My $100.00 plate of Central Texas BBQ
I had to attend a conference in San Antonio, and looking at a Texas map, I noticed that I would only be an hour or so away from Luling & Lockhart. Having heard so much about Central Texas barbecue over the years, I decided that now was the time to try it.
My original intent was to do the full-on BBQ tour (or the coronary bypass tour, as it’s been called recently on CH), however, my flight was delayed, so instead of Lockhart, Luling, and Taylor, I ended up just covering part of Lockhart.
I had read numerous raves about Black’s, so that’s where I went first. Ordered a half-pound of brisket, and had some burnt ends thrown in as well. Outstanding! It was everything BBQ should be: melt-in-mouth tender, with a flavorful, smoky, bark on the outside. This exceeded all expectations, and I’ve had some pretty good BBQ over the years.
I skipped Kreuz, as recent reports haven’t been so good, and walked a few blocks over to Smitty’s. The atmosphere was interesting – wood fires right on the concrete floor, next to the pits. Very hot and smoky. Unfortunately, the brisket itself was so tough it was inedible, with so-so flavor.
I would have continued on to Luling, but it was getting late. Since I only had a few bites at Smitty’s (I tossed the rest as it was really no good), and didn’t have much ‘Q left over from Black’s, I returned to Black’s for another half-pound, so I would have some for tomorrow. Had a nice chat with the owner, Terry Black. Very friendly guy – he told me that he took over for his parents and did everything the same way his dad did. I agreed that not changing anything was a very good idea.
Sure wish there was BBQ like this in Las Vegas. BTW, in case you’re wondering, the BBQ at Black’s was only $15, but the rest of the $100 was the cost of the car rental (as the BBQ pilgrimage was the only reason for renting the car), plus gas. It was worth it.
Black’s: Five stars
Smitty’s: Zero stars (well, maybe one star for atmosphere)
215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644
My experience has been that on any given day, any of these great meat markets can put out brisket that is ambrosial, or brisket that is mediocre. You're dealing with an organic product, beef, that varies not only from animal to animal, but from cut to cut, and even from bite to bite (as anyone that's ever gotten a tough steak can tell you). On top of that, the method of cooking isn't exact, either. Some days the wood and fires burn hotter. Other days, not so much.
I never go to Lockhart without ordering brisket from at least two of the places. And I really prefer to go to three, so even though I personally have had some recent very bad luck with Kreuz (at least twice the brisket was for all intents and purposes inedible), I do stop in there if I don't have time to get down to Luling.
Other meats and other cuts (pork, ribs, sausage) are easier to cook and more predictable. But if, like me, you're a fan of the highest example of the pitmaster's art, brisket, you're best off if you don't limit yourself to just one place.
With all due respect,
I dont understand the preoccupation with beef Brisket. I love it, I dont think this is a SouthCentral texas Thing. We cook everything down here. We have some of the best sausage around. Polish Wedding sausage from Poth, German style from the Hill country.
Chicken and all the fixins... A bar of white bread, pickle and onion slices are just as important as the smoke ring.
Potato salad or cole slaw, beans, spanish rice and a pickled Jalepeno...It seems like such a waste to focus an 1/4 lb. of beef as your BBQ experience.
Do you know the story about Smitty's & Kreuz's?
From The Austin Chronicle 11/9/2001: When longtime Lockhart barbecue master "Smitty" Schmidt of Kreuz Market died in 1989, he left the family business to his son and the building that housed it to his daughter. There's no way to know whether he had any inkling of what would transpire approximately 10 years after his death. Sibling rivalry ensued, and when differences couldn't be resolved, Rick Schmidt moved the original family meat market operation to a brand-new building while sister Nina Schmidt Sells opened Smitty's Market in the spruced-up old building. The story made statewide and national news in the mid-1990s, depicting a situation where the barbecue world as we knew it was coming to an end. Sides were definitely taken. Barbecue fans all over the country held their collective breath.
I agree -- Smitty's is 'cute', but the barbecue is better at Kreuz's.