Hisako Tsuchiyama Roberts, the co-founder of the Salt Lick in Driftwood, one of the most famous restaurants in Texas, died Thursday in Austin. She was 104.
A native of Lihue, Kauai, the child of Japanese parents met her future husband, Thurman Roberts, while the sailor was stationed with the Navy in Hawaii during World War II.
The couple married and returned to Roberts’ native Texas, eventually opening the now world-famous barbecue restaurant in Driftwood in 1967.
Tsuchiyama Roberts, who held a masters degree in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, dedicated her professional life in Texas to running the restaurant in the idyllic setting. She brought her flavors of her own culture to the smoked meat specialists, according to her son, Scott Roberts, who in his 2014 book “Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love,” wrote about his mother’s tempura frying of vegetables and shrimp for the menu along with her addition of poppy seeds to cole slaw and celery seeds to potato salad.
Following her husband Thurman’s death in 1981, Hisako Tsuchiyama Roberts operated the restaurant on her own until retirement in 1987, at which time her son, Scott Roberts, took the reins of the family business. The restaurant has since become even more famous for its bottled and branded sauces; operates a popular outpost at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and one in Round Rock; and has plans to open a location in Grapevine later this year or in 2019.
In his book, Scott Roberts writes about his mother’s no-nonsense approach to business and her admirable work ethic, and with her passing, family shared a tale of the diminutive Tsuchiyama Roberts felling a charging buck with the swing of a pecan bucket she was using for shelling and killing it with a rock while her husband and his friends were away on an unsuccessful hunting trip.
Hisako Roberts was preceded in death by her husband, Thurman, and son Butch. She is survived by son Scott Roberts; daughter-in-law Susan Goff; granddaughter and Salt Lick Vice President Maile Roberts-Loring and her husband, Brian Loring; and great-grandson Emory Loring.
In lieu of flowers, the family request donations be made to KUT or The University of Texas at Austin.