Memorable | One of the Best
Opie’s BBQ | A Hill Country Best | Spicewood, Texas
Review by: Jane Kellogg Murray
Texas West of Austin
If you are looking for Texas BBQ that is a Hill Country Best, head due west from Austin. In the small town of Spicewood (population 8000), a familiar scent permeates the air: smoky barbecue. Austin’s culture constantly evolves as more and more people move in from New York and San Francisco. But out here, where few property owners live on less than an acre of land, a no-frills attitude comes with the territory.
Opie’s exemplifies the Texan attitude for which people drive miles away from the metropolis. The first thing visitors see when they walk in the door is a handwritten sign taped on the window: “Butterbeans are DINE IN ONLY. No whining, crying or exceptions. Thank you!”
You can eat here every day from 11 a.m. until suppertime. (4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday). Warning, though: When they sell out of BBQ, they close. We learned the hard way that they start to run out of their best cuts by early afternoon. Some days, the pitmaster’s job of predicting how much meat is the right amount to put on the smoker the night before presents more of a challenge than being a meteorologist tasked with predicting Texas’s fickle weather.
Diners pick their fill right off the warming pit near the front door. We ordered a round of the most popular items: brisket, jalapeno-cheddar sausage, sweet-and-spicy baby back ribs, and a slew of sides. All meals come with an open buffet of trimmings: pickles, bread, onions, peppers, and BBQ sauce. Plus, the infamous butterbeans make an appearance Friday and Sunday. (I’ve been told that the after-church crowd demanded the latter.) Everything comes on a sheet of butcher paper — a true sign of a good barbecue joint. Pitmaster Seth Glaser, son-in-law of owners Todd and Kristin Ashmore, smokes the brisket with mesquite. It’s a Texas Hill Country best. The overnight process results in a near-perfect smoke ring with a noticeably smoky flavor. Sure, you can smother it in Opie’s housemade barbecue sauce. But it’s so moist that our group felt it tastes best straight up.
Sweet, spicy sauce glazes baby back ribs. Their meat literally falls off the bone. Jalapeno-cheddar sausage had me wishing we had ordered more. They make it in the classic German style. That means that beef outweighs the pork fat. To this, they add the Texas two-step of spicy peppers and cheese.
Beyond The Beef
For the sides, we followed Opie’s advice and ordered both cheesy tater tot casserole and spicy corn. The corn was so addicting it practically sent us over the edge. It bears little resemblance to the creamed corn often found at other BBQ joints. Opie’s makes it thinner, almost soup-like, with just the right amount of kick.
We saved only enough room for one shared dessert. So we opted for the signature dish: banana pudding. They serve that only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The menu says it’s “seasonal,” the season being March through August). They make the banana pudding with homemade shortbread cookies as opposed to store-bought Nilla wafers. I won’t even bother explaining how incredible it tasted. Just like Opie’s barbecue, no words can truly do it justice. It’s a Hill Country best.
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