Barbecue can be difficult to navigate for people with food allergies. With sauces, rubs, spices, and meats that are all at risk for hidden gluten (or other allergens), I have had limited luck in finding safe BBQ.
When walking around Penn Quarter, Hill Country Barbecue Market caught my eye because they always seem to be busy. I did some research, which suggested that they were pretty gluten-free friendly, so decided to check them out for lunch.
Hill Country Barbecue Market prides itself on serving Central Texas-style barbecue, complete with a full smokehouse in the restaurant. Promising succulent meats, hearty sides, and uncompromising flavor, I was eager to see if they would live up to recently earning the “Best BBQ” crown from The Washington Post.
After consulting with their gluten-free/allergen menu (see that in full here), I was impressed that most of Hill Country’s offerings are both gluten and dairy-free. All of the meats except for the jalapeño/cheddar sausage and beer can game hen (discontinued), are safe on both a gluten and dairy standpoint.
Since it was my first time visiting Hill Country, I decided to get a sampler of many different items to get a feel for the food. I ordered the market chicken, deviled eggs, pickles, jalapeños, and cucumber salad.
I don’t normally go for bone-in chicken, especially the limbs (wings and thighs), but the market chicken totally won me over. The meat with succulent, tender, and juicy, with a distinct smoked flavor and delicious seasoning that had complexity but wasn’t overpowering. Unashamedly, I picked the chicken to the bone trying to eat every delicious morsel.
The vegetable sides I ordered were the cucumber salad, jalapeños, and pickles. The pickles and jalapeños were flavorful, the latter packing a lot of heat with each bite. They weren’t overly impressive, but that’s okay because I came to Hill Country for the meat, not the toppings.
The cucumber salad featured biting red onions in a white vinegar, which had a cooling effect after eating the jalapeños. If I could order over again, I would’ve skipped the pickles/jalapeños and ordered a larger size of the salad because it was by far the best vegetable side.
Added to the mix was Hill Country’s deviled eggs. They were cooked perfectly, with a firm egg white shell holding the creamy yolk filling. I hate making deviled eggs so it was a treat to be able to enjoy them pre-made.
I was surprised by how much I liked Hill Country Barbecue Market. While I expected a few items to be safe, it was a treat to be able to have so much to choose from and sample. I will definitely be back when I need my BBQ fix, and look forward to my next chance to get this hearty, authentic fare. Prices are a bit high, but in that neighborhood in town you won’t find many places that can compare quality-wise with Hill Country.