Central Texas BBQ Dynasties

What Becomes a Legend Most?

The Coopers

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q

In Mason, S. Hwy. 87, 915/347-6897

Daily, 7:30am-5:30pm

Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q

In Llano, 604 W. Young (W. Hwy. 71), 915/247-5713

Daily, 10am-8pm

Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q

In Round Rock, 403 N. Mays, 255-5638

Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-8pm

Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q

In Junction, 2423 N. Main, 915/446-8664

Daily, 10:30am-9pm

The Cooper name is synonymous with barbecue in the Texas Hill Country, and the dynasty started in George T. Cooper's backyard pit in Mason. In 1953, Cooper decided to turn his hobby into a successful business. He purchased an already operating concern for $160, forked over $10 for rent every month, and fired up his family's future over mesquite coals. George operated Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason for 29 years, and the restaurant has thrived under the ownership of Duard Dockal since Cooper's retirement. George and Viletha Cooper raised three sons who all learned the family business working with the master. "He started me out working when I was about 12 and taught me the whole operation," recalls youngest son Gary Cooper, the owner of Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q in Round Rock since 1985. "He also shared recipes and techniques with guys outside the family who wanted to start up a business."

Oldest son Tommy Cooper was the first to strike out on his own, opening Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q in Llano in 1964. Deer hunters spread the word about the great barbecue at Cooper's in Llano, and, it gained statewide and national acclaim for its impressive outdoor pit and no-frills cinderblock building full of picnic tables. After Tommy Cooper's death in 1979, the restaurant was operated by Kenneth Laird (now owner of Laird's BBQ in Llano) for several years and eventually purchased by current owner Terry Wooten in the mid-Eighties. Under Wooten's stewardship, it remains the most famous of all the Cooper's outlets. Another generation of Cooper's has recently stepped up to the pit to make the old man proud. Middle brother Roy Cooper and his son Mark are the proud owners of the newest Cooper's, smokin' on I-10 in Junction since August of 1999.

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