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?

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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."

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