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BBQ trip report - City Market, Black's, Smitty's

Well, I did it. I rented a car, put on my "I (heart) bacon" tshirt, and ate a bunch of meat!

First up was City Market in Luling. We asked for sausage and ribs, and they gave us sausage, ribs, and brisket. Sausage was good but not particularly flavorful, brisket was not great (kind of lean and a tad dry), ribs were good but not mind-blowing, with a good glaze-y crust thing on the outside. The sauce was definitely good on the brisket and kicked it up a notch, mmm. I loved the little room they have you go into, there are guys in there with hard hats on (at least, when I was there), and the guy we talked to had an accent so thick I could barely understand what he was saying. The reverse is probably true also, which is probably why we got brisket when we didn't ask for any. I had to force myself to put down the sausage so I'd have room for other meat, cause man, I was hungry when we got there.

Next stop was Black's in Lockhart, where we ordered only the brisket. It was *delicious*, and ended up being the clear winner of the day. Fatty and melty and just everything I've ever wanted from brisket without even knowing I wanted it. Man it was good. I'm salivating just thinking about it. I did try the cornbread, which was dry and uninspired, but the banana pudding was actually pretty tasty.

Last up was Smitty's, also in Lockhart, where we got brisket and sausage (and yes, the atmosphere was great with a huge smoky room that looks kind of intimidating). Brisket was dry, not really up to snuff, probably a little less tasty than City Market's. The sausage, however, was fantastic. My only quibble was that maybe it wasn't as flavorful as I'd have liked it to be, but otherwise.... mm. The skin popped loudly when I bit into it (each bite, even, not just the first one), and hot sausage grease squirted into my mouth and all over my hands. I spent quite some time licking my fingers. Oh, it was a wonderful experience.

I'm sad I didn't order the ribs somewhere other than City Market, cause I am a big fan of ribs and wasn't wowed by the City Market ones. If I had brisket like at Black's somewhere nearby where I live in Maryland, I'd be a huge fan of brisket too, but I haven't found any. And oh, Smitty's sausage. A friend pointed out that it's alliterative, Black's brisket and Smitty's sausage were the winners. If I had to pick one item, though, it'd be Black's brisket that was the champ (on Tuesday, June 16, between 11:30 am and 2 pm).

All I ate that evening were some chips and cheese dip.... I was still full and sleepy from all the meat!

Much thanks to scrumptiouschef's for the recommendations, and I'm jealous that you all in Austin get to be around such tasty meat all the time!

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  1. Kallisti
    Glad you liked the barbecue round here. Next time you come back we'll send you to Taylor and you can hit Vencil's joint and Mueller's brisket temple.

    Good to hear Blacks is still the brisket king.

    2 Replies
    1. re: scrumptiouschef

      Hey, thanks for the recommendations! And sorry your posts kept getting deleted from my other thread -- I went back to look at what you'd said, and it was gone! Oh well.

      1. re: scrumptiouschef

        We didn't have time to go to Vencil's, but we stopped at Mueller's on Friday and it was amazing. The rib (a Flinstonian portion) was good but the brisket was heaven - we asked for the fatty end and it was moist and tender and delicious. And their potato salad is very good as well.

        We also went to Cooper's in Llano (we had a roundabout trip and couldn't fit in Lockhart or Luling) and it was good as well. Not as good as Mueller's, but the chicken was excellent and the brisket good. Ribs were a bit fatty - needed to be cooked longer to render off some of the fat. Still, a very nice experience.

      2. Good report kallisti. True, we have plenty of bbq options here in central texas but in MD, you have great fresh seafood!!!

        3 Replies
        1. re: TaseT

          I was also told to go to the Salt Lick, both by someone who lives in Austin, and someone who is from North Carolina. Different direction entirely, though, and I really wanted to do the Luling/Lockhart trip. Coworkers said that IronWorks and Stubbs in the city were both mediocre and nothing special, which is why I didn't bother with them. :)

          1. re: kallisti

            I think the Salt Lick in Driftwood has more 'location appeal' than food appeal. Remember to take your own beer if you go as it's a dry part of the county.
            A little OT but Pok-e-Jo's (not that great but it's close to me) is having 1979 prices on June 30th.

            1. re: kallisti

              Your coworkers were correct about IronWorks and Stubbs. Honestly I think Rudy's in town is pretty much about as good as you're going to get... It's sad but most good BBQ around Austin is... around Austin, and not in Austin itself. I'm glad to see you were able to get out to Lockhart and get some good meat, though.

              Salt Lick has name appeal but the meat is not that spectacular. (Actually my wife tends to feel sick afterwards from their grease, which does not happen with other BBQ places.)

          2. 'Fatty and melty' brisket is your sign of excellence? Yuck one piece of brisket like that and I feel like throwing up.
            What the better brisket places try for is a light smoke, very little fat, naturally juicy without needing the fat to make it so, subtle seasonings that bring out the taste of the beef.
            Do they always succeed? Nope but I appreciate the craft of that style of brisket.

            If you go to a place that serves lean brisket like Kreuz or City market you can always ask for a cut with more fat.

            8 Replies
            1. re: duncan36

              If you're dead set on having some dry brisket Kreuz is a good choice.

              Dryer still,none of the fat that some folks hate,is the shoulder clod-cut.Kreuz is one of the few places that offers this option.

              Whatever your preference is,Central Texas is the buckle in Texas' brisket belt and the eating around here is divine.

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                Its only dry if you compare it to places that use inferior cuts of meat that are half fat. Whenever I get Kreuz its not falling apart because of the high quality cuts of brisket they use but its perfectly juicy for my tastes.

                1. re: duncan36

                  Welcome to the board duncan. By way of comparison to Kreuz what are the "places that use inferior cuts of meat that are half fat"?

                  I need to know so that I can avoid getting inferior brisket next time I'm on a barbecue run.

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Well dont forget its a matter of taste. Some people even ask for 'extra moist' brisket. You can get 'moist' brisket at Kreuz just ask for it.
                    I personally dont like it and appreciate places like Kreuz that default away from heavy smoke and away from serving their customers fat.

                    Its not a question of who doesnt serve inferior brisket its more a question of who are by default serving high quality brisket. Thats Kreuz, City Market, Smitty's.

                    1. re: duncan36

                      You're right, it's definitely a matter of taste, because the brisket that I was accidentally served at City Market (see the op) was really not something that impressed me at all... so from now on I'll leave the City Market brisket to you, and you can leave the Black's brisket to me, and we'll both be happy! :)

                  2. re: duncan36

                    What do you mean "inferior cuts of meat that are half fat"? Do you mean slices that include the point of the brisket? When you say "high quality", are you just referring to the flat of the brisket?

                    1. re: pwang

                      From my brisket I like a nice robust beef flavor first similar to roast beef, then I like to taste the seasoning on the brisket a light salt usually, then I like to taste a light smoke behind that , then I like a small bit of juiciness from the fat.
                      I went to Coopers in Llano for instance and for 1 piece it was good but it just had too much fat, they obviously use vastly inferior cuts of meat to places like Kreuz. I couldnt finish piece two and started to feel queasy from eating too much fat. Some people like that and to each their own, however for my money if I'm buying brisket by the pound I dont want half of it to be fat.

                      1. re: duncan36

                        Most of the better bbq places let you choose whether you want lean or moist brisket. If you don't like fat, you can choose lean, and leave the good stuff for the rest of us that like fat.... which I would never consider "inferior".

              2. I went to Black's today and had the brisket. It was fantastic, flavorful, charred and fatty. Last month, I went to City Market and had the brisket. It was fine but I don't think it was worth the drive. It was a little lean and not as flavorful. My dining companion had ribs which she went on and on and on about. So maybe ribs are the think to order there. The sides at both places were kind of meh. I like Art's in Austin for sides.

                On another note, Black's serves sweet ice tea. I was shocked and amazed. I haven't had sweet tea since I left Virginia. 103 degrees and a tall glass of sweet ice tea...priceless.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Helind

                  I'm jealous, and glad you enjoyed Black's brisket as much as I did :)

                  1. re: kallisti

                    Looks like it's a good thing you skipped Kreuz last week Kallisti.Here's an old thread that just got resurrected on the Texas board.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/349595

                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                      Hah, Jaymes' response made my day. And I'm wearing my I heart bacon shirt again today!

                      Looks like I should have gotten the beans at Smitty's. Ah well, next time!

                  2. re: Helind

                    Being from the southeast, I can understand your sweet tea cravings. I've found that several of the bbq places have sweet tea. Cooper's in Llano as well as most of the Rudy's in town have it. Also, Bush's Fried Chicken has very good sweet tea and they sell it by the gallon as well. Some people think Bush's is too sweet and end up getting half and half(half sweet, half unsweet).

                    1. re: ssouth

                      All those listed places in Lockhart have good food. Chisholm Trail is owned by a man named Floyd and he grew up working at Blacks. Locals really like the place and I find it less expensive than the other places. Last week I finally got to visit Gonzales Food Market which is in downtown Gonzales. This bbq joint has been there for a long time. The brisket was great. The sausage was a courser ground and not as greasy as most of the other places. Really liked the place. It is only about 15 miles from Luling.
                      Why doesn't anyone talk about the bbq in Elgin. I really like the beef sausage at Meyers. Elgin is legendary for the "hot guts" sausage. Taste like no other to me. I will admit that it's greasy, but hey, sometimes you just gotta have it.

                  3. We were headed to Kreuz yesterday (Sunday) to only find out that they were closed as we approached. So we made our way to Black's by following the many yellow signs.

                    The brisket was fatty, but delicious and I resisted the urge to eat the blackened crispy 1 inch piece of fat that dangled off a slice. I would have maybe in the confines of my own home. The sausage was really good too. It was moist and had a nice texture.. course ground, perhaps better than Kreuz (which was the main reason for the trip). I tried some of the BBQ sauce, but found it was unneccessary, the meats were all good on their own. Potato salad wasn't very good, tasted like store bought. Deviled eggs were weird, very yolky. Creamed corn tasted like they put ranch dressing powder it in. Rudy's wins for creamed corn. But they offered wheat bread alongside sliced white, that's a nice touch.

                    My only complaint is that we were swarmed by flies the entire time, crawling and landing anywhere and everywhere.

                    Overall, I'm glad we made the detour because Kreuz looked pathetic sitting so empty underneath the bridge that was just built over it.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: topodrinko

                      Wow, I'm surprised to hear about the fly problem. We were there last week and there wasn't a fly in sight.

                      1. re: Helind

                        Personally, I love Rudy's but I did make the drive to Lockhart. I liked Blacks for the various side dishes and selection. But I thought Smitty's was better. Especially liked the lineup thru the 'kitchen'. Found it hot but I know my daughters would enjoy the view.
                        Don't know if I would drive all the way each time to Lockhart though. Rudy's is good enough to feed my brisket fix. Although I am surprised that some many on this board turn their nose at Rudy's. I visit Austin a lot and have tried all the places and we enjoy Rudy's the most.

                        1. re: caitlink

                          Rudy's often gets hammered on this forum by the BBQ Nazi's, but it's fine for what it is.

                          When I'm in the mood for some melt-in-my-mouth succulent brisket at a reasonable price in a clean environment, I make the five-minute drive to the Rudy's on Jollyville Road, and I'm always happy.

                          1. re: marfaboy

                            Here's a link to an old chow discussion about Rudy's,culled appropriately from the Chains board.

                            The purists have their say as well as the folks who don't equate barbecue with a spiritual experience.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/404439

                      2. re: topodrinko

                        I can attest to the fly problem at Blacks...I ran into the same problem last week there...but normally this is not an issue. They are just really bad down here (Lockhart) right now.

                      3. Sounds like a good day. Next time you have to stop in at Chisholm trail. Cheap and great! Heard blacks was good. Smittys is cool looking but too puritancial for me.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BeeBeeQ

                          Too puritanical??
                          Pictures of God and Head Minister? Heaven or Hell?
                          I think Heaven, puritanical or not.