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Which is the best Lockhart/Luling Barbecue?

t
Thefoodczar Jan 11, 2008 09:46 AM

My lovely wife the Rock Star and I are planning another Food Czar roadtrip in another month, and I'm calling on my fellow Hounds to sound off on an old and dear topic. Which of the great Barbecue Meccas in Lockhart and Luling is your personal favorite and which dish would you recommend trying? I know this topic is Old Hat for many of you, but great wood-smoked barbecue is truly an art, and we should revisit this discussion from time to time to see if anything has changed. So, come on guys, which place does it for you? Smittys? Blacks?? Kreuz??? City Market???? Sound off, Hounds, and make your voices heard loud and clear thru the starry, starry night! Thanks in advance!!!

  1. b
    bsnelson Jan 29, 2008 01:41 PM

    I've visited the "triumvirate" twice (two different weekends, but I hit them on Friday and Saturday each time, so I guess it's closer to four), and even in just that many visits, I know that each has good days and bad, and more importantly, good times of day and bad. Definitely plan to hit your target location at lunchtime, around 11:30 or 12:00. Go at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, and you're just asking for less than optimal meat.

    As far as taste, I stumbled upon an interesting method to compare different meats on taste alone: Get your picks from each place, eat some while it's hot for the whole experience, but then refrigerate your leftovers. Take them out later and let them rest on the counter for a half an hour or maybe a bit more to take the chill off. Then, try each meat with it STILL COLD. This will pretty much make all of them equal in texture, but the taste will still shine through. It's quite eye opening; I compared brisket from Kreuz, Smitty's and Blacks, alongside some from Salt Lick 360 in Austin (not the original in Driftwood). Salt Lick 360 was decidedly "one dimensional" in flavor, whereas Kreuz's meat was like a symphony of flavor.

    Good luck your quest!

    Brad

    1. d
      dwh Jan 22, 2008 03:35 PM

      I was down that way yesterday, and tonight after getting into Madison WI at 1230am this morning before clearing 8 inches of fresh stuff off my car and driving home through what remained of the blizzard, I'm having some City Market brisket. I picked up one to two pounds of brisket at each stop, while picking at them off the drivers seat of the rental car and trying to force myself to stop picking at them, and then finally bagging them in marked freezer bags and bringing them home to Wisconsin tucked under some frozen entrees from a food store to keep them cool, and now they are all in the freezer. Sunday stopped at Black's and the cut was on the dry-and-tight side (last time in October 2007 it was more soft and floppy; the previous time it was very dry & lean), but still luv-er-ly smoke, of course. Then went to Smitty's and the first time I was there I found the brisket somehow unusually sweet, but this time it was beautifully textured and properly succulent (and the atmosphere there, with the 3 fires going, is otherworldly). Somebody had talked about the "4th" BBQ place in Lockhart so I stopped at Chisholm Trail on south Colorado, but it seemed a bit cafeteria-like, and the cuts of brisket I saw people chowing on looked dark and monotone. The next day went to Louie Mueller's in Taylor, and the brisket was lucious but also really fatty (at Blacks they had lopped off a big slice of fat before slicing to serve). Louie Mueller's also has another kind of otherworldly atmosphere, like somewhere between the early 1830's and the late 1950's. Stopped at a place in Elgin but did not try the specialty sausages (with my German background I find Texas sausage disappointing) and doubled back to Lockhart for two pounds of brisket at Kreuz. This brisket was like a drier cut, which under other circumstances could have been tough, that had been mellowed to the point that it was falling apart in chunky/crumbly pieces. Eating finger-plucked chunks of the Kreuz brisket was really irresistable, but I somehow managed to save most of it before barrelling down to Luling. The City Market ribs (the only ribs I got on this trip, were glistening, sweet, and bursting with flavor, as unsual). The brisket was a mixed bag of drier/tougher long and huge slices along with absolutely mouth-melting long and huge slices. My conclusion, so far, is that they are all extraordinary places serving a rare, astounding, heaven-on-earth product - - but that your mileage might sometimes vary dependent upon the cut of the brisket, and whether the individual brisket got just the ultimate temperature-variation, placement, and time in the cooker. If you factor in the variation that meat-buying might possibly play in the ultimate product, this makes it worth going back time after time just to run up a track record and speculate more about the variables. For atmosphere, Smittys is a glowing smoke-bomb, Louie Mueller's is a stunning turn of the clock back (and the whole town of Taylor is an eerie return to a time that time forgot), City Market is a vibrant and very real-feeling traditional place, Blacks has some charm and some great knick-knacks, and Kreuz Market is a big semi-modern barn. For the brisket, all of them were very good, all of them were a bit different than the brisket I've had before there at the places I've been before, but based upon the subtle and sometimes subconscious factors that can go into 'likes", and cravings, and enchantments, and developing curiosity, the places I'd go back to next time I go, in order of temptation, would be: 1) Smittys; 2) Louie Muellers; 3) City Market; 4) Blacks; 5) Kreuz Market. But the differences in quality and allure are pretty much miniscule, and I WILL be sure to go to absolutely ALL of them again next time!

      1 Reply
      1. re: dwh
        t
        Thefoodczar Jan 23, 2008 06:54 AM

        Wow, thanks dwh! Madison, WI, huh? Talk about a real BBQ fan and certified Chow Hound. This is certainly the most all inclusive answer yet. I agree: isn't Taylor, Texas stuck back in a time all it's own??? I love it!! Please also visit Llano, Texas for Coopers legendary 'cue and atmosphere, and Fredericksburg for great wine and well---just because it is Fredericksburg! When you get there, I think you will understand and be glad you came. Thanks again!!!!

      2. Dallas Alice Jan 14, 2008 07:33 PM

        For more than five years, I have had to work often in Gonzales. From my home in Dallas, I would fly to Austin and drive down Rt 183 to Gonzales -- through Lockhart and Luling. It goes without saying that the only decent thing to eat in that part of the state is barbeque, and I've had plenty (if you want a vegetable in those parts, you better want it deep fried). The answer to your query, to me, is easy: City Market in Luling. The barbeque there is beyond excellent (excellent is how I would rate Smitty's, and Black's on a good day), it is transcendent. I encourage you to try all of the serious contenders (the 'que at Gonzales City Market is darn good, too -- although the burgers and onion rings at the Cow Palace in Gonzales kept me alive for months), but I really think you will find City Market to be the superior purveyor of smoked meat. A previous poster mentioned that City Market has no weak spots -- so true -- but in my opinion, by concentrating on the basics, they achieve great results in all they do. (That said, if you want barbequed prime rib, which is fine, go to Smitty's).

        5 Replies
        1. re: Dallas Alice
          Scagnetti Jan 15, 2008 06:43 AM

          I'm not trying to stir anything up, but you then don't agree with Scott's analysis/ranking as previously noted on http://www.dallasfood.org/modules.php...

          If you notice, City Market does not fair very well against the field.

          1. re: Scagnetti
            d
            DFWGuy Jan 15, 2008 08:07 AM

            I noticed that, too. But, I have to tell you, I agree with Dallas Alice on this one. City Market in Luling is, in my opinion, superior. Maybe Scott caught it on a bad day?

            1. re: DFWGuy
              Scagnetti Jan 15, 2008 10:31 AM

              That's what I was thinking because I trust Scott implicitly when it comes to food.

              I've never been to any of these places so I have no opinion.

              1. re: Scagnetti
                Dallas Alice Jan 17, 2008 05:33 PM

                All I can say is that my opinion is based on dozens of visits over 5+ years. Tastes differ, and certainly barbeque is a fickle cuisine, where no one can be great every single day (and City Market has had its off days), but I stand by my choice. The fact that we're discussing the same few places does suggest that some establishments really do stand above the rest. And isn't it great that there are so many so close to each other -- so we can argue about them with our mouths full of great 'que?

                1. re: Dallas Alice
                  t
                  Thefoodczar Jan 18, 2008 10:09 AM

                  It is indeed great, Dallas Alice. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a fan of arguement (indeed, one of my college roommates got his kicks from arguing, and ever since, I've avoided them at all costs); still great 'cue is worth fighting for. Since wood smoking is an art (as noted above), even the best places can have their off days. If you want more consistency (and inferior barbecue taste), use a gas grill. Far too many barbecue establishments use them these days, for both consistency and convenience (you don't have to get to the restaurant at 3AM, like they do at Louis Mueller's, if you use a gas grill). Great responses guys! Looks like Central Market is trying to catch Smitty's in deep stretch. Keep 'em comin'!!!

        2. t
          tiomano Jan 14, 2008 03:23 PM

          Instead of just going to one, why not make it a true mission and go for all of them. Take a cooler with you for the extras that you can take home. For a more current discussion of Luling and Lockhart BBQ, read this from Eat My Globe. I met the author at the Kansas City Royal BBQ Competition which he also writes about. http://www.eatmyglobe.blogspot.com/

          Have fun. With the coming of spring, the BBQ competitions are starting up and being a certified KCBS BBQ judge has its rewards.

          3 Replies
          1. re: tiomano
            t
            Thefoodczar Jan 14, 2008 04:28 PM

            Thanks for the great post and the great link. Question: How do you become a certified BBQ judge????;

            1. re: Thefoodczar
              t
              tiomano Jan 19, 2008 08:50 AM

              Take one of the judging classes put on by the Kansas City BBQ Society. Here is the link, http://www.kcbs.us/classes.php?type=j... I don't think they do any in Texas though. I don't think there are any KCBS sanctioned events in Texas. Texas has like 4 different bbq associations and they do things a bit different down there.

              1. re: tiomano
                t
                Thefoodczar Jan 20, 2008 08:12 AM

                Thank you so much again, my friend. I have indeed discovered that link and sent them an email early last week, but they have yet to respond. If I can trouble you for one more thing: I hate to sound mercenary, but is there any compensation involved (Stipend, expenses, hotel, mileage, etc) or is judging basically a volunteer endeavor in KCBS events?

          2. s
            soulslinger Jan 14, 2008 06:07 AM

            Foodczar,

            I have not tried City Market but I did a taste test all in one day of the three Lockhart eateries. I would say Smitty's has the better fatty brisket (that is what I compared) and the sausage at both Smitty and Kruez are about the same (since they are from the same family) I would say the nod goes to Smitty's again on the sausage. I did also find that the smoked prime rib at Smitty's was also very tasty and it was the meat I got the last time I went. Perfect rare in the middle and a great smoky flavor. Blacks by far was the worst of the bunch on the times I have tried them. I would imagine that Luling City Market would be best for sausage though since that is what they are most known for. Smitty's and Kreuz for brisket.

            1 Reply
            1. re: soulslinger
              t
              Thefoodczar Jan 14, 2008 06:38 AM

              So far it looks like Smitty's has the clear early lead, followed by Kreuz and City Market, with Black's bringing up the rear. Thanks, guys, and keep those opinions coming in!

            2. v
              vwgto Jan 12, 2008 07:55 PM

              Smittys' for sure on the brisket and sausage. Kreuz (great pork chop), then Black's. I keep hearing Chisholm Trail (sp) has great sides and is worth a try, Any thoughts on that?

              1 Reply
              1. re: vwgto
                t
                Thefoodczar Jan 13, 2008 08:15 AM

                Haven't been there or heard a word. Great sides are nice, but I still can't shake the feeling that going to a world-class barbecue place for the sides is kind of like going to Seattle or Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and ordering steak, but that's just me. Thanks much for your input, especially about Kreuz pork chop.

              2. t
                theabroma Jan 11, 2008 08:52 PM

                Smitty's, followed by Kreuz, then Cooper's. Black's just has never done it for me. Louie Muellers and Mikeska's are very good, but never made it into my top tier. City Market - but in Giddings - meat market with a bbq area in the rear was lovely.

                Additional prize at Smitty's: the century's worth of grease all over the pipes - turning the place into an Amsterdam brown cafe, as painted by Dali.

                1. p
                  pinotho Jan 11, 2008 11:01 AM

                  City Market/Luling is the best IMHO because there are no weekspots....brisket , ribs , sausage , you name it and it is outstanding . It is also the fartherest from Dallas . L. Mueller's in Taylor is an hour closer to Dallas , and is almost as good . If you will allow me to editorialize a moment , there is not much difference between the top 5 , which I think consists of the 3 in Lockhart plus the two we have already mentioned ....you can't go wrong , the differences are small.....let everyone know your preference whenever you and the Rock Star complete your tour . By the way , I'm jealous .

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pinotho
                    t
                    Thefoodczar Jan 11, 2008 02:52 PM

                    Thanks, guys, for your timely responses. Donna, now I remember the story from DallasFood! I knew this scene had been covered in extensive detail a couple of months back, but I didn't remember where I had seen it----now I know!!! Pinotho, I agree with you about Louis Mueller's. You must, of course, try Coopers or Lairds in Llano (Coopers is the better of the two) and The Salt Lick near Buda in far southwest Austin.

                  2. donnaaries Jan 11, 2008 09:54 AM

                    Czar, you can get a pretty comprehensive and detailed report with great photos about Lockhart and Luling BBQ from this DallasFood article: http://www.dallasfood.org/modules.php...

                    I've only tried Smitty's and Black's out of the 4, and of those 2, I prefer Smitty's in just about every meat item and atmosphere.

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