- Joined: 8/18/2008
- Location: Bandera, TX
Review: Coopers Pit Bar-B-Que, Llano, TX
Sun, 10/5/08 8:50 PM
Coopers “Old Time” Pit Bar-B-Que - 10/4/08 – Llano, Texas
It was our eldest daughter’s birthday, so what better excuse for a road trip for BBQ? We took her, her husband and the grandkids to Cooper’s BBQ in Llano, TX. Arriving at 1:30 (to miss the rush), we found the line still wrapped all the way around the front of the building. A very good sign!
Many long brick pits are arrayed outside the front door, tended by a full crew of smoke folk.
Once you make it up the line, you place your order at the pit, telling the pitmaster what you want for your crew.
The selection was large, consisting of spare ribs, sausage, jalapeno sausage, pork loin, half-chickens, prime rib(!) and brisket. The pitmaster cuts your selections to order and loads them on a tray, and will optionally dunk them in a large bucket of sauce if you like. The sauce is a thin table sauce typical of Texas BBQ, although slightly too vinegary for my taste.
You then take your tray inside, where the cutting staff makes sure your meat is portioned out, weighed, and wrapped in butcher paper. They print a label for each cut, and slap it on the package for the cashier to see. That is also where you can pick up sides like cole slaw and potato salad, and pay for and receive cups for your drinks at the register.
To be honest, I found the Q relatively a bit high-priced, given the location and clientele. That opinion was mitigated in some cases after I got to taste the meat, but still, $8/lb. for sausage, $10/lb. for brisket, pork ribs or pork chops is a bit high. Maybe not for catering or vending, but IMHO it is at a BBQ restaurant in Texas. It ended up at $57 for just over 7 lbs. of meat for four adults and two small kids.
Here is yours truly explaining to our crew the finer points of eating off of butcher paper. Yes, there are no plates in the place! It is knives, forks and fingers. There are paper towels, jars of jalapenos, napkins and large sheets of butcher paper arrayed on all the tables. You can see them in the picture. Also available at no charge for self serve in the dining room were some very good pinto beans, pickles and onions, a large steamer of table sauce, soft drinks, sweetened and unsweetened iced tea, ice water and coffee.
Here is a shot of what was left that we were forced to take home. That thing in the upper middle of the picture is about 2/3 of a huge pork chop! There is even a ‘foiling station’ off to the side for wrapping up your leftovers for the trip home.
That’s a close up of a piece of the pork chop, measuring at about 2 ¼” thick.
We didn’t sample all the offerings at Cooper’s but we came close. The Prime Rib and cole slaw will have to wait for another trip. I will say that the Prime Rib looked excellent, was still very rare, and the cole slaw looked to be popular among the other diners. The potato salad is a slightly spicy German-style, made with red potatoes. All of the meats we ordered had a nice smoke ring and were seasoned just the right amount. Here’s the dish on the meats we sampled:
I was disappointed by the brisket. Perhaps my expectations were high because of reputation, but I found it to be a little dry, a little tough and relatively lacking in flavor. Application of the table sauce did not serve to change anyone’s impression of it.
Pork Spare Ribs
I just don’t know what to say. I have been doing ribs for a long time, and I’ve eaten excellent ribs from other good cookers and at many of the best places in Texas. I have never had spare ribs as good as these – anywhere. I’ve come close at home, but not this good and I made a point of telling the pit crew so on the way out. These guys have reset the bar and given me a new goal to shoot at in cooking spares.
Both the regular and jalapeno sausages were good, above average, but not as good as at Luling’s City Market or Elgin’s Southside Market Hot Guts or Meyer’s Elgin Sausage. Still, it’s a nice accompaniment to the rest of the fare. The jalapeno sausage was spicy, but not overly hot.
Billed as the “Big Chop”, this beauty fills the bill in all ways. All the praise I heaped upon the ribs goes equally as well for the chops. Center cut with very little fat, it was cooked and seasoned perfectly throughout. I’ve paid a lot more for quality steaks I’ve liked a lot less.
The chicken was of average size and was done perfectly. It was extremely juicy in both light and dark meat, and the amount of smoke perfectly complemented the chicken. Very highly recommended.
In summary, if you get nothing else at Cooper’s, make it spare ribs and/or the Big Chop. Skip the brisket, Bill Miller’s BBQ chain brisket is better, at least a little. The beans are excellent without being over or under spiced, and are done just perfectly. If you’ve never been there, eating at Cooper’s BBQ in Llano is worth the drive from just about anywhere, and makes an excellent destination for a day trip. I know I’ll be back, and it’s only 100 miles away for me!