.  It was well prepared with a nice snap and an almost crispy skin.  There was a slight spice from the black pepper influenced filling.

The brisket was very lean and quite well trimmed.  The meat came out with a well formed crust featuring a very simple rub.  The simple rub allowed the flavor of the meat and smoke to shine through.  Unfortunately that meat was very dry.  Even as sauce-adverse as I am, towards the end of the meal, I appreciated the drizzling the brisket had simply because it provided some moisture on the meat.

The pork rib was the high point today with a simple rub that featured more black pepper than the brisket had.  This meat was well smoked and carried a great texture with a perfect amount of tug.  The ribs carried a nice smokiness that were distracted by the unnecessary drizzle of sauce.


The setting of this joint is iconic.  The Salt Lick has a huge plot that they fill up with patrons.  Live Music and a BYOB policy helps those lengthy waits seem shorter.  The menu offers family style dining options with all you can eat meats.  For tourists, I am sure that this is what Texas is all about.

The iconic shot of the selection of smoked meats at The Salt Lick

The Salt Lick offers two sauces on the table.  The standard sauce is what comes drizzled on your meats unless you request otherwise.  The spicy sauce has a nearly identical flavor profile with a hint of heat.  Both are sweet and vinegary mustard-based sauces.  They are not my favorite but they are unique and tasted good with the great bread and actually helped the brisket to some extent.

The sides are better than your typical joint.  The German style potato salad was the standout of the group.


Overall, I was honestly impressed.  Yes, The Salt Lick is overrated.  But they are actually serving some pretty good Texas BBQ.  The meats are obviously being smoked correctly without any evident shortcuts.  None of the meats are in the top 10% of their category but the pork ribs and sausage are both pretty strong.  The brisket is respectable, but if it weren’t so dry, this meat has the potential of being excellent.

There is a ton of atmosphere here and the joint is built for socializing.  Still, if I had a group to take out, I would not make a special trip to Salt Lick because there are better options that are more accessible.  I’ll take great food and decent atmosphere over the decent food and great atmosphere of Salt Lick every day. 

Address: 18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX 78619
Phone: 512-858-4959


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*All Grades Are Based Solely on the Quality of Texas BBQ Offered at the Joint. We Aren't Looking for Burgers or Catfish!

My Grading Scale:

A = This is some of the finest BBQ you'll find anywhere. It is worth a roadtrip in itself along with any required wait.
B = This is very good BBQ, even if it is over an hour away, consider making the drive.
C = This is just average BBQ but it's worth a stop in a pinch.
D = This is a poor example of Texas BBQ. Even if it's the only place around, skip it. Apologize to any non-Texans that have eaten here.
F = This is not only a bad Texas BBQ, it is probably not suitable for human consumption.

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