U.S.A.: Texas BBQ Drive
Smoky ribs, fork-tender brisket, big Texan skies. What are you waiting for? Here, a barbecue tour de force—with Austin as your base.
Day 1: Start 30 miles northeast of Austin at Opie’s BBQ (lunch for two $20), where the famous sweet-and-spicy baby back ribs require more than a few paper towels. If that’s breakfast, lunch is an hour away, at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (lunch for two $30), where you’ll order the signature two-inch-thick pork chop and brisket directly from the pit. Take a scenic hike up Enchanted Rock, then forge on to Fredricksburg for a dinner of pork in peach barbecue sauce at Sugar & Smoke (249 E. Main St.; dinner for two $35). Call it a night with a slice of coconut cream pie.
Day 2: South of Luckenbach, Maywald’s Sisterdale Smokehouse (1123 FM 1376, Sisterdale; lunch for two $25) is open every other weekend—arrive at noon for crisp smoked chicken and cuts of tender beef. Milt’s Pit BBQ (905 N. Old Hwy. 81, Kyle; lunch for two $20) is near razor-back Ranch Road 32—nicknamed “Devil’s Backbone”—and serves brisket with a midnight-black crust. From there, it’s a quick ride to Salt Lick Bar-B-Que (pictured; dinner for two $32), known for its brisket and beef ribs, served on oak-shaded patio tables.
Day 3: Line up at 10 a.m. with the other ’cue worshippers at Austin’s Franklin Barbecue (lunch for two $17), run by trailblazing pit master Aaron Franklin. His Tipsy Texan sandwich, with chopped beef and sausage, deserves the hype. But save room for Stiles Switch (6610 N. Lamar, Austin; dinner for two $25), where the pork links are flawless and the banana pudding is as authentic as it gets. —Daniel Vaughn
Secret’s in the Sauce: Devoted BBQ fans in Texas carry coolers for their leftovers—a challenge for those making their pilgrimage from afar. You can still bring some of that Lone Star flavor back: Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que sells jars of its secret-recipe sauces and rubs—as well as some of the best beef jerky in Texas. Salt Lick Bar-B-Que peddles its original and jalapeño sauces and its own rubs and salsas. If you love Opie’s sweet-and-spicy sauce, buy a bottle at the counter. Bonus: Cooper’s and Salt Lick sell their creations online.
T+L Tip: book a room at Austin’s Saint Cecilia (doubles from $275), a music-inspired retreat in a former Victorian manse, created by hip hotelier Liz Lambert.