Ronnie's BBQ in Johnson City, Texas

A chopped brisket sandwich paired with potato salad at Ronnie’s BBQ in Johnson City. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Barbecue is not just a meal, it’s a way of life. Like the rest of Texas, the Highland Lakes takes its smoked meat seriously, and you can taste the passion in every bite at “BBQ” stops across the area.

The key to mouthwatering barbecue is time. Pits fire up in the early morning hours to slow-cook choice cuts of meat over native woods such as mesquite and oak. It’s an art form passed on through generations. 

Whether you prefer juicy beef brisket, tender pulled pork, fall-off-the-bone ribs, or spicy sausage, the Highland Lakes has you covered. The following list is only a sampling of savory options available in the area.

WINGMAN BROTHERS SMOKE HOUSE

2407 U.S. 281 North in Marble Falls; 830-693-6531

Wingman Brothers Smoke House in Marble Falls, Texas
Sliced turkey with pickles and onions at Wingman Brothers Smoke House in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

This family-owned restaurant follows the barbecue basics to achieve fantastic taste and tender results. Its meats are cooked low and slow with time-honored techniques.

Meat options include brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey breast, chopped beef, sausage (regular or jalapeño cheese), pork steak, and chicken. Staples such as potato salad, fire-roasted creamed corn, and pinto beans make up the side offerings.

RONNIE’S BBQ

211 U.S. 281 in Johnson City; 830-267-9110

Opened in 1976 as Ronnie’s Grocery, the store added barbecue to its snack selection in 1985, making it an instant hit among locals and tourists alike. The restaurant hasn’t forgotten its roots: Pitmasters continue the cooking techniques passed down from founder Ronnie Weirshausen’s father.

The hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves hungry patrons sandwiches, meat plates, and all the usual Texas barbecue sides. It also gets creative with limited-time specials such as a Chicago-style loaded spud, brisket macaroni and cheese, and turkey pimento sandwiches.

OPIE’S BARBECUE

9504 Texas 71 in Spicewood; 830-693-8660

Opies Barbecue in Spicewood, Texas
A half-rack of Opie’s famous baby back ribs. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

When you walk into Opie’s, you’re immediately greeted by a 12-foot-long smoker and the scent of Texas barbecue bliss. With top-shelf meats, including prime rib and all-pork jalapeño sausage, it’s easy to understand why Opie’s has been a Spicewood staple since 1999.

Do yourself a favor and order the baby-back ribs for a candied yet tender lunch. Pair it with the house-made tater tot casserole for a sweet and savory sensation that’ll most definitely convince you to return.

HOLY SMOKES! BAR-B-QUE

2704A Commerce St. in Marble Falls; 830-201-4145

Holy Smokes! Bar-B-Que in Marble Falls, Texas
The famous triple-decker San Antonio Sandwich at Holy Smokes BBQ in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Hidden off of U.S. 281, Holy Smokes’ award-winning meats make it one of the top spots for barbecue buffs in Marble Falls. Owners Mary Ann and Randy Mayville have the barbecue bonafides gained from competition victories to back up their highly regarded status among local foodies.

The intimate restaurant serves meat plates as well as a litany of interesting barbecue-centric salads and potatoes — perfect for all palates! 

Among its most creative offerings is the San Antonio sandwich, a triple-decker grilled cheese monstrosity with American, cheddar, and nacho cheeses, a scoop of macaroni and cheese, pickles, grilled onions, jalapeños, a drizzle of sweet barbecue sauce, and, of course, brisket.

WAREHOUSE BBQ AND MEETERY

305 N. Water St. (U.S. 281) in Burnet; 512-588-6068

The Warehouse BBQ and Meetery in Burnet, Texas
An audacious baked potato with chopped brisket topped with cheese, butter, and sour cream at Warehouse BBQ and Meetery in Burnet. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, Warehouse BBQ and Meetery has become a local gem since opening in 2022. Lines of hungry locals and travelers often extend into the parking lot. The restaurant’s name is a homage to the building’s origins as a 1940s Coca-Cola warehouse.

To get the Meetery’s full flavor profile, order the Texas-size loaded potato, which comes with your choice of meat and butter, sour cream, barbecue sauce, and cheese. The restaurant’s meat plates, ribs, and Kickin’ Brisket Frito Pie are also popular picks.

SPYKE’S BAR-B-QUE

14601 RR 1431 West in Kingsland; 325-388-6996

Spyke's Bar-B-Que in Kingsland, Texas
A Texas classic Frito pie with chopped brisket at Spyke’s Bar-B-Que in Kingsland. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Family-operated since 2005, the self-described “hole in the wall” is committed to serving tasty food in a homey atmosphere. Popular orders include brisket, ribs, and sausage. True Texans are bound to enjoy William’s Special, a Frito pie with chopped brisket. Order a side of corn on the cob and finish off your meal with a cup of banana pudding or a piece of blackberry cobbler for the full experience.

INMAN’S BBQ

809 W. Young St. in Llano; 325-247-5257

Inman's BBQ in Llano, Texas
A quarter-pound of Inman’s famous turkey sausage. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

Brothers Francis and Lester Inman started selling turkey sausage — a family recipe — from a catering wagon outside an Exxon station in Llano during the early 1960s. After establishing a spot in Marble Falls (which later closed), Lester opened a second barbecue joint in Llano with Myrtle Oestreich in 1967.

More than 55 years later, Inman’s continues to serve its delicious turkey sausage along with tons of other meats to hundreds of diners daily. Sides such, as the potato salad, and sweets, including homemade pies, are what make Inman’s one of the ultimate stops on the Highland Lakes barbecue trail.

(Inman’s reopened a second barbecue restaurant in Marble Falls in 2023 at 707 Sixth St.)

COOPER’S OLD TIME PIT BAR-B-QUE

604 W. Young St. in Llano; 817-626-6464

Few BBQ spots in the Highland Lakes match the history and authenticity of Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, which opened in 1962. Your tastebuds will surely recognize the time-tested traditions that live on here. 

Make sure to order the brisket when you walk through the outdoor meat line. It’s up to you whether you want it extra saucy or would rather enjoy the pure taste of a perfectly cooked brisket. Once inside, you can’t go wrong with the sides. Green beans and jalapeño bacon macaroni and cheese are some of the top sellers.

UNCLE ARNOLD’S BBQ

At Wakepoint LBJ, 13757 RR 1431 in Kingsland; 325-484-4448

This place epitomizes how regional barbecue cooking techniques can be passed down through the generations. Pitmaster Arnold Blomdahl got his start with the Texas staple by taste tasting some of the best barbecue available in Austin in the 1960s as a child. After learning the trade and running a successful restaurant for multiple years in north Austin, Blomdahl retired for several years before he was recruited to start Uncle Arnold’s BBQ at Wakepoint LBJ in 2018. UAQ is a top stop on the Highland Lakes barbecue trail. It offers a no-frills menu with brisket, ribs, chicken, and sausage and just two sides: beans or potato salad.

TRUE TEXAS BBQ

Inside H-E-B, 1503 RR 1431 West in Marble Falls; 830-220-5192

True Texas BBQ at H-E-B in Marble Falls, Texas
The loaded cornbread with green onions, jalapeños, cheese, and chopped brisket at True Texas BBQ inside the Marble Falls H-E-B. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

One of only 18 True Texas BBQs in the state, the H-E-B in-house barbecue joint has become a fan favorite among Marble Falls residents since starting its smoker in August 2022. It’s the perfect place to get hit your smoky fix on a Saturday afternoon or after a trip to the grocery store. Popular orders include barbecue brisket nachos and loaded cornbread.

nathan@thepicayune.com

Nathan Bush
Author: Nathan Bush