In the small town of Driftwood, 25 miles southwest of Austin, The Salt Lick has been turning out barbeque the Roberts Family way since 1962.
Originally nothing more than a roadside stand, The Salt Lick has blossomed from a tiny eatery to a full-fledged restaurant that draws more than 650,000 people per year. Locals and visitors kid that you don’t even need directions – just follow the smell of the smoke from the ancient stone barbeque pit that dominates the kitchen and perfumes the air for miles in all directions.
Scott Roberts and his family may have opened the restaurant in 1962 but their Driftwood Texas roots run much deeper. Originally a cotton field, the Roberts family has owned the land that is home to The Salt Lick since 1902. When Scott’s father and mother returned to the United States after World War II, they came home to Driftwood with Scott’s father traveling across the state as a bridge builder.
Wanting to find a way to stay in Driftwood, the family created a list of 54 things that they could do to make money in their hometown. The restaurant was #14 on the list. Thankfully for everyone, the family decided to give the restaurant business a try.
Using stones native to the farm, they built a wood fire pit near the side of the road and began slinging barbeque and traditional sides like coleslaw and potato salad to the motorists lucky enough to find themselves passing through. As demand grew, they returned to the field, gathered more rocks and began building walls around the pit.
“…you don’t even need directions – just follow the smell of the smoke…”
The first restaurant seated only 12 people, had no electricity or running water; in fact there were not restrooms at the restaurant for more than five years. As Scott’s father, Thurman would tell patrons “I have 1,000 oak trees; you can help yourself to any one”.
And although the restaurant has grown significantly – they can accommodate up to 800 guests at a time – the Roberts Family stays true to what they know. They have used the same recipes and cooking technique for all of their meats and still grill the food and prepare the fixins “on demand” for eager (and hungry) guests.
The Roberts family can trace their roots back to “The Old Three Hundred,” the first settlers to receive land grants for Stephen J. Austin’s first colony in Texas, settling in Driftwood between 1850 and 1880.