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LOCKHART BBQ is starting to slide downhill

After visiting Lockhart this past labor day weekend I am convinced that with the crush of the crowds coming to Lockhart for barbecue the four joints are starting to slide into mediocrity. They can not create great barbecue anymore there are too many people coming the travel channel and food channel have caused this. They are cooking gigantic amounts of bbq and bubba it just aint happening anymore. I was at Kreuz pretty damn ordinary if you ask me nothing special here anymore. You will have to look elsewhere Lockhart is barbecue blahsville and oh so boring its a shame they had a nice run but now its over.

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  1. Say it isn't so!

    My oldest son and I did a BBQ tour of central Texas one Friday-Saturday in late July, and while Lockhart was the last of about six stops on Saturday, Smitty's (the former Kreuz location) still satisfied - especially their prime rib. The only other place that matched Smitty's was Snow's in Lexington (our breakfast stop), and they did not offer prime rib, but the brisket, chicken and sausage at Snow's surpassed all other carnivorous experiences of the weekend.

    Hopefully your experience in Lockhart was a Labor Day fluke.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pschweizer

      I agree, it depresses me to hear so many reports of how things have gone downhill at Kreuz.

      I actually completely skipped Lockhart when I was in Central Texas on Labor Day weekend. I went to Snow's last saturday morning and was pleasantly surprised that the line wasn't too bad. I really hope this deterioration in quality doesn't happen to Snow's as well. The brisket, sausage, and ribs are on a completely different league compared to anything from Lockhart, Luling, Taylor, wherever. Perfect crust, smoke ring, moistness, tenderness... everything about these meats went far beyond my expectations and even the tiniest bite had tremendous amounts of smoke flavor. Unfortunately the chicken wasn't ready when I was there and I didn't have the time to wait around, so, next time.

      1. re: pschweizer

        Took the family to Smitty's last weekend for some Q. Ordered 2 pounds of brisket, 4 sausage links and 1.5 pounds of pork ribs. Brisket was more fat than meat and the taste was nothing to write home about, sausage was mushy and greasy but the ribs were the best I've ever eaten. The beans were super and potato salad was very good. Previous experience with Blacks was not a good one (dry brisket and the sides looked like they'd been sitting there for days...literally) but Kreuz has always been better than average. Overall was very disappointed with Smitty's and I won't be going back to Lockhart for Q anytime soon...there are 2 BBQ joints I would recommend however. One is Milt's in Kyle and Woody's in San Marcos.

      2. Personally, I've never been a favorite of Kruez's BBQ. If I do eat BBQ in Lockhart, it's either Black's or Smitty's. I just love the beans at Smitty's. But, beans do not a BBQ make. So, I'll stick to my go to, all time favorite, (by a HUGE margin)
        Louis Mueller's BBQ in Taylor. All others pale by comparison.

        3 Replies
        1. re: twinwillow

          Great to know! ... Louis Mueller's is now on "the list!"

          1. re: twinwillow

            I agree. The last few times I went to Kreuz, the brisket was not good. At all. Dry and tough.

            In Lockhart, Smitty's and Black's are the most consistent, in my experience. And City Market in Luling. And City Market in Giddings. And Snow's in Lexington. And of course, Louis Mueller's in Taylor.

            And the hot links are transcendental in most of these places.

            As far as I'm concerned, only Kreuz has really gone downhill.

            In fact, the last few times I've been to Lockhart, I've skipped them entirely.

            1. re: Jaymes

              We went to Lockhart in the last part of August and I did Black's and Kreuz. Black's was incredible...ribs, brisket, and sausage. The brisket had a great bark and was incredibly moist. The ribs were so tender - I still think about them. Kreuz was really disappointing - brisket was like roast beef...but I still ate it all.

          2. I don't think I would right off the all the BBQ in Lockhart because you went to one place and it was sub par that occasion.
            Black's was great this past weekend. I think I prefer it to Louis Mueller's. Too bad they didn't have any buttermilk pie when we were at Luling Bar-B-Q though. We went to Luling City market for BBQ but tried to go to Luling Bar-B-Q for dessert

            1. I went this summer and thought Lockhart was disappointing too. I hit Smitty's, Kreuz, Louis Mueller's, and Luling City Market on my trip and we had brisket, sausage, and ribs at each. Luling City market was the clear winner across the board.

              2 Replies
              1. re: snatex

                Don't forget. Louis Mueller BBQ is not in Lockhart. it's in Taylor.

                1. re: snatex

                  Next time go to Blacks for brisket.

                2. We went to Lockhart for the first time last week during a Hill Country Trip. I loved Black's-the brisket, turkey, and sausage were great. I honestly do not know what the big deal is with Kreuz-not bad, but nothing outstanding. I would go to Black's, Louie Mueller's, the Salt Lick, Cooper's, and even Rudy's anyday before I'd go back to Kreuz. Stanley's BBQ in Tyler, TX and Hammond's BBQ in Glen Rose, TX were better than Kreuz in my opinion.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: shannydiva

                    Did you try Smitty's while you were in Lockhart?

                    In Lockhart, I like Smitty's and Black's best. And I don't think they're going "downhill" at all.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      Is Meyer's or Southside in Elgin worth going to?

                      1. re: TexasJeep

                        The famous hot sausage at either one is all I ever stop for at either one of those meyers or southside market. Its pretty addictive.

                        1. re: TexasJeep

                          I drive over there for the sausage. Get a little at each place. It really is wonderful and well worth the drive.

                          But the brisket, etc., is pretty average. That's not the reason to go.

                    2. I live in Wisconsin and fly down twice a year and bring a carry-on full of BBQ back. Last week I picked up some Blacks and Smittys in Lockhart, along with Luling & Gonzales. I also stopped at the Rudys' out by SeaWorld in San Antonio the day before the proper BBQ road trip. There the ribs were VERY tasty, though kind of unevenly sumptious/dryish in texture. I ate all the ribs, and enjoyed them, but the white-shaded floppy brisket was evil. Tried to eat it, but couldn't. Got it wrapped and took it to the hotel and tried to eat some more after (microwaving it along with outstanding Tellez tamales), but the stuff was not edible - - sick flavor, from start to trash-can finish.

                      The next morning the lamb ribs at Gonzales Food Market (MLK holiday with a tiny parade starting outside) were fatty/drippy and enjoyable for a few bites (kept to freeze the rest), but the brisket was super delicious. Only had a slab or two - - but loved it. Strange thing was, after two hours in the back seat, the grey slabs of brisket started to congeal bits of fat mushrooming all over the place. Completely different from other cooling brisket I've known.

                      I just microwaved some of that Gonzales brisket, frozen for a couple days, back in Wisconsin, and it was again SUPER tasty (with the fat permeating everything). This might be what "classic" brisket techincally IS - - the fat so melts into the fiber, that it makes everything delicious. But it is not like the Lockhart brisket that I have been bringing home on my trips - - the Lockhart . and other classic brisket, is meaty where it is meaty, and fatty where it is fatty (both good!).

                      The Luling ribs (1030am Monday 18jan2010) were, as usual, done to perfection, though the few I tried on the way back to the rental car were almost bereft of meat - - all bone. Hopefully the rest of the two pounds I packaged and now have frozen have more delicious substance (particularly at $9 a pound). But the brisket was big - - the few bites I had before putting them on the back seat to cool were very tasty and perfectly shaded (black, red, pink, grey).

                      Drove by Chisholm Trail, promising that when I go again in October 2010 I will actually buy some meat there, before picking up a couple pounds of brisket at Smitty's. The few bites I had were o.k.. Like the last time I went there, the cuts were all very uniform, with a long, dense slab of meat below, and a streak of fat along the top. The long slab of meat tends to be tight and toothy. Enough smoke to make it interesting, but the texture can be monochrome.

                      In contrast, the Blacks brisket is SCORCHED smoky on the outside, and the inside is tender, flaky, stringy, and luscious. Over the last few visits I have started to gravitate (have great luck?) with Blacks brisket more and more. Really complex - - even dynamic. That scorched edging reeks of smoke and chomps down crusty, while the inner layers are melty and succulent. When I was ordering they really gave attention to which brisket they sliced and what portions of it they cut. I don't want to come right out and say that Blacks Rules Supreme, but in fact it might. The carry-on product that is now frozen in my Wisconsin fridge remains spectacular, even after their little bout in the microwave.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: dwh

                        This is one of the best writeups I've read in a while.

                        dwh, a friend ordered a frozen brisket from Snow's and it reheated really well per their instructions.

                        Make sure the whole brisket is thawed in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 250, baste the brisket in water, place in foil with 2 oz of water and seal well. Place foiled brisket in a pan and reheat slowly in the oven for 2 hours.

                        1. re: Bulldozer

                          I agree, an excellent write-up. For one thing, dwh sure gets it right that the meats can vary from day to day, and even from cut to cut. And it's damn difficult, prehaps even impossible, to determine which place is "best."

                          And one great tipt, just as Bulldozer says, is not to let them slice whatever brisket you're taking home. Just have them wack off however much you want and take it all home that way. Slice it as you use it.

                      2. Glad to hear you enjoyed all your Texas eatins.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: twinwillow

                          Barbeque is so difficult to get perfect every time that even the professionals can not do it.

                          Remember now matter how off Texas BBQ is, it 98% of the time blows others away

                          Here is the text of a previous visit to Lockhart to show that despite many of the above favorable reviews of Black's that it is not always so.
                          Heads-Up: Black's vs. Kruez Market
                          On Friday July 3, a friend and I made the hallowed drive to Lockhart. BTW I know there are passions about tollroads in Texas, but 45 made it a much easier trip between I35 and 183.

                          The reason I specifically listed the day is that BBQ more than almost any food can vary day to day. So my observations are based solely on that day. Unless you were sitting at the table with me and my buddy on that afternoon please don't make comments like oh this location is always the best.......

                          IMO the reason brisket is perfect for BBQ is that it takes either a great deal of skill (or a long slow simmer, *shudder*) for it to be tender. For years it was considered a "less desirable cut" based upon consumer demand and consumer skill. "inferior" is not an accurate measure of meat, it can only be used to compare two cuts. The grade of beef is the only true measure of "quality" that is universally used and trust me no one that does BBQ in Lockhart is using Commerical or UCC grade meat. Sorry to rant, but if you have questions about meat grades follow the link below. It is really useful and it is several clicks down the page.


                          Other factors such as feed and type of cow do affect the flavor/ fat ratios

                          Back to the BBQ

                          We ordered and split at both places

                          1/2 lb of brisket (we did not specifiy what type on purpose as this is how the majority of people experience it

                          )2 links of sausage (1 standard, 1 jalapeno)

                          4 pork ribs (unless I am wrong I would guess that they were both regular spareribs and not St. Louis style)

                          pickles, onion, bread

                          1 adult beverage each followed by water


                          I have been at least three times before and I was excited to return. Our first stop and we were freaking hungry.

                          Brisket: 1/4 in to 1/2 in smokey exterior and very tender interior with a bit of shine to it that indicated fat from the exterior had done its job and worked its way into the meat. Unfortunately despite the fact it had a nice smokey ring the brisket was truly lacking flavor. It was very disappointing because it looked perfect, but REALLY lacked smoked flavor and to some degree seasoning.

                          Regular Link: the coarse grind that Black's is known for, did not disappoint. "Crispy" skin and flavoral delight inside

                          Jalapeno Link: the grind was so coarse that the sausage fell to pieces with EVERY cut. The flavor was good, but it looked like crumbled sausage that might go on a pizza.

                          Pork Ribs: the color was VERY different from my last visit. it was a very light brown (khaki even) with almost NO smoke flavor and tough. I do not like "fall off the bone" ribs because generally this means steam or something else, but Black's pork ribs BATTLED to keep the meat to themselves. Beyond testing the tenderness of my other rib, I took only one bite of it and did not need to continue.

                          I do appreciate Black's use of wheat bread. Obviously a few slices of wheat bread do not counteract two meals of BBQ, but I like to tell little lies to myself. They also offered red onion which I wanted to like, but had lost some of its moisture and "snap"

                          Kruez (I had been to Smitty's last time)

                          Brisket: it was tender with a thick, rich, and tasty smokiness (it was approximately 25% less tender than Black's. After finishing our brisket my friend immediately wanted to go get more, but I said it would upset the balance, etc and he waited

                          Regular Link: (To be upfront, Kreuz's links are some of my favorite) This link did not disappoint in the flavor department, but was much greasier than last visit and my bread had a little difficulty keeping up

                          Jalapeno Link: a bit spicier than normal but for us that was not an issue and it was gone very quickly.

                          Pork Ribs: Smokey and "firmer" than the ribs at Black. More flavorful and and more tender so that on this day, they blew Black's away.

                          This review was based upon the food, not the staff, environment, families involved, etc

                          I feel sad that I will need to continue this type of work again and again :)

                          1. re: Chefdavis

                            First time in Lockhart today. Black's (brisket, pork ribs, beef rib, sausage) vs Smitty's (brisket, pork ribs). Smitty's was much better. Black's brisket lacked flavor (while still better than the brisket I had at City Market a month ago). The sausage was a bit oily for my taste, but very tasty. The massive beef rib was curiously tender, and had a smokiness that seemed almost artificial. The pork ribs were very good, but nothing like Smitty's or City Market's. The order-taker at Black's was simple and friendly, but he clearly knew that they had a reputation; the billboard for Black's coming into town tipped me off that they are detrimentally self-aware. Smitty's is an amazing space. I was there late-afternoon (I know, not the best time to hit Luling/Lockhart), and the corridor was dark and smoky and seemed abandoned until I turned into the small market. I liked everything about Smitty's. The brisket and ribs were clearly better than Black's. The bbq sauce was better than Black's; Black's, to me, tasted heavily of cumin. I still prefer the mustardy bbq sauce at City Market.

                            1. re: lachristian

                              I loved your description of Smitty's "amazing space." And it's really great that you did a little bit of exploring around that building.

                              The barbecue brisket can greatly vary from place to place. It's difficult, as you're dealing with an organic product, as anyone can tell you who has ever gotten the tough steak at the cookout.

                              But that building remains a constant.

                              So if somebody says they're coming to Lockhart and only have time for one stop, in my opinion, it's got to be Smitty's.

                              1. re: Jaymes

                                I have to second that if your coming to Lockhart for bbq the one stop just for the incredible bbq building must be Smittys no question.

                            2. re: Chefdavis

                              Great review. I have not visited Lockhart for well over a decade but I remember the BBQ-it was shoulder clod, not brisket and sausage at the original Kreutz Market and it was fantastic. Sad to see that the family fued split this place up. I did watch the recent "Food Wars" on the travel channel with great interest and enjoyed the episode pitting Smitty's against Kreutz.
                              As you stated the very nature of brisket does not lend it to any cooking consistency even for the pro's.

                              1. re: jmitchpen10

                                Black's BBQ all the way! We recently tried all three (Kreuz, Smitty's, Black's), and Black's just blew away the competition! Smoke ring was double the others on the brisket, and was so juicy and delish. We have since ordered another whole brisket online for a family get together, and another huge hit! YUM. I will never wait in that terrible long line at Kreuz again! It was OUT THE DOOR, and so expensive and not worth it.

                                1. re: misshannigan

                                  Since I started this a year ago I went back to Lockhart this time to Smittys wow what a difference a year makes the barbecue was hitting on all cylinders. Brisket, sausage, pork ribs were all outstanding. Way to go Smittys seems I might have been premature on the downfall of Lockhart bbq they are making a comeback in my eyes.

                          2. Going to Lockhart tomorrow the 13th. Any latest reports? Coming from the north and want to have some good Texas bbq.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ibew292

                              Not much changes. They've all been there for many decades.

                              If it's your first time, I'd just repeat the oft-given advice: get there early; have a few bites at each place; don't think in terms of a "restaurant meal" but more in terms of a meat market and sampling a few bites of brisket (moist is a favorite, but we always get a little lean as well), sausage, maybe a rib, at each of the three most-famous places, Black's, Smitty's, Kreuz. Most folks would advise you to skip Chilsom Trail, a Lockhart 'also-ran,' but, of course, that's up to you.

                              And if you've got time, you might consider trekking the additional half-hour on down Hwy 183 to Luling, to sample City Market, too.

                              As far as getting to Lockhart early, I'd advise you to shoot for around 10-10:30 am. That way, you've got plenty of time to sample all three iconic markets without worrying that one of them will run out of the most popular cuts before you get there.

                              City Market
                              633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                              1. re: Jaymes

                                I arrived at Smitty's at 10:30 to get some brisket to go and they told me it wouldn't be ready for 30-45 minutes. All they had was sausage. It would be wise to call ahead and find out what time each place opens and also what they might have ready before 11. I had called Smitty's and they told me they opened at 9 or whatever it is and they never mentioned that all they would have available was sausage. The trip there added about an hour and a half to my drive so I was not at all amused. I was able to get everything I wanted at City Market before 11.

                                City Market
                                633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                                1. re: Jaymes

                                  Was at Franklin BBQ in Austin Friday. It was great. I hope Lockhart is as good or better. I'm just a northern boy so maybe I don't know BBQ but if lived in Austin Franklins would be my place. 60 people in line when they opened, thank goodness I was #7. You all have a great day.

                              2. No way, we went there a few weeks ago and ate at all the places. WONDERFUL!

                                1. I agree completely- when I moved here from Kansas City I was so relieved to find Lockhart BBQ but the last time we went we were disappointed that we drove an hour and a half for it. We went later in the day though so I was hoping if we caught it early it would still be good... but then again maybe not.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Earthtokarmen

                                    I honestly don't get what y'all mean when you say "Lockhart BBQ." Are you saying you went to all three legendary places, and Chilsom Trail (the fourth runner-up) and all FOUR have "gone downhill"?

                                    1. re: Jaymes

                                      Soon after Kruez Market moved to thier new location, I stopped in to try some sausage as that is my "benchmark" for barbeque. Maybe it was a bad day but I could not finish what reminded me of greasy saw dust in a casing!

                                      1. re: dg tx

                                        I agree with that. I haven't had good luck at Kreuz lately, either. And frankly, while I can understand how and why the quality of smoked brisket can vary from day to day, and even brisket to brisket, harder to understand an "off day" with sausage.