Way back on Fat Tuesday, the bride and I headed out to get, well, fat. I mean, there’s no way you gain any weight during Lent, right? Besides, it’s a tradition. And who are we to buck tradition?
We had a problem, though; what to eat? We’d normally go for Cajun or seafood, on a big night like that. Mardi Gras and all, you understand. But we weren’t that hungry for fish, and we knew the Cajun joint would be overstuffed
like a Chef Boyardee Mini-Ravioli. After enough back-and-forthing, hemming and hawing, and to-and-froing, we finally settled on barbeque. Good choice! Only, where to eat said BBQ? We wanted to go someplace we don’t usually go; that’s not exactly celebrating, is it.
So we chose The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que in Round Rock, up by the Dell Diamond. (No, it’s not a big ol’ hunk of carbon. It’s for baseball, silly.) We’ve never been up there to eat (together, that is), and of course we’ve heard Good Things about Salt Lick fare. They’re so good they have a small outlet in the airport, just in case some of the pilots or cabin crew get a hankerin’ in-between flights.
So off we went.
It’s a lot closer than it used to be. Not because they opened in Round Rock (their first location is way down south, in Driftwood), but because a nice, new boulevard finished out a while back. Said street cuts three sides off the big rectangle to get to the Diamond, making the drive no more than 10 minutes to get there, even if you catch all four lights red
and obey the speed limits.
The parking lot was full. But then, any time I’ve driven by, the lot’s been full. And it’s not a dinky lot, not by any stretch!
We were met at the door by some typical friendly greeting-folk. Typical, that is, for an Austin-weird traditional joint, of course! Plenty of tats, metal and gems in places that don’t speak of an aversion to pain or odd glances, and hair that was, well, let’s just say oddly colored and styled and leave it at that. Their friendly smiles made us right at home, though; just not our home. We stopped for a moment to watch the two cooks trimming meats for orders. Man, were they busy! Smiling too, with plenty of amiable banter between them; enough to spill over to include the onlookers, if you’re up to the challenge.
We were shown to a table not very far from the food prep area, which is good. Good for our server, I mean, as we were both hongry enough to give the lady a backache simply fetching and carrying. However, she looked like she was up to the task; some of the plates she was sliding around on nearby tables would scare most weightlifters.
The Salt Lick in Round Rock has a hunormous dining area, split into several areas, and there’s more seating outside. In spite of the full parking lot, the place was about half-full. I guess they use the baseball diamond’s lot as overflow when they’re really busy. Everybody was smiling and chattering, except for those
lucky fools who had food in front of them. There are no chairs in the dining area; everybody sits on long benches snuggled up close to the trestle tables. No padding, but with the food as distraction you don’t notice. Unless you’re oversitting your welcome, that is. The floors are concrete, the walls are rustic, and the décor is clearly Southwestern. A classic BBQ joint, done hippo-sized (at the very least).
The standard table seats six comfortably, and four with lots of elbow room. Some of the tables were designed for eight, or even more if there are small kids involved. The Lick’s family-friendly, you see; indeed, the top item on their menu is the Family Style dinner. (More on that in a moment.) A few tables were configured for larger groups. If you bring a really large group (say, 50) the tables can be pushed about into accommodating arrangements. I’m sure they would set aside a room if you have a party that large, or a meeting (or something).
I didn’t notice any WiFi or the like; who needs it, this place is for eating!
The dinner menu’s pretty simple. The Family Style meal is $18.95 a person, all you care to eat. For kids under 11 it’s $6.95, and for kids under three it’s free (when accompanied by an adult ordering Family Style, naturally). If you don’t want to try that sort of outing, then you can order Plates, or Sandwiches and Salads. Under the Plates you have the 3-Meat Combo (12.95), the 4-Meat Combo (14.95), and a Senior’s Plate (if you’re 60 or over; $6.95). The Senior’s Plate doubles as a kid’s meal. You can order 1/2 a chicken, a vegetable plate, or beef ribs (regular or large order; $15.95 or $20.95).
The combo plates come with potato salad, coleslaw and beans; you get bread, pickles and onions simply by asking. The veggie plate is all those items, without any meat. Cheap too, at $6.50.
The Senior’s Plate may be the best deal of its kind in Austin.
Anything else? Oh yeah, you can order meat by the 1/2 lb. (dine-in or take-home), sides in various sizes, and you can take their barbeque sauce home too, in sizes ranging from a 1/2-pint to a gallon (or more; bring your own refrigerated truck). Desserts are available, although any given evening they may run out of your favorite early. Things like pecan pie, peach or blackberry cobbler, all available á la mode (Bluebell Ice Cream!). You can order a whole pecan pie or a whole tray of cobbler, if you’re that sort. Beverages include tea, coffee and soft drinks, each $1.95.
All said, it’s easy to get out of there for under $20 a head, even with dessert and a drink. Even big eaters will have trouble spending more than $25 for dinner.
We both tried the three-meat combination plate, and we both went with sausage, sliced brisket and a rib. Yes, only one pork sparerib. These are baby brontosaurus ribs or something, though; one was quite enough. Meaty, and almost as good as Jessica’s world-famous Ribfest ribs. I had zesty sausage while PJ went with the regular. She also took her meat dry. (Proof that there’s no accounting for taste.) I poured plenty of sauce on my brisket and sausage; the rib was well-glazed and didn’t want for any.
The brisket was tender, slightly dry, with a great smoke ring on it. The sausage was juicy and properly cooked, with a nice helping of chile zest. (PJ’s was very meaty and mild; I checked. Just doin’ my duty for my readers! Honest.) The ribs were meaty in addition to being extra-large. About like eating three ribs anyplace else. With the nice helpings of sliced beef and sausage it was plenty. The only meat we didn’t try was the turkey; neither one of us is a fan of turkey done BBQ style.
How would we rate our meats? Better than Rudy’s, and somewhat ahead of Meyer’s in Elgin; that’s saying a lot, as we’re special fans of Meyer’s. The beef wasn’t as smoky as Smokey Mo’s. The meats were comparable to County Line (not so rib-focused, though), or Iron Works downtown; not as good as Franklin’s.
What about the sides? Well, the potato salad was a bit mushy, we thought, with a lot of mustard. I’m not a huge fan of mustard generally, except with certain dishes. Oh, I can eat it well enough these days, but due to a
horrifying, psyche-scarring small incident as a child, where I ate a whole quart of cheap yellow mustard at about age one, I’ve always been leery of dishes with too much mustard. The beans were very nice, with plenty of flavor and texture. Not overcooked either. The coleslaw wasn’t more than middle-of-the-road, a solid, everyday salad. It had quite a bit of vinegar in it, though; you’ve been warned. Compared to other barbeque offerings, these were somewhat to well above average.
All in all, quite a nice meal for Fat Tuesday. Near the top for overall barbeque and dining experience, and a good value. We were too full to eat dessert, so we took home a bit of the blackberry cobbler. For midnight snack, you know; just in case…
The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que, 3350 E. Palm Valley Blvd (Highway 79), Round Rock, TX 78665. Phone 512.386.1044. Authentic Texas barbeque in a novel, Western-style casual atmosphere, served daily for lunch and dinner. Kid friendly. Outdoor seating available, weather permitting.
Enjoy the (Tasty Tuesday Treat) Heat!
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