Like so many whose families hail from Louisiana, we also have a Texas contingency. My grandfather was a Texan and I have many cousins there as well. I’m sure there are many places that take Independence Day as seriously as Texans do but I don’t know if any of them serve as tasty a barbecue.
Much to my delight, we started our long weekend in Austin with a festive parade. Hot rods and muscle cars from the neighborhood led the way for 30-40 decorated golf carts (we were the 2nd cart). Dressed in a patriotic t-shirt, I had my first experience of throwing beads, candies and packaged crackers to people lining the roads of the gated community on Lake Travis. It wasn’t exactly Mardi Gras, but it really was a thrill seeing the kids get all excited and everyone seemed to appreciate our NOLA-style beads.
Due to an extended drought, the lake is down to 1/3 its capacity so the water activities weren’t as appealing. That left plenty of time to comparison shop barbecue. First on deck was a repeat visit to the Salt Lick. I’d eaten there once before and it was just as tasty as I remembered. Good thing because the wait for a table was an hour and 45 minutes. Sensitive to how long families have to sit around, the Salt Lick sells fresh squeezed lemonade and hot popcorn for those who get the munchies. It’s BYOB so many families crowd picnic tables and unpack cold beverages from coolers.
The Salt Lick is famous for its $20 all-you-can-eat feast of meats and sides. The ribs, brisket and sausage are delicious and I love the no-mayo versions of cole slaw and spicy potato salad as well as the pickle spears and loaf bread. In an average day, they serve 1500 to 2500 people and no one leaves hungry.
The other barbque we sampled was at County Line. Though they offer all-you-can-eat, your table would have to agree on the order. Otherwise, you can select from heaping portions of meats and sides. I particularly enjoyed my baked potato offered with butter, sour cream, chives, bacon and shredded cheese. But the best part of County Line was actually the setting. On the bank of a river, the restaurant has a dock crowded with turtles for the kids (and kids at heart) to feed with pellets from a machine. We ate our supper on an outside deck overlooking the water, serenaded by a Bob Dylan loving guitarist and enjoying the sycamores.
After all that drought, it was raining when we arrived back in New Orleans. Driving home from the airport, we heard the sound of a saxophone permeating the closed car windows. We rolled down the glass and looked around. There, in the neutral ground, was a man wailing on his sax in the rain. He had no bucket for tips, only a need so deep it had him writhing in the rain. Austin has its charms and I certainly ate my fill, but there’s no place like home. NOLA sweet NOLA.