|Opie's Barbecue in Spicewood had been on the "must visit" list for a while. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
The timing could have been better for my first visit to Opie's Barbecue in Spicewood. I was following a hungry Easter crowd, arriving at 2 p.m. and there wasn't a lot of meat left in the large black warming pit that greets you as you walk in the front door.
This joint has been on the Posse's "must visit" list for a while, but unfortunately Spicewood is a little off the beaten path. They've been named a Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joint twice, in 2003 and 2008, despite only opening for business in 1999. Not to mention that I've never heard a negative comment about Opie's.
And that's rare in the highly emotional and opinionated world of Texas barbecue.
I started my Easter adventure at La Barbecue "Cusine Texicana" in Austin around noon. This was another joint at the very top of our list to visit. La Barbecue is the renamed trailer operation started by John Mueller in 2011 and now led by John Lewis, former pitmaster at Franklin BBQ.
That was an amazing way to start the day, but more on La BBQ in our next blog post.
After spending a little more than hour eating, shooting photos and visiting with John, I headed north to Spicewood on Hwy. 71, about 40 miles away near Marble Falls at the very top of Lake Travis.
|Customers queue up at the warming pit inside Opie's BBQ. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
Once inside the door, I knew I was in trouble. The huddled masses had been extremely hungry for Easter lunch. They were out of ribs and brisket, so I settled on pork tenderloin and jalapeño and cheese sausage. I found a family who had gotten the last of the ribs, turkey with sausage mixed in, so I politely asked them if I could shoot a photo of their meat spread. They kindly obliged before digging into their lunch.
It' hard to judge a joint on tenderloin and sausage, but I can report both were very good. I took advantage of the warm vinegar-based BBQ sauce to add some flavor to the tenderloin. I'm not a big sauce guy, but this was some of the best I've tasted along the Texas BBQ trail.
I also got a side of the tater tot casserole, which may be one of the most unique sides you'll ever get at a BBQ restaurant. It reminded me of my grandmother's homemade green bean casserole with tater tots added in, an awesome mix of flavors from my childhood in east Texas.
|Here's the meat order of a family who got the last of the ribs and turkey. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
I asked Posse member Bryan Gooding to help me fill in the blanks on Opie's. He and fellow Posse member R.J. Hinkle travel around the state frequently and have hit the great majority of Texas Monthly's Top 50 BBQ list. They were impressed, despite missing out on the ribs, and shared these observations.
"We also got there late and all they had left was brisket and sausage. The brisket had a nice spicy rub, good smoke ring and good cookie crust - not dry overcooked but juicy with excellent rendering. It showed they know how to do it," Bryan writes.
"The sausage was special, not a manufactured off-the-shelf link, with nice snap and a good heat from the jalapeño. The people working there were very nice and talkative. We were a little put off by the big dining area and sort of commercial look, but they pulled it off."
We look forward to getting back to Opie's soon. After visiting last Sunday with pitmaster and owner Todd Ashmore, I realized instantly that this guy is serious Posse material. He believes in true Texas BBQ, cooked low and slow over mesquite wood, the real Texas way. He left a successful career in medical supply sales to start Opie's in 1999, turning his hobby of visiting the best in Texas BBQ joints into a profession.
Todd, you are living the dream. We can't wait to visit Opie's again soon.
Opie's Barbecue, 9504 E. Texas Hwy. 71, Spicewood, 830-693-8660. Open Mon-Tues 11am-4pm, Wed-Sun 11am-7pm.
|The choices were few by 2pm on Easter, mainly pork tenderloin, sausage and chicken. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)|
|A family enjoys Easter lunch at Opie's. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
|Opie's pitmaster and owner Todd Ashmore works the counter on Easter. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
|Diners enter Opie's Barbecue in Spicewood. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|