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Hill Country Dining this weekend: Rosies, Cooper's, Salt Lick

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Restaurants & Bars

Hill Country Dining this weekend: Rosies, Cooper's, Salt Lick

Dino | Jun 20, 2004 10:58 PM

Dined at the above three this weekend. First stop was Rosie's Tamale Shop off 290 in Bee Cave. Decor was 1970's era wood paneling and velvet paintings, including one of the St. Louis arch and a paddlewheeler. This had me a little concerned, but the food was tasty, including a delicious verde sauce on the enchiladas I ordered; much more spicy and flavorful than many verde sauces I have tasted. This was a quick and easy Tex-Mex fix heading west. The next day we ate lunch at Cooper's in Llano. With multiple pits smoking away in what looks like a carwash at first glance, this was a quintessential barbecue experience. The serving line at the first pit was slow but worth the wait. The dense smoke wafting over the patrons and parking lot inspired salivation almost to the point of drooling. I couldn't help but think the EPA would try to regulate this place if it were in Houston. Ribs, brisket, sausage, pork chops, pork tenderloin, and chicken made for a veritable 'cue cornucopia. Devouring the cracked black pepper encrusted meats, with a dousing of the thin, salty/vinegary sauce when dry, left little time to inhale between mouthfuls. The meat, so thoroughly imbued with smoke, was somewhat a parallel experience to drinking an Islay scotch, intoxicating in its own way. Our last stop was the Salt Lick south of Austin for lunch the next day. Pulling into the parking lot I was astonished to see a horde of diners waiting at picnic tables outside. Lemonade for sale ($2) looked refreshing, the lemons fresh squeezed, but the sugary water added to complete the concoction was sweet enough to make my teeth tingle. After about thirty minutes, our table was ready and we entered the dining hall, which contains an open pit. The smoke here was well behaved, venting through a large hood. We ordered "family-style" which included brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. The meats arrived on a plate covered in a sauce much thicker than the one at Cooper's. Unfortunately, like the lemonade, this sauce was too sweet, masking any underlying flavor of the meat. The brisket pieces at the bottom of the heap were saved in part from the sauce, but were bland and dry, with little smokey flavor. The brisket in fact reminding me of one of my mother's pot roasts as a child, not one of my fondest food memories. The sausage casing lacked the crispy texture I so fondly look forward to at Black's for example, and again any intrinsic flavor was masked by the sauce. Ribs were somewhat better, but lacked the tart, peppery smoke I had experienced at Cooper's. Also be advised this is a cash-only operation; probably because it can be rather than that it should be. As I navigated the immense parking lot on our departure, I couldn't help but feel this place was about style versus substance, more of a feast for the eyes than the palate. I would also not recommend it to those of you on the Atkin's or South Beach diets, way too much sugar. My advice: if you are going to go out of your way for barbecue, go out of your way to Llano, Lockhart, or Luling.

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