Great Barbecues of Texas: Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q in Llano

A hunter in full regalia waits by the pit to select his 'cue at Cooper's.

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q in Llano, Texas is quite different than the famous barbecues located east of Austin in black-dirt farming country. For one thing, it's west of Austin in the fabled Hill Country, a land of almost-mountains and rolling hills dotted with mesquite and scrub oak, ranching country rather than farming country.

A boisterous line of hunters, townies, University of Texas students, and barbecue tourists forms outside.

Founded in 1855 on the Llano River, the town of Llano was prey to Indian raids in the early years. The Indians apparently rode into town and stole everyone's clothes. "Llano" means "plains" in Spanish, even though the terrain surrounding the town is extremely rugged. Llano underwent a boom time around 1886, when the Wakefield Iron and Coal Company, a Minneapolis concern, busted into town after magnetic iron ore was found in the vicinity, and a fledgling iron industry was developed. (It went bust when no coal was found in the vicinity to feed the smelters.) Soon thereafter, a granite boom developed.

Cooper's is George W. Bush's favorite barbecue, but don't let that deter you from enjoying their brisket or pork chops, done over a pile of mesquite coals in a series of open pits outside the restaurant. This technique is sometimes known as "cowboy barbecue."

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