<a href=""><img alt="" src="" border="0"></a><br><span><span>LLANO: Laird's Bar-B-Q Pit </span><br><span>1600 Ford St. (Hwy 16) </span><br><span>Llano, TX 78643</span><br><span>325-247-5234</span><br><span>Open W-Sun 11-7</span></span><br><br>Update: While they're officially open until 7:00 on Saturdays the Laird's were about to shut down for the day when I arrived at 2:30. They had a big catering job, and I didn't blame them since business wasn't exactly hopping. It was unfortunate that I was the only customer after having just left Cooper's a few blocks away which was still packed wall to wall with patrons. The menu was also sparse since everything was gone except a few slices of brisket and sausage.<br><br><a href=""><img src="" alt="" border="0"></a><br><br>The brisket was very similar to what I'd just eaten at Cooper's, which I later learned was due to the similar cooking method. Pitmaster Kenneth Laird once worked at Cooper's and his pit also uses direct heat from mesquite coals rather then indirect smoke. The rub has a high salt content, but is not overpowering. The meat could have been a bit more tender, but it was still moist and flavorful. The ribs I liked so well last time were not available so I went for the only other option which was sausage. I think it had been removed form the pit a bit soon since it was in need of some smoke, but the meat was well seasoned with just a hint of spice.<br><br><a href=""><img src="" alt="" border="0"></a><br><br>Out back, Kenneth showed me the pits and the firebox where the mesquite is cooked down to coals. He's a man of few words, so it was a mostly self guided tour, but he was happy to let me take photos of the whole operation. I'll make sure to make it back earlier next time so I can grab one of those ribs.<br><br>Rating ****<br><span><br>2006: Laird's has a steady church crowd on Sunday's, and they're packing them in for a reason. The smoker is right outside the door in order to wet your appetite with the smoke dancing on the breeze. The large spare ribs had a slight reddish crust which led to expectations of little flavor. Instead the tender meat and perfectly rendered fat were packed with deep smoke flavor. As my teeth teased the meat off the bone, I realized that it was a near perfect rib. Then I got to the brisket. These slices of meat also had little crust to speak of, but the smoke was incredibly intense. The pull-apart tender beef had excellent flavor throughout with a small strip of flavorful fat at the edge. Next time you're in Llano, detour from the famous place down the road, and stop in here for a deep breath of smoky air.<br><br><a href=""><img alt="Laird's Barbeque & Catering on Urbanspoon" src=""></a><br></span>

I have to say that I love Saveur‘s all-Texas issue. They managed to hit the high points and get in some things I had never heard of! Plus, the photography is gorgeous. It’s a keepsake issue. Click on the box “24 Reasons Why We Love Texas” when it comes around on their home page. (Full disclosure: I’m biased because I wrote a barbecue story for the issue, but a lot of Texas folks contributed as well. It is the June-July issue and it is on newsstands now.)