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Jan 4, 2009 01:07 PM

First Visit: Smitty's Market, Lockhart report

On a cold January day the first thing you notice about the (rear) entrance of Smitty's is a welcome stack of blazing logs (not sure if designed for the cold weather or typical even on 100 degree days) that warms you upon entry.

The vast iron pits and slightly Serbo-Croat glyph-like writings on the boards can leave you (as a first-timer) a bit confused, but it soon becomes clear choices are fairly simple and center around meat, how much thereof. Also number in your party will be asked to determine size of butcher paper and apportionment of bread and plastic cutlery.

I ordered a slice of "lean" shoulder, two of "fat" (brisket), two pork ribs, and a link of hot sausage. Bread was offered but not required in my case. You pay for the meat in the pit area then (if eating IN) proceed through the double glass doors into a vast cavernous space where drinks and fixin's are dispensed and paid for separately. I got onion and pickles: the standards. Later I noticed many people had possibly the most unlikely side I could have imagined, namely . . . whole avocados. I cannot imagine the combination of BBQ and avocado being that brilliant but its popularity suggests some sort of taste combination you have to try to appreciate.

Now, the meat . . . well, it was perfectly good but I have to say it did not have me reaching for the superlatives thesaurus or thinking I had died and gone to meat heaven. Perfectly and very good was about it. The ribs were particularly disappointing for me as it appeared some sort of glaze or other (pre fire soak??) adjunct was on the rib. I prefer mine unadulterated. The sausage was only fine. I admit I don't warm to Texas sausage much. It's so close to the meat itself it's made from I can't see the point of all the extra work. I realize this is likely heresy but I just don't get it.

The shoulder and the brisket were nice but certainly not oozing juice and only showling mild signs of smoke on the crust. Just to be 100% clear, this was very nice meat just not died-and-gone-to-heaven quality. I LOVED most of all the people-watching. Glorious to see so many happy people communing with butcher-paper-wrapped late Christmas "presents."

When I visited the close-by Black's I have to say I rated their brisket much higher, mainly as I did not feel any need whatsoever to want sauce with theirs. Here at Smitty's the table sauce is a thin hot pepper one. Thin and in order to get more than a few drops (which, trust me, you want plenty more than) you have to temporarily remove the plastic stopper thingee and then you can pour a good amount into a container, in my case the thing the pickle had come in. While sauce may be anathema to Texas BBQ in general, here I warmed to the combination. The slightly dry meat needed sauce I found and the pepper thin "bite" of this sauce I found very much to my taste with the shoulder and brisket.

Overall a very enjoyable visit but as I say as Lockhart goes I say Smitty's has far superior "theater" but Black's sliced brisket may be the one to go for unless you are going to do both.

One final note, I visited Sunday. Since everyone must get a day off it's possible the pitmaster etc. is the standby one on Sundays. I tend to think that M-F operations should be sampled at places before finally passing judgment.

Thanks for reading.


Smitty's Market
208 South Commerce
Lockhart, Texas 78644

Telephone: 512.398.9344


Our hours

Mon. - Fri. 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sat. 7 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Hot Sausage
Fresh Choice Meat

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  1. ive found these top notch places to be pretty consistent no matter which day of the week you catch them on. these guys are pros. instead of trying either of blacks or smittys a second time, you might want to consider hitting another legendary place in the area.

    im talking about city market in luling. in many ways it is similar to smittys (ambiance, style of sausage and set up) but there are some slight variances which may be to your liking. for one, their ribs do not have any of that glaze on them. secondly, ive found their brisket to be less fatty. and many consider their sauce to be the best around.

    id have a hard time picking one or the other as a favorite. when i went to school in austin, i ate mostly in lockhart since it was 20 minutes closer. but now i live in houston, and hit city market every single time i drive to san antonio.

    if youre making special trips out to lockhart just to try their bbq, and you bypass luling, you are really doing yourself a disservice. if youve already been there, well, then i guess you can disregard all of this.

    map of luling:

    17 Replies
    1. re: bpdhlbrg

      Good advice, but for some reason I always find myself in Luling on Sundays, when, as you know, the City Market is dark. I drove past it yesterday and wished 'twer otherwise. I also have heard they may feature lamb/mutton . . .a particular favorite of mine for BBQ.

      1. re: bishopsbitter

        ive never seen anything at city market but brisket, ribs and sausage. mutton? youre not from around here are you?

        1. re: bpdhlbrg

          Perhaps mutton is the "new" pork for TX? Hard Eight BBQ in Coppell (DFW) used to have cabrito (a specialty in Mexico), although I just checked their web-site and it's not on the menu - but then neither is the prime rib, which also used to be offered, but only on weekends.

          1. re: bpdhlbrg

            Au contraire, I have lived "around here" (Oklahoma & Texas) for longer than any other place in my entire life by a factor of 3! Coming up on 20 years.

            I felt sure I had heard rumors of mutton/lamb at Luling. Indeed I was correct in my memory:

            quote from


            "Not pretty, but pure pleasure for tastebuds, this assortment of Luling City Market meats includes brisket, mutton, and sausage. Saltines, jalapeno peppers, and onions are for occasional tastebud-diversion. And of course there is no plate: pink butcher paper serves as a means of carrying food from the pit, a tray/platter, and a means of gathering all your bones and scraps at the end of the meal to discard them."
            - Michael Stern

            1. re: bishopsbitter

              on the one hand, i feel bad for calling you out on not being from texas. but on the other, you did just sprinkle your reply with french AND suggest that oklahoma and texas were somewhat similar. hopefully both were intentional jokes. the french i understand, but i cannot forgive the ok/tx conflation.

              i see we are both in houston, so i have a few questions. id start a new thread but im interested only in your opinion. also, is there some private message function on chow im not aware of? anyways, here are my questions:

              1) have you found any decent bbq places in this city? im not a fan of thelmas or goode co. is there anything here that approaches what you had in lockhart?

              2) do you have a favorite americanized chinese food place in town? right now, my go-to dish is the gen tsos at mai's, but i would prefer a great sesame chicken. problem is, i can never find one.

              and finally

              3) what and where is your favorite sandwich in houston?

              i suppose you dont have to answer these q's, but you should

              1. re: bpdhlbrg

                bpdhlbrg you are quite right about the intentional jokes. Although that huge northern swath of TX that mates with Oklahoma you have to admit it's harder to tell them apart than the Olsen twins. I really love the wild country of both.

                But down here in the coastal area to your questions

                1) Hmmm. Well I live out at Eagle Lake and I am fond of Austin's BBQ ribs (even though peppered and spiced, but not glazed) in Eagle Lake. When they are good Vincek's Smokehouse in East Bernard does a really good job with ribs but I do not like their sausage or brisket. I am no fan of Hinze's in either Wharton or Sealy. Down 59 in Louise TX I recently discovered a very respectable BBQ place Mustang Creek. Mikeska's near Columbus is only OK. The place in Ellinger TX (HWY 71 northwest of Columbus) Peter's maybe is sometimes good. BBQ is a moving target. I particularly hate pork ribs served "before their time" such as is sometimes done early on at all of these places. Since I have relatively good BBQ options close to home I rarely drive 60 miles into Houston to eat BBQ.

                2) Chinese is a problem generally for me. I like Americanized strictly only in wax paper containers eaten with chopsticks in bed with Mariel Hemmingway a la Woody Allen but very rarely have the chance. I lust for authentic but find in Houston I cannot quite sit well with the fusion of Vietnamese and Chinese that pervades. I am not fond of the Vietnamese slant to the prep and seasoning and would prefer that places were clearly delineated. Hunan Garden in Rosenberg is the only Americanized place I have gone to but is probably nto worth a long trip as I am almost certain you can find as good nearby but they serve in HORRIBLE plastic and clear-plastic-lid containers. Mariel would definitely not approve. A place however I noted mentioned in Katy on b4-u-eat (I think you can find it if you look I cannot recall name) with quotes along lines of "unexpected to be this good" off the 10 is also a place I have thought about trying. I will try to look it up for you now: This place: I think??

                3) I am an ex New Yorker (lumme that's torn it!). Other cities' sandwiches "need not apply." No offence to Houston any more than any other place. Not entirely serious, but a good sandwich is hard to find and frankly I have given up on the basis of calculated odds it won't suck being incredibly long. I occasionally make my own NY style sub which takes about 2lb of cold cuts, 1lb of cheese and drizzled with light oil vinaigrette. Wrap in Saran and compress. OK so it's really a muffuletta on a hoagie. I remember nipping across to a little deli at 9th and Broadway for years. On any given day they could make a sandwich worth crossing the street for but I've not found that and mainly because most people making sandwiches think that its main ingredient is BREAD :-


                All best, if you ever make it to the Houston Chowhound gatherings perhaps we can work out this Okahoma Texas "contretemps"


                1. re: bpdhlbrg

                  I have to step in here and answer a couple questions, seeing as how I actually live in Houston. The best BBQ place in town is relatively new and is named Pierson and Co. BBQ on T C Jester just past Tidwell. Just Google them. Great brisket, ribs, smoked chicken, turkey, sausage. and I haven't tried all of it yet. We had a BBQ smackdown and Goode Co. came in last. Thelmas didn't even get into the race because of attitude "problems".

                  As far as Sesame chicken goes I have 2 places I really like. Empress on Long Point and China Doll on Antoine. Both have been around forever and are very good. Better than anywhere else in town and I have had that dish at many places.

                  As far as sandwiches go . . . don't even get me started! There are too many contenders out there!

                  1. re: danhole

                    thanks for the bbq and sesame chicken recs, but come cant name one great sandwich?

                    im a big fan of the muffaletta at district 7. good olive salad, not too salty. great bread. tasty ham and gooey provolone.

                    or the bbq pork at thien an on travis.

                    youre right, its tough to name just one

                    1. re: bpdhlbrg

                      I really like the corned beef on rye at Kahn's Deli in the Village. I also like the Reuben and the Old world sandwich at Doyles in Oak Forest. The French Dip at the Little Bitty Burger Barn was one of my favorites, but the last one I got was a bit shy on the meat, which was odd. Usually it is stuffed with meat. The al pastor torta at Taqueria Aranadas is pretty awesome, as well as the same thing at El Rey. I do like the muffaletta at District 7, also. As far as chains go, I do love my Schlotzsky's deluxe originals, and my Antones Po Boy's. I am anxiously waiting to try BB's on Montrose., and Chicago Italian Beef on Airline. I love my sandwiches!

                      1. re: danhole

                        bbs is solid. i like their sausage poboy better than the roast beef. their seafood doesnt do it for me.

                        sorry, bishop, we can get back to bbq. have you made it to luling yet? times a wastin

                        1. re: bpdhlbrg

                          I have it on my list soon. I don't know if you've ever had mutton BBQ (it is a specialty in Owenboro KY Moonlite BBQ) but its fat content makes it a very good BBQ meat. I too am intrigued whether it will be lurking in the pit (possibly unadvertized) @ Luling.

                1. re: bishopsbitter

                  well, color me confused. ive been there many times and never even seen mutton. of course, ive never thought to ask if they had it either. now i kind of want to try it. as if i wasnt already looking forward to me next trip through luling.

                  1. re: bpdhlbrg

                    Visited Luling City Market. NO MUTTON. Unless there's another City Market there hidden away I don't know about. I found their brisket OK but not outstanding. Ditto their ribs. If I had to rate Blacks, Smitty's, LCM it would be in that order. 1,2,3.

                    Incidentally, I proceeded over to Lockhart to go to Kreutz but could not find the damned place (being too proud to ask). Where the heck is it hidden away at? Oh well, next time mapquest in hand!

                    So the tales of mutton in Luling appear to be either fantasy or something that's no longer the case.

                    1. re: bishopsbitter

                      Kruetz is actually the easiest to find. It is on the north side of town when you come in on 183....if coming from Houston it will be the giant red barn structure on the left if will be about a 1/4 mile or less north from Smitty's

                      1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                        Boy I need to visit an eye doctor then. I did see Chisolm Trail but that was south of Smitty's (also a red barn affair). I must havedriven past Kreutz. No wait I see upon further investigation it is maybe on the other side of the railroad bridge. Ah. That explains it. I did not venture over the bridge thinking somehow it was downtown. Argh.

                2. re: bpdhlbrg

                  ditto from

                  Luling City Market

                  This is small-town barbecue the way it ought to be: served up in a no-frills smoky meat market, with ambience replaced by plenty of local atmosphere.

                  The Luling City Market has been in business longer than anyone can remember, turning out smoked brisket, sausage, ribs, and mutton.

                  If you've ventured down to Houston, you'll know the big city sports its own version of the Luling City Market, even using the same recipes as this small-town joint. But for the real thing you have to come to the source, where smoke-tinted walls and no-nonsense barbecue brings in both the oil field workers and the oil field owners.

                  Location: 633 Davis St., Luling

                  Tel. (830) 875-9019

            2. Bishopsbitter,

              Great post! It was well written and worth the read! Keep up the great writing. Eventhough I have been to Smitty's on several occasions it is still great to read another's experience and how it can differ.

              1 Reply
              1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                Very kind.

                I see we have interests in common, including the drink of all drinks: gin & tonic but sorry, I am a Gordon's (Tanqueray if postal order from aunt has arrived) man and cannot warm to even Bombay Sapphire. Also nice to see a global take on chow. I have a little place in Villefort France on my list that is the best meal in ages as well.

                On Martin Yan, hex on his stainless steal cleaver, :-) I use carbon steel one and cannot chop or cut with anything else. I had to repair it recently detailed at:
                I never see similar for sale. this one was bought in chinatown NYC in 1986 and still going strong! If you ever see one (again stainless steel cant' be kept razor sharp I find but this could make Ron Popeil's knives look like ones designed for kindergarten safety!)