“Go to Salt Lick,” was the recommendation of, well, just about everyone I asked about places to eat in Austin. Salt Lick has locations around town – even at the airport if you’re just passing through – but that felt like cheating. Instead, I went to the original, in the hill country southwest of town. It’s a giant, sprawling place built like a wooden road house and surrounded by wooden fencing and a dusty parking lot. There are actually two buildings, and signs out front ask visitors not to crowd the door when it gets busy, which it apparently does frequently. At lunch on a Thursday, though, no problem.
The combination plate is always the food writer’s friend, and Salt Lick’s is a great one, serving up all four of the meats smoked there: beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs and turkey, judicioulsly slathered (except for the ribs) with a mild, tomato-ey barbecue sauce that’s an offputting orange color until you taste it. You can add more from creamer-size pitchers on at the table, along with another jalapeno barbecue sauce.
The waitress asked whether I wanted the brisket lean or moister (Austinites choose leaner, so I went with that – still plenty moist). The sausage was fun and the rib darn tasty, but the turkey was revelatory, amazingly juicy perhaps after having sat underneath the other meats.
Another big surprise: the side dishes of cole salw and potato salad, both blissfully minus any hint of mayonnaise glop.