4/4/13 6:03pm - Over the years I have always found an excuse to make Cooper's "on the way" to where ever I traveled. Always been a fan, but my friends and I all agree its just not as good as it used to be. Now I can back it up with a score.
I scored Coopers in Llano a 76 out of 100. This is Regional Texas Barbecue.
Texas Monthly has recorded its fall from glory too. Top 3 listing in 1997, top
50 in 2003 and 2008. I'm sure the lines that wrap around the building every
weekend will keep it in the top 50. Not wise to anger the TM subscribers.
Smoke: Mesquite. Stacks and stacks of the stuff. Pits are big and bold and in
plain site. No sissy gas rotisserie stuff here. Coopers smokes their meats
"Cowboy" style which means they use direct heat. Briskets are placed
directly over the coals much like the ground pits dug over half a century ago.
Yuh know, "back in the day" before sissy health inspectors ruined the
Brisket: Good. Barely an 1/8in smoke ring. A good sign these briskets are
cooked at a higher heat. "Low and slow" is not a requirement, there
are plenty of old timers that cook at high heat, however, the window of
opportunity to pull off a tender brisket shrinks with high heat. This brisket
was "dry of tender". I have this category but have yet to use it.
Brisket was slightly over cooked. Before I could finish, the slices were bone
dry. Smoke was intense and I got a burnt end (bonus!). Overall flavor suffered
due to the heavy salt rub. I love a good rub but this was too much. The salt
was overwhelming. No sauce needed at first but a must after your slices dry
out. A cold beer is must with that rub.
Ribs: Good. Nice rub. The rub reminded me of a black peppery jerky rub. Since I
like jerky flavor, I like these ribs. Nice smoke. Tough of tender. Flavor is
good and no sauce needed.
Sausage: Good. The sausage here just fills the void space on the menu. Nothing
special. Its good enough. Use the sauce.
Sauce: Fair. This sauce resembles more of a mop and not a sauce. Mops are
awesome for smoking barbecue but not so much for table sauce. Very thin, mostly
vinegar, lemon juice, drippings and spice for color and flavor. It did add some
life back to the dried out brisket slices.
Would I go back again? Of
course its Coopers and its a Texas barbecue legend.