Recently went to Llano for barbecue.
I had read some scattered positive word about Brothers BBQ, just up the road from Cooper's. But, altogether, it was a very disappointing meal, by any standards. Rubbery brisket. Dry, salty pork steak. Tough ribs with a gummy exterior. The meats felt and tasted like they'd been precooked and reheated. The place was empty when we were there. Not a place to which I'd return.
After the good experience at Inman's Ranch House in Marble Falls a month or two ago, I was looking forward to Inman's Kitchen in Llano. They've been separately owned and operated for many decades now. But, since they started with the same recipes and philosophy, they're both bound to be pretty good, I thought. Inman's Kitchen (in Llano) is much larger than the Ranch House. It's not quite Kreuz-sized, but it's in the ballpark. The menu is a little more expansive than the "brisket and turkey sausage only" line-up at the Ranch House. Ordered a half pound of fatty brisket, a quarter pound of regular turkey sausage, and a quarter pound of jalapeno-Swiss turkey sausage. The brisket was a little drier and chewier than ideal, but had very good flavor and smokiness. Good sandwich material, but not great for eating straight.
While at Inman's Ranch House in Marble Falls, the woman working the kitchen said that they use the same recipe they've used since the beginning, with all turkey meat. She had indicated that the Llano restaurant had made changes to the sausage and came up with different versions of it. Looks like she was right. At Inman's Kitchen in Llano, the regular turkey sausage had a less peppery seasoning, finer grind, and a *lot* more fat content (suggesting it was a pork/turkey blend). Kind of interesting, but not (imho) as good as the more rustic character of the Marble Falls version. The jalapeno-Swiss sausage was also finely ground, mildly seasoned, and fatty. (The jalapeno and cheese were more undertones than "in your face" flavor components.) Interesting sausages, but not really compelling.
On a service-related note, I won't go back to Inman's Kitchen, despite the fact that it was decent barbecue. We ordered one pound of meat--1/2 lb brisket, 1/4 lb turkey sausage, 1/4 lb jalapeno-Swiss sausage. And it cost us $20. That didn't seem right. When we asked the cashier about it, she got defensive and insisted that was the price. Whatever. Whether they gouged us or whether they really do charge $20 a pound for their barbecue (more than twice as much as other, better barbecue places in the area for comparable meats), I won't be back.
Wanted to go to Laird's BBQ, but they were closed that week. Bad timing.
Cooper's. For a while, I'd been reading some mixed reports on Cooper's, suggesting that their higher profile of late may have led them to cut corners and have more inconsistency. If so, it wasn't in evidence on this day. Meats sampled included pork ribs, beef ribs, pork loin, sirloin, brisket, and cabrito. The pork ribs were the only meat of average quality (too mushy, fatty, and with no bark). Everything else was very good (brisket, sirloin, cabrito) to outstanding (beef ribs, pork loin). With performance like this, they deserve to be near the top of any "best of Texas" list. I only wish they weren't so far out of the way. (How about relocating to Waxahachie, guys?)
In all, a fun trip. I'm still interested in trying Laird's. But, of the ones we tried, Cooper's was clearly the best.
More details and photos at the link below.