Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

A couple of weeks ago my good friend Kirk posted on his Facebook page that he planned to restart his BBQ World Tour. For those of you not familiar with this outing, it's an idea he came up with back in 2001 to visit some of the places listed as having the best barbecue by Texas Monthly magazine. This little trip took us to an old favorite- Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. Cooper's was part of the original World Tour and has remained a favorite ever since. How good are they? People are known to drive for hours to get here; in fact it's a drive of over an hour from Austin. Not only that, former President Bush was known to have them catered to his ranch when he was in town, or so the story goes. Say what you will about his politics, the facts are that the man knows his barbecue.

So what makes this place so worth the drive? First, it's a nice trip across the scenic Texas Hill Country. A very nice experience if you've never been, or if you have visitors in town and don't want to go the River Walk in San Antonio again. Second and most important is the meat, the nicely spiced and smoked, melt-in-your-mouth meat. Cooper's serves all manner of slow cooked critters, all of them equally delicious. Just look at that spread in the pit. Makes you hungry doesn't it? It makes me wish it was last Saturday all over again....

First up we have the brisket. Barbecued brisket is really more of a Texas kind of thing, and is not often seen on menus outside of the state but really should be. Every barbecue joint in Texas has their own special spice rub and cooking technique for brisket, and Cooper's is just about the king of this cut of beef. How can you tell a good cut of brisket? It should have a good blackened top (it's Flavor Country according Alex), and should be moist and tender. The brisket at Cooper's meets this standard perfectly. It has a nice intense flavor and is perfectly tender. Now, I've heard some people suggest that the only proper barbecue is pork. I humbly disagree with this statement. When done correctly beef lends itself nicely to this method. For any of you brisket nonbelievers, go to Cooper's and give it a try. You may find yourself becoming a convert to the ways of beef barbecue.

For those of you who prefer pork, you have nothing to fear! Cooper's serves up some fantastic porcine dishes as well. There is of course the obligatory smoked sausage which is very tasty and comes in two varieties, regular and jalapeno. Either one is worth having, but for me it's all about the pork tenderloin and pork ribs. The tenderloin is juicy and tender. Spiced nicely but not so heavily that the flavor of the meat can't come through. But the ribs. Oh, my the ribs.....Let me explain something about me and ribs. For years I thought I did not like them. Why, you ask? It is because I had never had a proper rib until moving to Texas. Every time I had eaten ribs in the past they had almost no meat, were tough and were served in horrifyingly sweet and sticky sauce. Disgusting. These ribs -as is the case in Texas barbecue in general- are smoked using a dry rub. The spice is perfect, and the meat simply falls off the bone. They are required eating when you finally get to go.

No trip to a barbecue joint would be complete without a quick discussion about the sauce. I once heard a person say that barbecue is all about the sauce. I don't even know where to start being snarky about that comment. Barbecue has nothing do with the sauce. Barbecue is all about the smoked meat. In fact it's a style that originated in the Americas as a method of slow cooking meat using low heat and smoke. The way I see it, if you have to cover your meat in some kind of overly sweet, sticky, or spicy sauce it is an indication that something is wrong with the meat. Let the meat speak for itself! Having said all of that I must admit that I do like a good sauce as an accompaniment. The sauce at Cooper's is unlike most I've tasted. It's thin, vinegar based and mixed with pan drippings and other spices. Personally, I like it a lot. It has it's own character and adds to the show without taking over.

Cooper's now has three locations, and I'm sure all of them are worth the visit. Dave and I ended the evening by going with Kirk and his family to the town of Fredericksburg for a little ice cream. It was a very nice way to end very pleasant day. Kirk, it was a very successful trip. I can't wait for the next one!

Official AFJ rating- Four Points

Google Maps Location
Sun-Thurs: 11:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M.
Fri-Sat: 11:00 A.M.-9:00 P.M.

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