Mike's dad is visiting us this week, so we've been on the go a bit. We spent Thursday and Friday on a little road trip back out to the ranch in Snyder to visit Mike's grandma. Maybe the best part of any road trip is trying new restaurants, and I would have to say that was the highlight of this trip.
About an hour outside Austin is a little town called Llano, which is situated right on a river and has lots of very charming antique shops. They also have Cooper's BBQ, which is widely recognized as some of the best BBQ in the free world. I'd seen it featured on the Food Network many years ago and never thought I'd find myself sharing a picnic table there with camouflage-clad deer hunters deep in the heart of Texas, but life's full of surprises, isn't it?
All the meat is cooked outside in these big "pits" -- you can get beef ribs, pork ribs, sirloin, pork roast, chicken, goat ribs and two different kinds of sausages. They all are cooked in this really amazing rub that is kind of salty and peppery and spiced just right. Once you order, the dude will ask if you want BBQ sauce on it, and if you say yes he will dunk it in a big vat of thin, red, vinegar-based sauce and sling it onto an orange cafeteria tray. If you are like me, you may think having your lunch thrown around by a burly man in an apron is slightly off-putting, but you will feel totally fine about it once you sit down and take your first bite.
Standard on every table is a loaf of white bread, which I guess is how some people eat their BBQ, but I chose not to sully my pork ribs with a lesser food. The picnic tables are also equipped with pickled peppers, Louisiana-style hot sauce and a huge roll of paper towels. I also got some corn on the cob that was boiled to a tenderness just shy of mushy, and for dessert some peach cobbler. I don't really have a sweet tooth, so the cobbler was a bit much for me -- the top was so sugary, the grains actually crunched between my teeth.
But oh, sweet Jeebus, the BBQed pork ribs? I have never had anything so tender and delicious. It's rare for me to finish every bite of a meal, but when I was done at Cooper's there was nothing left but a few sad, dry bones, and I thought about eating those, too.
(That last picture was the entire order for the three of us -- I'm not capable of THAT much meat.)