Greetings! This post combines the first two days of our trip to Texas. We ate some great food, and visited the hill country near Lake Travis.
Thursday morning, we picked up Trevor, drove to the CLT airport, and made our way through security. Just after arriving at our gate, we promptly got a notification our flight was delayed. So, we settled in with a bagel, and finally boarded our plane about 40 minutes later than scheduled. We managed to flag down a man with a golf cart to chauffeur us through most of the Houston airport, then we took a shuttle to the rental car garage.
We immediately headed into Houston to get some Texas barbecue at Pinkerton’s Texas Pit Barbecue, a spot in Houston Heights. We split an outstanding meal consisting of prime brisket, smoked turkey, glazed pork ribs, beans, bacon mac & cheese, and smoked duck and sausage jambalaya. Most Texas barbecue is served with white bread, pickles, and onions, and this was no exception. All the food was excellent, particularly the brisket and turkey. We barely polished it off, and took some blueberry cobbler to-go to enjoy later.
Pinkerton's Texas Pit Barbecue
Our first barbecue stop was a quintessential Texas barbecue joint – flavorful food with a rustic atmosphere. Pinkerton’s has some unique items on the menu, and the traditional favorites are delicious.
Leaving Houston, we got on US-290 and headed NW to Lexington, our home for the next three nights. On the way, we spotted a Buc-ee’s on the side of the highway (it was impossible to miss), so we decided we’d stop and see what all the fuss is about.
I really don’t have adequate words to describe it. If you can imagine elements of a Tractor Supply, Bass Pro Shop, Hobby Lobby, the grocery store deli from a giant Ingles, and a convenience store all merged together, you’ve got a pretty good idea. It’s enormous, with hundreds of gas pumps, and endless snack options. We got some of their fresh roasted candied pecans and cashews, and hit the road again.
We arrived in Lexington right at sunset and checked into our Airbnb, a small old ranch house that had been recently renovated. We settled in for the evening, watched a movie, and headed to bed.
The next morning, we woke up around 07:30 and had some scones for breakfast. Our host had provided some from a local baker, and they were most excellent. After breakfast, we hopped in the car and headed towards Austin, which is about an hour drive from our Airbnb.
Arriving in Austin around 11:30, we headed to Vaquero Taquero for an early lunch. It’s an interesting spot for a restaurant; you basically order at a side window on a convenience store, and then eat under tables next to the side of the building.
We got a variety of tacos to try (seven between the three of us), including trompo al pastor (flame-seared marinated pork with cilantro, onion, salsa verde, fresh avocado cream, and pineapple slices); tinga de pollo (chipotle marinated shredded chicken dressed with cilantro, purple limed-onions, and crema); bistec (brined strip loin steak with cilantro, onion, roasted salsa roja, and fresh avocado cream); nopales (sautéed cactus (salsa macha), onions, and corn); and bacon, egg, & cheese (crispy chopped bacon and Costra de Queso (melted & crispy cheese) scrambled with eggs). The food was stellar. We couldn’t quite finish everything – they were huge tacos. The tortillas, both corn and flour, were homemade and incredibly fresh and soft. I regret not trying their quesadillas, because they looked amazing – they browned the cheese on the flattop until it was crispy.
One wouldn’t normally expect great food out of the side of a convenience store, but maybe one should. The tacos here are excellent, and I’ll definitely be coming back for breakfast and/or lunch if I’m in the area.
After lunch, we drove a couple blocks south toward the University of Texas campus, and rode around to see the sights, namely the bell tower and Texas Memorial Stadium. We drove by the Texas State Capitol, and then headed to Trader Joe’s to purchase sunscreen in preparation for our inevitable baking the next day. We walked/hobbled down to part of the riverwalk the next block over, and then headed back to the car.
To kill some time and enjoy the scenery, we drove out to the hill country by Lake Travis, and visited Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. We drove around to a couple viewpoints, but quickly continued on our way since it was miserably hot.
The Salt Lick
For dinner, we headed to the southwest of Austin to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX. It’s a huge venue, similar to Sim’s Country BBQ, if you’ve ever been there. The seating is all picnic tables, and you can bring your own cooler and chairs and hang out for the evening. They cook everything over an open pit in the entryway. We got a smoked sausage, one beef rib, two bison ribs, brisket, potato salad, beans, and slaw (they only have three sides). They have a unique style of barbecue, which is caramelized with a slightly spicy sauce. The ribs are tender, but nicely charred and sticky instead of ultra-tender. Everything was excellent, but the sausage and potato salad were especially good.
On the way back to the house, we stopped at Amy’s Ice Creams to get a scoop or two. Their specialties are Mexican Vanilla (vanilla beans crossbred with orchids) and Dark Belgian Chocolate. We tried both of these, and both were very good, but we didn’t feel like it was a good value for the money. The portions were skimpy and prices were quite high, even if the portions hadn’t been skimpy. We returned to the house right at sunset, and watched a movie while I iced my ankle. For a late night snack, we ate the blueberry cobbler from Pinkerton’s, which was extraordinary. We wished we’d gotten a serving each instead of splitting one three ways.