Should this NYC-boy-turned-Hill-Country-transplant ask, “What is the best BBQ in Texas?” the answer lies only 32 miles away from me, in Sisterdale.
(Google notes the address as “Boerne;” it’s physically next to Sisterdale. Here, too, is a previous review along with other area restaurants.)
I live in Kerrville, and the drive is shorter than I thought. Shorter, in fact, than you’d think if you were to leave from San Antonio or even Austin. Because either way, you can take a scenic route and forget about time.
There are ways to tell someone where things are — a 50-minute drive up I-10 if you’re leaving from the River Walk, if you absolutely have to “save time” — and there are ways to suggest how someone might get there.
Let me do you a favor and tell you “how to get there.”
For the good of your soul, take an extra 16 minutes and go to Blackboard by way of Comfort. This will take you along FM 473. You’ll thank me.
Better yet, leave in the morning and go to Comfort for a little antiquing. In fact, because Blackboard is open currently only Friday through Sunday starting at 12N, here’s an itinerary for you:
(Optional side trip: Ladies only)
It starts with every woman’s delight and every man’s purgatory, but at least there are chairs for us guys to sit in and ponder a meal.
- Drive to Comfort to arrive by about 9:30am.
- Antique around and fill up that GMC with awesome things.
- Consider spending some time at The 8th Street Market. It will consume about an hour or more just to walk around and get a feel.
- Then, for an early lunch, go to Comfort Pizza for the most intriguing take you’ve ever had on this classic that starts with “peetz–” and ends with “–ahhhhh.”
- Walk around Comfort some more — gentlemen, find some more chairs; there are rocking chairs in front of the Hotel Giles just a few steps away on High Street.
- THEN, and only then, once you’ve got some room, go to Blackboard.
Hours and queue
This next step applies if you are arriving at Blackboard just before they open at Noon, not so important for dinner on Friday night, which would come at the end of your Comfort trip above. But this would apply especially if it’s a Saturday or Sunday.
- Friday — 12N – 9pm
- Saturday — 12N – 7pm
- Sunday — 12N – 4pm
The gates open at Noon.
The gates open at Noon.
That’s intentionally repeated for two reasons.
- Along Sisterdale Road near the restaurant there is no parking and few places to stop. So if you arrive early, you have to either go to the cellphone lot in Sisterdale 200 yards north (just kidding, there’s not even much cellphone coverage in Sisterdale itself), or you have to park closer to the restaurant on the side of the road, which was under construction when I went most recently. (Which was today at Noon, and I am still stuffed. It is almost 8pm.)
- Given that people DO show up early, there is a queue. A “queue” is a fancy European word for “first-come-first-served” but has too many vowels and only one consonant, and a “q” at that, like it’s only a JV player and “g” has the letterman jacket.
And, my friends (and foes), this bottleneck can get downright ugly.
No, let’s not. This is America, after all, and this is Texas.
Furthermore, this is the Texas Hill Country, and this is Jack Gandolfo’s creation that we are all blessed by.
So, drive friendly, and eat friendly.
But this morning, we got there earlier than expected and first hovered in Sisterdale. Then I got nervous, so I drove south, just past the entrance and did a U-turn to get a clear view of the gates.
I was a good 50 yards away and, dear friends, that is TOO FAR AWAY FROM BLACKBOARD when there are hungry diners asking that all-too familiar question: “What is the best BBQ in Texas?!”
So first a black pickup arrives, hauling a trailer no less. Space reduced. Then a red something-or-other (fancy sedan from San Antonio) arrives, space reduced. Then another. So, that’s three cars lined up from the south, waiting.
So I decide to roll on out my spot and get in line.
The gates start to open slowly and we start to enter in an orderly fashion.
…(not) driving friendly
As we all start pulling in from the south, four vehicles — black pickup with trailer in the lead — in swoops a white Audi from the north. And I mean, this guy actually tried to cut off the freaking truck, who was first and had been there for 5-10 minutes. Really?!
So the truck went through, trailer in tow, and before red car from San Antonio went through, white Audi tried AGAIN!
And tried again before the third car, and this time he succeeded in cutting off that car and us.
My son has heard me cuss, but not with the creativity as I employed this morning.
A bit like OK Corral, and a bit not
By the time we got into the lot, white Audi man had parked to the left, black truck with freaking trailer man had pulled in, done a boss U-turn in a tight lot, and had skidded to a stop just shy of T-boning white Audi man.
My son said, “Quick, Dad, let’s park and get a table!”
I said, “Not so fast, let’s park over there where there’s more room.”
Let’s face it: I wanted to see what was going to go down in the lot.
We parked and walked toward the entrance. I looked sidewise. Black truck man, a big man, walked surprisingly calmly toward white Audi man. He was opening his mouth at white Audi man and sounds were being emitted with intensity. Then he got in his truck and screeched off, his trailer leaving dust at white Audi man. White Audi man didn’t come into the restaurant. In fact, in the end neither did.
Lesson learned: when you’re hungry, don’t be a dick and cut someone off. And when you’re hungry, control your anger so that dragging your trailer over to Sisterdale and parking in a tight lot ends up being worth it.
THE FOOD! That’s what this is all about, right?
Brisket will run you around $11 for a 1/2 pound. Other entrees are comparably priced.
Side dishes are amazing, if a little steep, at around $6 per.
Desserts are also out of this world.
There’s a solid beer selection, though my suggestion would be that they have at least one N/A beer for us non-drinkers who like that taste with our food or who have to drive home around crazed hungry white Audi men.
All food and drink is ordered at the cashier and served at the table. Everything comes out piping hot.
My son and I split a pound of brisket and a Wagyu beef burger. I forgot to order it well-done, which is my preference and which might have allowed me to compare apples to apples against other amazing burgers I’ve had in the area. We ordered his brisket lean, because that’s the way he likes it. Perfectly smoked with some great burnt edges. Even my burger’s jalapeño pepper garnish on top was worth gently picking off and crunching on.
The cream corn was especially hot (because of the liquid) and was topped with an appropriately conservative amount of diced jalapeño peppers and an appropriately liberal amount of flaky brussels sprouts leaves.
I also had a slaw that was made all the more refreshing by cilantro and what tasted and felt a bit like jicama, but check me on that.
We shared an order of “steak fries” but instead of the standard thick fries, these were thinner and, we agreed, better in that there was more crunch per bite. Shredded jack or cotija cheese covered them.
We skipped dessert, but my first time there included strawberry cheesecake crumble, kind of like a deconstructed version of the classic. Fantastic. Also featured in the photos above is the fried catfish. Also awesome.
So, “What is the best BBQ in Texas?”
Do yourself a favor, and regardless of how you arrived at Blackboard Bar BQ go home by driving north on Sisterdale Road and make your way over to Comfort. It is one the best of many wonderful car rides in the Hill Country.
You’ll enjoy such crossings as “First Coffee Hollow” and “Second Coffee Hollow” as well as pass by “The Cartoon Saloon.”
Outlaw country music on the playlist only, please. Keep the Nashville sound to a minimum.