No Smoking

Defiant Llano barbecuers prove that there’s more than one way to cook a great brisket.
No Smoking
Texas barbecue buffs can get alost any kind of meat they crave — pork chops, sirloins, goat, sausage, beef ribs — a Cooper’s, the best joint in town.
Photograph by Will Overbeek

We Texans hold certain truths to be self-evident: Davy Crockett was the most fearless freedom fighter who ever lived, Buddy Holly was the greatest rock ’n’ roller, the Dallas Cowboys are America’s Team, and the best barbecue in the world is pit-smoked in Taylor, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, and Luling, along the Central Texas Barbecue Belt.

But today I come to sing the praises of Llano, where in minutes you can get nearly every kind of barbecue available on that belt and then some. I submit that Llano, where the meat cooks directly over the fire, is the true Barbecue Capital of Central Texas and thus of the world.

Dubious? I could hardly believe it myself at first. After hours of extensive personal research, however, I reached my conclusion. My theory took shape during many drives through Llano (some seventy miles northwest of Austin), when I began to notice a disproportionate number of promising-looking barbecue restaurants for a town of barely more than three thousand people.

Three of those establishments (Cooper’s B-B-Q, Brother’s Bar-B-Que, and Inman’s Kitchen) are within a whiff of each other on Texas Highway 29, a couple of minutes northwest of the Llano River bridge, and when their pits are fired up in the early morning breeze, an irresistible aroma wafts down the highway. The fourth, Laird’s Bar-B-Q Pit, is nearly hidden just off Texas Highway 16 south of the bridge. That’s four fine eateries in a very small town. You would think barbecue fanatics would be flocking to the place. Certainly, the two larger restaurants—Cooper’s and Inman’s—do a good out-of-town trade. But for the most part, the four establishments are unknown outside the immediate area.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I visited each of the four and subjected myself to as much barbecue as I could manage. I ate big hunks of meat and “buns” (the local term for sandwiches) until my arteries laid down the law: No mas. And I

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