The Salt Lick is renowned throughout Texas, and holds a special place in the heart of BBQ fanatics. Many recent reviews have decried the demise of this mecca of Texas BBQ claiming that it’s all about atmosphere, and not enough about what’s in the pits. The setting alone may be worth the drive if you come with a group of friends. The large group of picnic tables and BYOB policy make for a tailgate party atmosphere, which is the best way to survive the long waits that are sometimes over an hour. Once inside, the seating is nearly all on communal picnic tables, and the dining is also communal. While the menu holds several a la carte options, most folks opt for the family style at a steep $19/person, but if you come hungry you can make it worth your while.

When ordering family style, a large plate full of pork ribs, sliced brisket and sausage came to our table for everyone to fight over. Our first plate was covered in the Salt Lick’s unique sauce which is a mustard and vinegar based sauce with a sugary sweetness. The sauce married well with the meat fresh from the pit. The brisket had little crust, and the ribs tasted of little more than the sauce. We requested a sauce free second plate with crusty pieces of brisket. This is where the Salt Lick shines. The brisket had a crust like no other with deep flavor and abundant sugar cookies. The meat was smoky, tender and moist with great flavor even without the sauce. Even as a purist, I’ll have to admit that the flavor of all their meat is elevated by the sauce. Unfortunately, it was the ribs that almost needed the sauce. The tenderness of the ribs was excellent, but the crust was lacking depth of flavor, and the smokiness was fleeting. The overall flavor was good, and the meat moist, but it didn’t stand out like the crusty brisket. The sausage was also good with a fine grind, mild black pepper flavor and a good snap to the casing. The news got even better when the third plate arrived and was as good as the second. When the final plate came out, we were to full to indulge any further, but the waitress was happy to box it up for us. Who else does that for family style?

To the detractors out there, give it another try after you get your nose out of the air. To all of the others, bring some friends, some beer and a wad of cash (no credit cards here) and enjoy an evening in the Texas Hill Country.

(This review originally appeared on Full Custom Gospel BBQ.)