THE PIT BOSS

FOR HALF A CEN­TURY, THE SALT LIC BBQ HAS BEEN MORE THAN WORTH THE DRIVE TO DRIFT­WOOD.

Austin Way - - FRONT RUNNER - BY KATHY BLACKWELL

It’s the most Austin of sum­mer rit­u­als. For 50 years, we have packed up the cooler and taken a coun­try drive to Drift­wood for some of the most de­li­cious open-pit brisket, ribs, and home­made sides in the state at the sprawl­ing Salt Lick BBQ.

The down-home em­pire is un­der the care of Scott Roberts, whose fam­ily goes back to Stephen F. Austin. The Salt Lick sits on land his grand­par­ents bought in 1902, and he cred­its its suc­cess to his fam­ily’s “hard-coun­try scrab­ble” ethic. “That’s why we sur­vived so long and why we’re the size we are. My fa­ther was friendly and didn’t like peo­ple wait­ing in line too long. When the line would get to more than an hour, we’d add more sec­tions to the build­ing.”

Look­ing back, Roberts fondly re­calls the first time his daugh­ter, then 8, sauced ribs with him—she now heads up cater­ing and events. Look­ing ahead, he’s recre­at­ing the Drift­wood ex­pe­ri­ence with a new Grapevine lo­ca­tion next year.

Re­cent touches in­clude weekly pizza nights at the ad­ja­cent Salt Lick Cel­lars, which fea­tures award­win­ning wine, and the ad­di­tion of bi­son ribs to the main Salt Lick menu. For its 50th an­niver­sary, the res­tau­rant is in the mid­dle of its “Year of Giv­ing,” in which a por­tion of pro­ceeds from spe­cific items goes to­ward a dif­fer­ent char­ity each month.

So bring the beer (it’s BYOB) and the cash (no cards, thank you), and choose the “Fam­ily Style” op­tion. “There’s noth­ing bet­ter than eat­ing bar­be­cue un­der a Live Oak with a good drink,” says Roberts. Don’t for­get the black­berry cob­bler. 18300 FM 1826, Drift­wood, 512-898-4959; saltlickbbq.com

clock­wise from top left: The pop­u­lar “fam­ily style” op­tion in­cludes all-you­can-eat meat and sides (made in small batches and not re­frig­er­ated); the Salt Lick was built around its open pit; the fa­mous brisket; the res­tau­rant opened 50 years ago on fam­ily land in 'rift­wood.

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