Cooper's is one of my all time favorite BBQ joints. It's a bit of a drive from Austin (1 1/2 hours or so), but well worth the trip. This has been my tried and true BBQ favorite and the standard as to what I measure BBQ against. So it seems fitting that this is the place that I chose to do my first post on. I've been talking a big game on how good Cooper's was to Mike (one of the EatsBBQ crew). He hadn't had the privilege of eating there until today.
On typical a typical weekend the line wraps around the front of the build. People drive from all over to come here, but there is a heavy dose of Austinites here. It's in the Hill Country and it's a pretty and scenic drive up. In the Spring time the area surrounding Llano has a lot of Bluebonnet's blooming.
Once you get to the head of the line, you notice the 10 pits that they smoke all their meats in. The front pit holds the selection of meats for the day and they are laid out in front of you as the picture shows. Brisket, "BIG" Chop, Beef Ribs, Pork Ribs, Goat Ribs (when available), Pork Loin, Chicken, Jalapeno Sausage, Pork Sausage, Ribeye, etc. It's an amazing sight, that almost makes you want to get down and pray. The pit cutter will then ask you what you want, he'll cut it, then immediately ask you if you want it dipped. That translates to do you want your meat dipped in a big pot of BBQ sauce. The answer is always "yes". At that point, you take your food inside, the cutter inside will then take your meat cut it up, wrap it, and weigh it for you. Pick up your sides and pay, then start in on the most glorious eating of the day.
Cooper's is known for it's "BIG" chop. That's a 2-3" cut of individually smoked pork chop. I've had this many times and I can say that it's outstanding. Unfortunately, I had just had a great pork chop at Perry's Steakhouse in Austin the day before, so that's wasn't the first thing I that came to mind. I've had it on several other trips to Llano and would highly recommend it. They cook everything on old school charcoal grills, so you get the authentic smoky bbq flavors you can't get on a gas grill. Take a second to see what Cooper's thinks are the best charcoal grills for 2018, and get one of these for your home bbqing.
For today selection I chose Brisket and Goat Ribs (since I can't say that I've ever had them before). I followed that with a cup of beans and blackberry cobbler. The brisket was outstanding today. It was super moist, and fell apart on my fork, which made sharing it a bit challenging. The only thing that I might could nit pick about it today was that it might have been a bit too salty on the rub crust. I would have to say though that it was probably the best selection of the day hands down.
The Goat Ribs were an offering that I hadn't ever seen at Cooper's. Having tried everything else on the menu on different trips, I had to try them. They had the same rub on them that all of the other smoked meats had on them. They were tender and you are able to pluck the bones out of the meat. The meat itself was thin, but if I'm not mistaken goat is typically from kid, not adults. The meat was tender, but still required a knife to cut. The meat had a nice flavor. All in all they were good, but forgettable.
I tried the some of Mike's Pork Loin, and it was quite delicious. Extremely juicy and very tender as well. There was a good smoke ring around it and maintained a great flavor. This was a close second to the Brisket. Made me wish that I hadn't strayed for the goat ribs.
I got a taste of Mike's Jalapeno sausage. I'm not sure what it, but I just don't like Jalapeno sausage. I think it overpowers the flavor of the sausage and in my book that's bad. It was moist, but not squirting juice. I don't think they make their own sausage on site, and just smoked what they bought. I'm basing that off of the texture of the meat in the sausage, as it looked like something that I could pick up at a grocery store. It wasn't bad, it's just not my thing.
I finished off my meal with Blackberry Cobbler. They do a good job executing on it. I typically only get a softer bread crust, but occasionally when I come through town I catch it on a day when they have good sugar coating on the crust. That's the way it should be. It's hard not to like a cobbler of any kind though. They also have peach and apple varieties which are just as good. Blackberry cobbler just has a great flavor to me and not it's not available everywhere. The only downside is that you will have blackberry seeds in your mouth for what feels like an eternity.
Price wise, Cooper's is a little expensive. I would expect to pay a little over $20 per person with food, drink, and a side. Don't let your eyes get too big for your stomach at the pit. Otherwise you will need to make sure you take your leftovers home.
A Few other things to keep in mind. The beans are free, so don't plan on them as one of your sides you are paying for. The BBQ sauce is thin with a sweet, vinegary flavor. I like it, but it does get a bit boring towards the end of the meal. There is also free bread and pickled jalapeno's on the table. They offer Sweet and Unsweet Tea, as well as the standard fare soft drinks. I can't recall if they serve beer (I know it's a shame, but I'm usually driving out there anyway).
Today's adventure allowed me to share one of my favorite places with some friends and introduce them to my standard of BBQ. I think that would all agree with me that it was a wonderful experience and they would recommend it. I myself, would recommend going here to anyone that has any desire for BBQ. It may be a bit out of the, but you are rewarded in the end.
Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ
505 W. Dallas
Llano, TX 78643