I just got back from Opie's Barbecue in Spicewood, which you may remember has been called a clone of Cooper's in Llano. I can understand the point of the folks at Cooper's. This place looks just like Cooper's and acts just like Cooper's. But it ain't Coopers.
As you pull into Opie's, you'll notice that the place is a near visual clone of Cooper's. You order your meat from the front pit and the options are pork ribs, pork chops, chicken, sirloin, sausage and brisket. Just like Cooper's. You head inside with your tray of meats where it gets weighed and you pay for it and you sides. Just like Cooper's. On to the complimentary beans, pickles, onions, peppers and sauce buffet. Just like Cooper's. The you sit down at one of the long picnic tables (like Cooper's) and dig in.
Now you notice the differences. The meats are cooked to perfect doneness but have very little in the way of smoke flavor. The brisket had the most smoke on it but all the others definately lack smoke were oddly bland, besides. The sausage raised serious questions about its' origins with a patently Eckrich appearance. We gave it a pass but saw lots of it leftover in the dining room. The pork meats lacked even a ring of pink or red, testifying to the lack of exposure to smoke. Chicken looked the same, they were out of sirloin and the brisket wasn't bad. It's not all like Cooper's.
On to the sides: The cobbler didn't look very good at all, so we didn't give it a try. Potato salad was over mayonaised and looked store - bought, and the beans tasted like beans. No salt, no pork, no pepper, no vinegar, no onion, no taste. Cooper's, on the other hand has some of the best beans I"ve ever tasted. One shining spot was the sauce. It had the same vinegary assertiveness that Cooper's has but it does fall short in pepper and drippings.
On the whole, if you're in the mood for Cooper's, don't bother stopping here. It just ain't the same. If you want to drive 40 minutes from Austin for some good 'cue, go to Kreuz or Louie Mueller's. After all, a lack of smoke means a lack of barbecue, don't it?