Report: BBQ Hound`s First Texas BBQ Pilgrammage to Austin aka Kruez, the foie gras of brisket
Got a call the other day from a colleague in NJ to see if I could spend time with a client helping them understand a new technology. I'm unbelievable busy at work, so, not really sure I could spare the day, I asked where in NJ I had to go. "NJ?" my colleague replied, "we're in austin, tx". A little flustered, I asked "Boston?". "No, AUSTIN". I asked him to hold for a second, googled Kreuz Market, got the address, headed over to mapquest, requested driving directions from austin to Kreuz Market and saw it was less than 30 minutes from the airport. "I'll be there" I said.
I had read about Kreuz in books by Steve Raichlen and Alan Mills (Peace, Love and BBQ) but never thought I'd get there since most of our business is in the NY metro area. I posted a note in this forum http://www.chowhound.com/topics/341849 and recieved great, frendly advice from the denizens of this board.
Got up at 4:30am on the day of departure so I could catch a flight that would get me to austin by lunch time. After landing, I rented a car and pointed it towards lockhart, home of Kreuz, Smittys and Blacks. Armed with chowhound advice, my intent was to try all three places over the course of 1.5 hours and then head to my client.
I found Kreuz first. I had skipped dinner the night before and the subsequent breakfast, so I was mighty hungry. Before getting advice from chowhounders, I thought Kreuz was known for brisket and clod. However, after reading many posts, I knew I had to try a wide range of meat. I ordered two slices of fatty brisket, a sausage link and two pork ribs.
I was a little nervous about the fatty brisket, thinking it would have pieces of fat throughout. Nothing could be further than the truth. It was moist and delicious, the brisket almost melted in my mouth. The extra fat content added luxiourus texture and extra flavor to the food, reminding me of great foie gras.
In my BBQ cirles, Texas is known for beef, not pork ribs. After one bite of a Kreuz rib, I knew this was a mistake. No fancy, twenty ingredient rub or sauce here, these are ribs for grownups with a a bold, assertive seasoning of salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Thats it, thats all it takes, and I can't wait to try to reproduce it on my WSM.
I'm not a big sausage eater. Once in a great while I'll make sausage and peppers but I'm just not a big fan. Kreuz sausage could make me change my mind. The casing is thick and has a nice pop. Inside is meat...not gristle, not fat, just well seasoned meat and its delicous.
Before entering Kreuz, I believed that I had made great brisket on my WSM...something close to what is made in Texas. After eating at Kreuz, I realized I was sadly mistaken. Throw in the sausage and the ribs and it adds up to a top 3 bbq experience (sweatman's, sc and wilburs, nc are the others). Smitty's was up next.
I loved Smitty's old building and the old pit right in front of you is great. I decided to order 2 slices of fatty brisket, one port rib and a pork chop. Started with the brisket...a little dry, a little tough, not the great flavor or texture from Kreuz. On to the rib, it was certainly competently made, had a sweet exterior, but wait, I make great honey ribs all the time. A little undewhelmed and disappointed, I moved on to the pork chop where I hit paydirt. Moist, subtly smoked and tender, almost without seasoning, this was arguably the best pork chop of my life. Another research project for my home WSM. At this point I was beyond full and made the agonizing but prudent decision to skip Blacks.
Though Smittys suffered in this comparison, I wouldn't put all too much stock in it. I've cooked enough ribs and brisket at home to know that there is variation day to day and even brisket to brisket. Additionally, I was very hungry at Kreuz and not so hungry at Smittys.
I want to thank everyone that gave me advice in the aforementioned thread. Without it, I wouldn't have known to order fatty brisket, pork chops or ribs. Hopefully the client will have me back and I can find my way back to Lockhart for Blacks, some prime rib and a little more sausage comparison. I also regret not getting to Meullers or eating mexican food.
wait...I forgot about the Salt Lick brisket sandwich at the airport. I was stuck at the airport on the way home. Although people had warned me off of the Salt Lick, compared to the other airport choices, it seemed like a good bet. I ordered a brisket sandwich and they pulled a new brisket out for me. It had clearly been smoked and had nice bark. They put some sauce on it, I put some of their spicy cole slaw on the sandwich. The brisket may not have been great by texas standards but it was world class by NY standards.
What a wonderful post....it reminded me of the first time I visited Austin (live here now) and went to Kreuz when it was still where Smitty's is now. I haven't entered the BBQ fray on CH, but I always have found Kreuz's brisket transcendental, even in the new location. I mean, they hauled the fire from that floor pit in an aluminum tub up the road to the new place - serious, they are. The foie gras of brisket - l love that!!!! Central Texas sausage was also a revelation...but put Elgin on your list next time - i think Kreuz sausage pales in comparison, but until you have compared, is still a revelation.
And you know...I first went to the Salt Lick in 1991...this ex-San Franciscan remembers it being a delightful treat, but further along in my BBQ experience, Louie Muellers, Coopers, City Market, Black's...all delivered better. BUT...in the last 3 years or so, I swear the Salt Lick has gotten so much better. We go with out of town guests because here in SW Austin, it is a hop skip and a jump to the Hill Country, a big pit and picnic tables...can't count how many relatives from New Jersey to Norway have taken their picture next to the pit. Anyhow, I swear, the brisket gets better and better...crispy dark edges around the pink smoke ring, and forkably tender slices under their nice (not my favorite) sauce. I LOVE their tangy, non-creamy cole slaw and they have good beans and I'm not ashamed....I recommend it! Glad to hear I can recommend the airport too, especially for those who won't get to taste ANY Texas BBQ for a looooong time after they leave.
Thanks for such a great, detailed post. It rekindled my love for Central Texas BBQ!
I favor Lockhart BBQ over almost any other in Texas and gawd knows I have most likely tried them all.
However for world class BBQ and a gut filling meal its got to be Main Street BBQ on N Main Street (east side) about 200 yards N of Hwy 183 in Euless, Tx. Brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage,beans, cole slaw and some pickles, all you can eat or stand, $12 cash. They are only open a few days a week as I remember. Friday-Sat dinner, Fri-Sun lunch.