The Salt Lick: Not As Seen on TV

Upon my recent trip to Austin I had a culinary itinerary all planned out.  Visiting a few of my favorite eateries, and also trying out a few new places.  Surprisingly, I had not yet visited the Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX, about a half hour outside of Austin, and you can imagine the excitement I had about the place.  If it's good enough for the likes of Bobby Flay, Duff Goldman, Guy Fieri and other notable celebrity chefs, then it's good enough for us regular folk, right?

- Photo courtesy of bzevents.com-

The drive was a bit lengthy, uncommon for a popular restaurant of any kind.  I'm certainly glad I went for lunch during the day, I would not have been so comfortable driving through isolated country roads after sunset.  I finally arrived to the Salt Lick, only to have an odd first impression of being herded through the property like cattle.  A myriad of signs are posted in and around the premises with strict directions, "Entrance only," "no unloading," "drop-offs only," "parking only," "reserved only," "stay off the grass," "not responsible for unattended children."   Really?  Not exactly the Texas hospitality this state is known for.  Thankfully I arrived before the lunch crowd, not experiencing their notorious 45+ minute wait was a relief for my hungry belly.

Our hostess and waitress were both attentive and polite, but definitely average service.  Seating was rather cramped, almost as if the restaurant was intentionally stuffing as many people inside as possible for maximum profit.  If you ask me, they don't need to push the fire code to gain those profits, they seem to be doing just fine by charging almost double the average price for a barbecue plate.  Now, I'm the kind of gal that will pay a premium price for premium food, but my experience at the Salt Lick did not meet the criteria.  I sampled a plate featuring brisket, turkey, and sausage.  The images embedded in my head of the giant open pit lavishly displayed on shows like the Food Network's, "Best Thing I ever Ate," and the Travel Channel's "Man vs Food," made me sincerely believe that the servings were monstrous.  You can imagine my disappointment when the plate landed on our table.  One small slice of turkey, two very thin strips of brisket and a sliced sausage about the size of a hot dog all drizzled with a scant amount of barbecue sauce.  Sides included baked beans, coleslaw, and what they called potato salad.  The beans tasted like they came out of a can, the coleslaw had an odd sesame seed flavor, and the potato salad wasn't salad at all.  It was more like overcooked potatoes semi-mashed with a hint of their barbecue sauce as the dressing, giving it a strange orange color.

I can ignore sub-par side dishes if the entrĂ©e is a home run.  This, unfortunately, was not the case.  The brisket was dry and unremarkable.  If you were to put the Salt Lick's brisket next to your local drive-thru brisket in a blind taste test (no sauce), you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy some drive-thru brisket joints as much as the next south Texan, but you also pay half the price for the same quality, and you don't have to drive to the middle of nowhere for it.  The sausage was pretty unremarkable as well, almost store bought in flavor.  The turkey was surprisingly moist and had a nice, smoky flavor, but just not good enough to drive all that way and reach that far deep in my pockets for.  My better half got A pork rib and double brisket, yet got the same amount of brisket as I did.  Last, and certainly least, was the sauce.  Their regular barbecue sauce tasted like doctored honey mustard dressing, and their spicy habanero sauce was not even spicy at all.  I would have never known it had habaneros in it, but at least it tasted better than their main sauce.

Overhearing our waitress mentioning dessert to a nearby table, I thought to myself, "Oh good, redemption!" So we decided to split a blackberry cobbler.  Not only did I seek their redemption, but I was also curious to compare my blackberry cobbler recipe with others.  Yet another disappointed at the Salt Lick, but this one was the straw that broke the camel's back.  Undoubtedly the worst blackberry cobbler I've ever sampled. The fruit filling was runny and unremarkable, but the worst of it all was in the pastry crust, which was an odd surprise of corn bread.  This was my "WTF" moment as I reluctantly ingested a fork full.  The positive side of the dessert was the freshness of the ingredients, however the combination should definitely not be repeated.

Did I mention the restaurant is cash only?  Apparently they have an ATM on site, but I also heard that the restaurant makes extra money on the withdrawal fees from said ATM.  Don't want to use their ATM?  Good luck with that, as the nearest one is about 8 miles away.

I wouldn't go out of your way for this one.  The Salt Lick is anything but finger lickin' good.  Save your hard earned money and go visit Lockhart instead.  Just another example of what your momma always told you, "Don't believe everything you see on TV."

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for this review! My husband has been wanting to drive up to this place for a while now, mainly due to the TV hype. I'll be showing him your review.

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  2. I've eaten at Salt Lick more than 20 times and never once had a bad meal. And the fact that you don't like their blackberry cobbler makes me question everything in your review. That cobbler is ridiculously good and I've now been to FOUR wedding where the groom has chosen Salt Lick cobbler instead of a groom's cake.

    In addition, your order was completely wrong. Salt Lick is known for their Family Style plate which is ALL YOU CAN EAT so there's no way you'd be upset with the portion size. I really think you should give it a 2nd try.

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  3. I don't agree with you at all, I've been to all BBQ places in Lockhart, Elgin, Luling and Austin and even though I really like Southside Market in Elgin, I still love to eat at the Salt Lick, the sausage is better than Lockhart, Luling Flatonia and Coopers.

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  4. In response to the two individuals who defend this establishment, yet do not wish to reveal their names:

    Ordering wrong?? Really? It shouldn't matter what I order at a restaurant. If a restaurant can't stay consistent, that is a MASSIVE problem.

    The sausage isn't terrible, just unremarkable. I just said that you can buy the same thing at the grocery store for less money. I don't want to go out to eat when I can get the same thing at the supermarket. I want a stand out experience, which I did not receive at the Salt Lick.

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  5. I have been dying to try Salt Lick, but after reading this, I'd rather save my money and drive out to Lulinig instead. Thanks for taking one for the team!

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  6. Yes, definitely order family style. And get the pecan pie. I haven't been in a while (one can only go to so many BBQ joints over the course of a year even if one is a serious BBQ aficionado and with as many as we have here, rotation is necessary!), but the experience described above bears no resemblance to my experiences there.

    Given my druthers, though, I'd go to City Market in Luling or Riders BBQ in Jarrell. Or a couple of little BBQ joints tucked away in small Central Texas towns that I'm not going to name lest they get too popular and I not be able to get brisket when I really need it!

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