Happy Birthday, County Line
On June 14, 1973, a group of young Texans brought together by family and friendship, a willingness to take chances, and the love of good barbecue, formed a partnership. They found an old cedar chopper's road house on a hill just off Bee Caves Road and re-imagined it as a barbecue restaurant. The County Line dynasty was born.
The young pioneers didn't stay with the Central Texas meat market model or go for the barbecue cafeteria style made popular in the Fifties and Sixties. They created a comfortable restaurant in a rustic, rural setting with tablecloths and linen napkins. They started out making all the menu items in-house, fresh every day, everything from white bread to sides to homemade ice cream for dessert, and still hold to that model today. They also offered a full bar (made possible when liquor by the drink became legal two years earlier) and a patio with a stunning view of the sunset. Austinites embraced the County Line on the Hill (6500 Bee Caves Road) and the partners eventually added a second outlet on another winding country road, re-purposed from an old creek-side honky-tonk. It's now known as County Line on the Lake (5204 RR 2222)
The young men were brothers Rick, Randy, and Rocky Goss and their business partners Ed Norton, Bruce Walcutt, and Don "Skeeter" Miller. The company they founded in 1973 has now grown into a successful chain of seven outlets in four cities and also includes a busy mail-order barbecue business, Air Ribs. The County Line may not be the darling of the current trend-and-list obsessed cult of personality that has grown up around the barbecue business in the past few years, but perhaps their laudable accomplishments can be viewed from a different perspective. Any restaurant that is well-managed enough to survive for multiple decades, offering the public a consistent dining experience, providing jobs for thousands of young people over the years, and supporting the community through charitable work, deserves our congratulations.
The untimely deaths of all three Goss brothers and Bruce Walcutt have left Norton and Miller as the two men carrying the torch, or perhaps gargantuan smoked beef rib would be a more appropriate image in their case, into the future. One of the ways "Skeeter" Miller is doing that is with a guest appearance on a segment of Destination America's BBQ Pitmasters called "Everything is Beefier in Texas" this weekend. The segment was shot at Rodeo Austin barbecue competition earlier this spring and features competitors Glenn Gross, Garry Roark, and Michael Character preparing beef ribs and beef shoulder clod in hopes of being named a Kingsford BBQ Pitmaster Grand Champion. Miller will offer expert commentary on cooking Texas beef. After selling barbecue in Texas for 38 years, he's entitled,
BBQ Pitmasters on Destination America
Sunday, June 16 8:00pm CST