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Barbecue from Hays County Barbeque
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

6 Must-Visit Barbecue Spots in the Hill Country

Travel outside of Austin for smoked meats

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Barbecue from Hays County Barbeque
| Photo by Robert J. Lerma/EATX

Barbecue is in Texas' bloodlines, and the state does the smoked meat properly. Yes, everyone knows about the Lone Star State’s absolute best barbecue spots, from Austin to Dallas to Houston, but what about those smoked meat joints elsewhere, perhaps the picturesque Hill Country? The region is more than just areas for antiquing, swimming, hiking, and posing with bluebonnets.

With that, Eater mapped out the best Hill Country barbecue destinations in Texas. There’s the original Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, Opie’s Barbecue’s pork chops in Spicewood, Hays County Barbeque and music, and yes, the atmospheric grounds and pit of Driftwood’s Salt Lick BBQ, among others.

For the purposes of this map, Austin and Lockhart aren’t being included (Eater has those covered elsewhere). Keep up with the rest of Eater Road Trip Week on Eater Austin, as well as the other sites.

Everything below is listed in geographical order, from north to south. If your favorite Hill Country Barbecue spot is missing below, let Eater know through the tipline, within the comments, or over on the forum.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Southside BBQ

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16032 TX-16
Cherokee, TX 76832

Pitmaster and co-owner Alva Zulauf smokes up excellent cuts of pork (steaks, ribs) among the other expected barbecue meats in the unassuming building off Texas State Highway 6 in Cherokee. Ending with the banana pudding is key to the experience.

Southside BBQ
Southside BBQ/Facebook

2. Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak

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616 TX-29
Burnet, TX 78611

Sausages and briskets are the highlight of the Burnet, Texas barbecue joint, run by butchers-turned-pitmasters Robert and Penny Payne, so much so it landed on Texas Monthly’s coveted best barbecue list for the first time ever.

Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak
Thao E./Yelp

3. Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

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505 W Dallas St
Llano, TX 78643

Bypass the downtown Austin and the New Braunfels locations of Cooper’s and head straight for the Llano pits, where so many cuts of meat are smoked (don't miss out on the pork chops) and there’s plentiful seating. Even better: barbecue is available into the evening hours as well.

Barbecue from Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que/Yelp

4. Opie’s BBQ

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9504 TX-71
Spicewood, TX 78669

Like Cooper’s, Opie’s customers choose their barbecue cuts, including tender brisket, ribs, and pork chops. The dessert menu is tight, too, from the fruit cobblers to the off-menu Coca Cola cake.

Opie’s BBQ’s barbecue
Jane Z./Yelp

5. The Salt Lick

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18300 Farm to Market Rd 1826
Driftwood, TX
(512) 858-4959
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Atmosphere is everything and that’s where Salt Lick shines. Order up barbecue, sides, and desserts, and take a seat inside or outside, while taking advantage of wine from Salt Lick Cellars. Then there’s the ever-popular and much-photographed barbecue pit.

Salt Lick
Salt Lick/Facebook

6. Hays County Barbeque

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1612 S Interstate Hwy 35
San Marcos, TX 78666

With Hays County Barbeque, the Hernandez family turned the former Woody’s BBQ into a fun, easy, casual eatery with live music, outdoor seating, and, most importantly, stellar barbecue. The barbecue joint is keeping itself busy, with the development of its dedicated burger restaurant, as well as renovations and expansions of the current smokehouse.

Hays County Barbeque
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

1. Southside BBQ

16032 TX-16, Cherokee, TX 76832
Southside BBQ
Southside BBQ/Facebook

Pitmaster and co-owner Alva Zulauf smokes up excellent cuts of pork (steaks, ribs) among the other expected barbecue meats in the unassuming building off Texas State Highway 6 in Cherokee. Ending with the banana pudding is key to the experience.

16032 TX-16
Cherokee, TX 76832

2. Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak

616 TX-29, Burnet, TX 78611
Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak
Thao E./Yelp

Sausages and briskets are the highlight of the Burnet, Texas barbecue joint, run by butchers-turned-pitmasters Robert and Penny Payne, so much so it landed on Texas Monthly’s coveted best barbecue list for the first time ever.

616 TX-29
Burnet, TX 78611

3. Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

505 W Dallas St, Llano, TX 78643
Barbecue from Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que/Yelp

Bypass the downtown Austin and the New Braunfels locations of Cooper’s and head straight for the Llano pits, where so many cuts of meat are smoked (don't miss out on the pork chops) and there’s plentiful seating. Even better: barbecue is available into the evening hours as well.

505 W Dallas St
Llano, TX 78643

4. Opie’s BBQ

9504 TX-71, Spicewood, TX 78669
Opie’s BBQ’s barbecue
Jane Z./Yelp

Like Cooper’s, Opie’s customers choose their barbecue cuts, including tender brisket, ribs, and pork chops. The dessert menu is tight, too, from the fruit cobblers to the off-menu Coca Cola cake.

9504 TX-71
Spicewood, TX 78669

5. The Salt Lick

18300 Farm to Market Rd 1826, Driftwood, TX
Salt Lick
Salt Lick/Facebook

Atmosphere is everything and that’s where Salt Lick shines. Order up barbecue, sides, and desserts, and take a seat inside or outside, while taking advantage of wine from Salt Lick Cellars. Then there’s the ever-popular and much-photographed barbecue pit.

18300 Farm to Market Rd 1826
Driftwood, TX

6. Hays County Barbeque

1612 S Interstate Hwy 35, San Marcos, TX 78666
Hays County Barbeque
Robert J. Lerma/EATX

With Hays County Barbeque, the Hernandez family turned the former Woody’s BBQ into a fun, easy, casual eatery with live music, outdoor seating, and, most importantly, stellar barbecue. The barbecue joint is keeping itself busy, with the development of its dedicated burger restaurant, as well as renovations and expansions of the current smokehouse.

1612 S Interstate Hwy 35
San Marcos, TX 78666

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