Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbeque in Llano, Texas
If you’re a Texan, you may want to stop reading this now. I’m about to give my opinion on one of the hill country’s best barbecue restaurants, and while I absolutely loved the place you may be offended before this is all over.The National Barbecue Association annual conference is a blur to me. I made the twelve hour drive down on a Wednesday, worked part time in the Cookshack exhibit on Thursday and Friday, participated on a panel in a seminar on Friday morning, gathered up all the class needs that day as well, taught a one day, thirteen hour version of our cooking class on Saturday and drove home on Sunday. In fact, I think I’m still recovering from it all.
The NBBQA scheduled tours of the hill country and local barbecue establishments on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week, but I just couldn’t justify going down that early. Oh, and a little history, Sheri and I had talked about spending a few days visiting the famous Texas hill country barbecue establishments between Christmas and New Years, but ultimately decided it just wasn’t in the ’08 budget. I’ve long wanted to make the rounds and form my own opinion of Texas barbecue from this famed, well documented area of the south.
On Thursday at the luncheon, a few of us at our table began discussing what we’d missed earlier in the week. After all, those that made the hill country tour absolutely raved about it. It was like rubbing a little Smokin’ Guns Hot in the wound honestly. So, as we sat in our seats discussing the possibilities, I began to realize that Thursday afternoon was going to be the only time I would have to see anything at all in the Austin area. Luckily, Chris Jones of Colins Creek BBQ, a ranch style cuisine caterer, bbq competitor, Midland, Texas native and soon to be student in our Saturday class, was seated at our table. During the video presentation, I scribbled down my short list of possible destinations on a piece of paper including Lockart, Taylor, Elgin and Llano and pushed it his way, including a note to rank the locations in the order he thought we should see them. Not at all surprised, he returned my inquiry with Llano ranked number one, confirming my long held suspicions that Cooper’s Old Time BBQ belonged at the top of my list of hill country barbecue joints not to miss. Knowing it was an hour and a half each way and still feeling unsure about breaking away from the conference that afternoon, I pondered whether I should put the thought out of my mind and prepare for the tasks ahead. Luckily, Danielle Dimovski of DivaQ fame was seated next to me and when she realized that I was even half considering making the journey, she began to needle me. See, she had missed that Tuesday tour as well. My face must have shown my reluctance, because a short time later Chris took the note back, scribbled something down and slid it back to me. It said “If you don’t believe me, ask Paul Kirk.” As luck would have it, Paul was sitting at the next table, concentrating on the presentation, but that wasn’t going to stop me. So I asked. Paul, in fact, confirmed that we should head for Llano and rest is history.
Someday I’ll get back to make the rounds to those well documented, historical Texas barbecue joints. Until then, visions of tri-tip, jalapeno cheddar sausage and beef ribs from Cooper’s will dance in my head while I dream. It was honestly some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten, even if they can’t be honest about it.