In Texas, barbecue shrines serve as sanctuary and site of ceremony. At The Salt Lick in Driftwood, about 20 miles southwest of Austin, couples who meet in the restaurant sometimes return to wed. On a mellow afternoon last April, underneath tall pecan trees beside a creek, Matthew Ronshausen married Alisha Bronikowsky in a smoke-scented ceremony.
In Huntsville, diners gather near New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue where parishioners cook and serve brisket, chicken, and ribs. Some devotees call it the "Church of the Immaculate Barbeque."
African Americans, Anglos, Germans, and Mexicans have tossed their flavors onto the grills and pits of Texas. German smoked sausages (often in hot links) and Mexican cabrito (goat) join chicken, pork ribs, slaw, beans, and potato salad on plates. Beef brisket stars, however, with a sweet, hot sauce (properly served on the side) in a color between Texas burnt orange and Aggie maroon.
Some barbecue legends have as much cachet as historic Texas ranches, including Angelo's Barbecue in Fort Worth and Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse in Dallas. Many devotees in the Metroplex also love Fort Worth's Railhead Smokehouse BBQ.
Texans think nothing of driving hours to eat. They journey to Joe Allen's Pit Bar-B-Que in Abilene and regularly travel to Llano or Lockhart, both towns with barbecue landmarks.
At Cooper's Bar-B-Que in Llano, diners select their meat right off the pit. In Lockhart, the venerable Kreuz Market, now in a new location, still offers beef and links on butcher paper and still refuses to serve sauce. "We like the taste of the meat and don't want to cover it up," says owner Rick Schmidt. Near the courthouse, the equally respected Black's Barbecue, in the same family since 1932, cooks with fuel from the belt of large post oak trees girdling the town.
Others drive northeast to Taylor, hoping the American flag flies outside Louie Mueller's Barbecue. That means Bobby and Trish Mueller still have meat in the pits, which are located inside the restaurant.