When traveling to the Hill County you should drift over to Driftwood, a small dot along Market Road 150, twenty-four miles southwest of downtown Austin, twenty-five miles north of San Marcos, but pretty darn close to heaven.
Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, is where you catch FM 967 eastward to Driftwood; a 20 mile saunter to a town of 144, visited by thousands each week who eat at Salt Lick BBQ near the intersection of 967 and highway 1826.
The popularity of the Lick is due in large part to non-aficionados thinking its BBQ is the best they ever tasted. After all, Bobbly Flay, of Food Network fame, said it was. However, it didn’t make Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbeque Joints in Texas in 2017, but Harris BBQ in Waxahachie did.
You enter the sprawling dining hall past a huge, open air fire pit where the aroma of oak fired smoking meat makes you favor the flavor before your first bite. The back ribs of beef are big, juicy and sweet and considered the best of the barbeque choices. The cobbler dessert may be the best in Texas.
From the live music, picnic table seating and lively atmosphere, Salt Lick is fun. It does not accept credit cards, but they do have an on-site ATM.
There are plenty of vineyards throughout the Hill County. In fact, there is one adjacent to Salt Lick. But Driftwood Estate Winery, about 7 miles away from the restaurant is noteworthy. From the Lick, go west on 1826 about a mile and hook a left onto Market Road 150. About another mile is Elder Hill Road (Market Road 170), a winding, beautiful drive of another five miles to the winery.
After driving up a steep gravel road you arrive at the splendid tasting room of Driftwood Estates. High atop a bluff, sitting below stately oaks, you can gaze down the valley to the vineyards and sip the vintage of the grapevines below. The wine is outstanding. The views and beauty are unforgettable.
Remarkably, one of the best Italian restaurants in Texas is only 15 minutes away. Retrace your drive by taking a right back onto Elder Hill Road to Market Road 150. Take another right (south) and 1.8 miles further, on the left, are the gates to Trattoria Lisina located on the Mandola estate.
After going a short along a sizeable vineyard you will arrive at the restaurant reminiscent of a beautiful country manor in Tuscany. The grounds and gardens are shaded by age old oaks and a cobbled pathway leads you to a separate winery and tasting room.
The menu invites you to linger and enjoy fine foods and wines. The extensive appetizer choices range from Mama’s Meatballs (a combination of veal, beef and pork) to a antipasti of meats, vegetables and cheeses. They also offer a good selection of soups, salads and pizzas.
The entrees are memorable meals. Osso buco, pan roasted Bandera quail, grilled Colorado lamb, beef tenderloin finished with Gorgonzola butter, several pasta selections and other dishes make this out of the way restaurant a must visit. And, save room for dessert from a wide selection of gelatie to Tiramisu.
Trattoria Lisina is opened every day for supper (except Mondays) and for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are recommended. Driftwood is only 30 minutes from Austin or San Marcos and a tad over an hour’s drive to San Antonio, but it is well worth the visit, if you get my drift.