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Black's- Lockhart - Please explain - again I ramble, but I truly seek help.

  • s

Barbecue is a touchy subject. I know.
But I love it and other people love it and sometimes I don't understand what other people love. Like cats. But that's for a different message board.

I don't understand Black's Barbecue in Lockhart.

This weekend we drove to the coast for a lovely weekend of storms, rain and swimming. On the way from Austin, we passed through Lockhart. I had given the equivalent of two pints of red blood cells earlier in the day and I wanted flesh, lotsa flesh, tasty flesh. It was late in the evening and Smitty's (which I do like quite a bit) was closed.
Black's was open, I was hungry. I am a forgiving man (when there are no other bbq options) and so we gave Black's another try.

We ordered ribs, brisket and sausage.

I'm a rib guy. I love 'em, but my preference for pork has been discussed before. The ribs were mediocre. I want ribs that fall apart and are still succulent. These didn't fall apart, they weren't particularly succulent, but they were nicely smokey and fatty.

The sausage at Black's was the same as always. No matter what time of day or day of the week, it is always the same. Wrinkled, dry, mealy. LBJ loved this stuff? Has it changed that much or was he really as dumb as he looked? My German heritage and gluttonous ways have made me a sausage lover. Just not this sausage.

Brisket - What you are "supposed" to eat at Black's. I just don't know why. This is really what I need explained.
The meat was poorly sliced. 2/3 of my serving was cut with the meat grain, leaving 6 inch long strands of muscle fiber for my teeth and switchblade (umm...penknife) to separate into swallowable chunks.
It was pretty fatty, I can appreciate that, but to me it is not essential. There was a nice thick black, chewy, smokey crust, but the flavor just wasn't there in the rest of the meat. I actually had to order a second bit of the crusty end bits to assuage my yearning for flavor and protein and iron.

All in all it was a tolerable meal. But no matter when I go there (time of day or day of week) it is always about the same.
But I want, no, need help.
Those of you who love Black's...
Why is it considered one of the trinity?
What should I keep in mind, what mindset should I aim for when I return and give it another chance?
Why do you love it?
What and how should I order?

I know Lockhart has been discussed endlessly, but I really just want advice on Black's from their fans.

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  1. Just out of curiosity - what do you think about ribs and brisket at Rudy's?

    2 Replies
    1. re: rudeboy
      Seamus Mitwurst

      Oddly enough, I have never been to Rudy's.
      It always seemed like a schmaltzy chain and the word on the street never contraindicated my original diagnosis.

      1. re: Seamus Mitwurst

        OK, good - I asked b/c you like "fall of the bone" tender ribs....

    2. All I can say is the one time I stopped in Black's, the brisket was one of the best I've ever had. The ribs & sausage were mediocre,imo, but this particular day, the brisket was great. That same day, Smitty's ribs were awesome, but the brisket was dry.

      1. Put me down as another chowhound who likes Smitty's, Kreuz and Chisholm Trail but doesn't understand the fascination with Black's.

        And how can they claim to be the oldest barbecue place in Texas? Surely there are older meat markets. I know Fort Worth has two places -- Riscky's and Bailey's -- older than Black's.

        1. Never been a fan of Black's either.

          As for ribs I like them tender but not relly fall off the bone tender, it almost seems boiled when its that tender but I do remember really liking the ribs at Louie Muellers in Taylor as well as the jalep sausage they have.

          And the ribs and Brisket at City Market in Luling is my favorite of all.

          1 Reply
          1. re: John Scar

            I'm wondering how Rudy's actually cooks their meats. I recently ruined a friend's love for Rudy's by simply mentioning that their BBQ lacks in depth of flavor. It seems like their MO is to make everything "fall off the bone tender" and it seems like they would have to steam or boil (or parboil) to get that effect. I can't tell where they cook the meat, because it seems like they are simply reheating it at the store. I could be totally wrong, because I've only been twice and during those times the waitpeople were yelling at me (their normal way of serving).

            The intriguing part is that so many people (normal people, not us) consider it their absolute favorite (a lot of these people also love County Line and the Salt Lick). The brisket at Rudy's has only char and no smoke ring, all of their meats are oversalted to me as well.

            Oh, and Smokey Mo's on McNeil doesn't have Steve's awesome smoker - it's gone. They have an electric smoker insider, and their products taste remarkable like Rudy's. I wish Bout Time had made it.

          2. My explanation for why I include Black's in the Lockhart trinity:

            (a) Sausage. That kind of coarsely ground, all-beef sausage may not be to your taste, Seamus. But, in texture and consistency, it's *very* similar to the rings at Kreuz Market and Smitty's. The seasoning differs at each of the three. And individual tastes can certainly vary on that point. But some people, including me, prefer the seasoning of Black's sausage.

            (b) Brisket. Not always, but often, I'll visit Black's, Kreuz, Smitty's, and City Market all on the same day. When I do that, I get brisket and sausage at each of the four (plus select meats from each, e.g., prime rib, pork chop, etc.). On the whole, Black's brisket has fared very well in side-by-side comparisons (including some blind ones with friends and family members). That's enough to make Black's worth a visit whenever I'm in Lockhart.

            (c) Ribs. I love pork ribs. But I've never found ribs to be a strength in Lockhart or Luling. They're not bad. But they lack a pleasantly crisp, glazed exterior (since they're just rubbed with salt and pepper) and sometimes taste a little briny. In terms of level of doneness, though, they're usually pretty close to the mark. The meat holds its shape and separates from the bone with a gentle tug. If the meat falls off the bone, the ribs are overcooked (by most of the judging criteria I've seen for competitive barbecue). All I can say here is that I don't go to Lockhart in general, if I'm in the mood for pork ribs.

            It's always hard to know whether disagreements over barbecue are attributable to different preferences or different experiences. And I don't pretend to know which is the case in this instance. But, for what it's worth, I like Black's.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Scott

              As always Scott, you provide a cogent, informed opinion.

              1. re: Scott

                Scott: Where do you go when you want great ribs?

                1. re: Dick Davis


                  Scott: Where do you go when you want great ribs?

              2. For my 2cents. . . I spent alot of time reviewing past barbeque threads (thank you all!) before my husband and pups headed to Texas Labor Day weekend. We're from Los Angeles, certainly NOT a barbeque mecca, and only got one taste at Black's and one at Smitty's as it was a Sunday and the other places were closed.

                Black's: we all found it to have the best brisket, tender, a good fat to meat ratio, and well flavored. My husband and I really enjoyed the jalepeno sausage ring, as it had great spice. The regular ring was. . . interesting and the ribs were ok.

                Smitty's: the brisket was, sadlt, waaay salty and we left most of it uneaten (not our way). The sausage was quite good. The ribs were better than those at black's as they tasted better and were less fatty.

                Don't flame me for the following, but, we found Stubbs in Austin to have the best ribs as they had alot of flavor and a great peppery taste.

                We also went to Ironworks in Austin. Their brisket was too dry and flavorless but their ribs were pretty good

                Our winners: Stubbs for pork ribs, Black's for brisket and the jalepeno ring, and Smitty's for the regular sausage ring.

                3 Replies
                1. re: misomom

                  I remember Stubbs in Lubbock and the ribs were the highlight, I haven't eaten at the Austin spot though.

                  1. re: John Scar

                    Don't bother with Stubb's in Austin. It is a pathetic excuse for Texas BBQ. Its not any better than Rudy's, Pokejoes or Green Mesquite, which are all VERY average "city" BBQ.

                  2. re: misomom

                    I won't flame you. I really like the ribs at Stubb's too.


                  3. It seems to me that each of the Lockhart places has off days and on days. I don't like the sausage at Black's either--it's too dry. I guess that the coarse grind has something to do with that, maybe. But the day I had their brisket it was some of the best I've ever eaten, and so was the other brisket we brought home in a cooler. The day I had Kreuz brisket, it was like trying to chew a dessicated boot. So next time we'll try Smitty's. Everyone has his/her own opinion about these three places (I never hear much comment about Chisholm Trail, and I gather it's a recent upstart), and it's always fun to see which one you like best on any particular trip.

                    1. t
                      Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                      Only been to Black's once, and have not been to any of the the others in the region.

                      But the brisket that evening is far and away the best I have ever had...all the things I love at their nth degree...bark, succulent beef and serious smoke.

                      Sausage was fine...I'm interested in trying the others of that style
                      to compare the seasoning going on. I'm a sausage fanatic, so all
                      the different tastes and textures are fine by me. My fave sausage
                      is still straight from the source in Elgin.

                      Sides at Black's were totally forgettable...next time I'm there for meat
                      and meat only.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                        We just went to Black's for my first return visit to Lockhart in some 15+ years, and my wife's first visit. It's the best brisket we've ever had, by quite a margin, and the sausages were also most wonderful. What was impressive was the organic synthesis of smoke and meat flavors throughout the portion, not just what was concentrated on the edge.

                        My first visit to Kreuz all those years ago was a real eye- and tastebud-opener, but this was even better. We must come back to retaste both here and at the other area legends!


                      2. "Scott" is the most knowledgeable person in this forum on BBQ I have read and his answer is a great one. That being said, I'll add a couple IMPORTANT points. For those folks that are looking for great PORK ribs, you will NOT find any in Texas, period. You need to go to the Carolinas or St. Louis where they specialize in dead pigs.

                        TEXAS BBQ is beef, and brisket is the way every great Texas BBQ joint should be judged, period. Sausage is a close second. Pork ribs are only on the menu for convenience and they simply do not taste that great when smoked with the post oak that is prevalent around Central Texas. Hickory wood is a much better match for pork.

                        IMO Black's brisket is the best anywhere, with City Market in Luling a close second. I don't care for the tough "clod" served at Smitty's and Kreuz. Black's sausage is also a favorite of mine, altho Smitty's is right up there.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Jay Santos

                          There most definitely are good pork ribs in Texas--at the Country Tavern just outside Kilgore.

                          1. re: Jay Santos
                            Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                            AMEN and HALLELUJAH! RIBS, SCHMIBS!!!

                            I have been called to the carpet for the brisket proclamation
                            so it is refreshing to hear someone else speak the TRUTH!

                            And Black's does indeed rule MY meat kingdom (though we have not done the other Lockhart/Luling legends yet). The best brisket I have yet to taste, and I like the crumbly character of their sausage.

                            However, when I'm having Q, it's not just brisket I'm craving, it's a 2-meat combo.

                            That being said, IMNSHO Southside in Elgin still rules when judging the brisket/sausage combo. Their sausage is pretty much the standard by which all others are judged, and their brisket is quite fine.

                            1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                              "(though we have not done the other Lockhart/Luling legends yet)."

                              You HAVE to check out City Market in Luling as their meats are very similar to Black's, so you will like them. As far as the "other" Lockhart places, Smitty's just wasn't that good last time I went (when I hit both Smittys and Blacks) and I've only been to Kreuz once since they moved and wasn't impressed.

                              Kreuz uses IDENTICAL cuts of meat as Smittys and almost the same seasoniong, but their new-fangled steel pits don't seem to impart the same smoke flavor the old brick pits do at Smittys.

                              Link: http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Write...

                              1. re: Tha Groovin' Gourmet

                                I like Southside Market in Elgin also. Their meats are the lowest priced of any BBQ store in Central Texas and also some of the best. Their famous sausage is SERIOUSLY on the fatty side and I can only handle a few bites without my heart exploding. My six year old son loves it though. The BEST part of Southside Market to me is their butcher shop. They often run specials on Top Sirloin at $2.99-3.99/lb. Get one of those bad boys sliced about 2 inches thick and thats a good hunk of beef for the grill.

                            2. There are many items offered by all these places mentioned so when your speaking of bbq, for accuracy purposes, I find it better to hone in on one single item like brisket.

                              It is very difficult to get brisket to come out the same way all the time. A lot has to do with the meat from a particular cow as well as a whole host of other nuances. One day it might be dry, or tough or overly fatty.
                              For me, the bottom line lies within the flavor of the meat. And Blacks, if you take the time to get into the flavor of it, stands out above the rest. Ignore all the uniqueness of Lockhart, the old time feel of the town or the pit that Smitty proudly shows off. Taste the flavor and compare that. That's it. (No, I don't work for them and I don't know anyone there nor have I ever even said hello to anyone there except to order meat. I live in New Jersey)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bbqbrisket

                                That's me, too. In Central Texas, it's a brisket world. And hot links. I do love pork ribs (although definitely NOT those mushy "fall off the bone" ones) and pulled pork, and, sure, occasionally you'll run into some pretty good pig around here, But folks, that's not why you came. At least, it's not why I came.

                                I never go to Lockhart and hit just one joint. It's usually Smitty's and Blacks. I used to always include Kreuz, too, but I got mediocre to bad brisket there often enough (since they moved to their new soulless BBQ barn) that now I only include Kreuz on about every third or fourth trip, just to see if it's improved any. Now that I'm down in Houston, I usually go to Lockhart via Luling, so I can get City Market in, as well. I have a bite or two of brisket and sausage at each place. After I've sampled, and if it's good, I buy at least several pounds (and usually the whole brisket) and a few hot links to take home. And I have relatives that live in Lexington and they frequently have a little Snow's in the fridge, so I get to taste that quite often as well.

                                As for sides, I don't know about sides. I don't get sides. I'm not there for sides. I can get good sides anywhere. I can go to Luby's and fill up on sides. I sure don't want to drive a couple-hundred miles across Texas to haul home cole slaw. And if I'm eating there, I don't want to waste limited tummy space on potato salad that I can get anywhere. Or, even better, make at home.

                                So I'm there for the brisket. I've found that smoked brisket is sorta like what they say about pro football...."on any given Sunday blah blah blah." So, on any given visit, one barbecue joint might really shine; another might drop a bit. One might rise; a previous winner fall.

                                But for me, month after month, year after year, Black's brisket has been the most consistently wonderful.

                                Oh, and PS to Buck's post above - Black's doesn't say they are the "oldest barbecue place in Texas." They say they are the oldest barbecue place in Texas still operated by the same family that started it.

                                City Market
                                633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                              2. Frankly, I am beginning to think the whole Lockhart BBQ thing is a myth, hyperbole, overblown,and exagerated. I have eaten at several places there over the past year and have been disappointed each time. I am beginning to conclude that maybe I just don't like BBQ until I (finally) ate at Franklin about a week ago. (Howevver, their potato salad needs work).Cranky Joe

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: singlemalt

                                  Went to Lockhart for the first time today, and decided on Smitty's. The sausage was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The snappy casing was the key, the meat inside, like butter and the seasoning perfect. Fatty end brisket, second favorite. Flavorful and juicy. Ribs were not "fall off the bone", but more like jerky pork candy. I liked it. The potato salad was soooo bad. Like grocery store bad, but worse. The cole slaw was good. Didn't get the beans, but when we left, a couple of employees were sorting out beans from a 50 pound bag for soaking, so that's a good sign. Glad we made the detour. The new Kreuz looks is so vast. Black's wins the award for the most signage in town.

                                  1. re: singlemalt

                                    Hi, I live just out of Franklin, Tx. and have no idea where you had BBQ. Did you mean the Blue Moon on OSR? They have great bbq. We eat there at least once a week. Ya'all will have to try. It is located on OSR, just before you get to the Franklin turn, not the Wheelock turn, but the 1940 turn. Let me know what you think.

                                    Blue Moon Cafe
                                    3228 S Flores St, San Antonio, TX 78204

                                    1. re: teddiwalk

                                      Pretty sure he means Franklin BBQ in Austin. It's currently the BBQ hot-spot.... and with reason. I've only been once and it was wonderful.

                                      1. re: Rene

                                        No, not Franklins BBQ. Before you get to Franklin Texas, there is the Old Spanish Road, OSR, that goes from Navasota to Bryan College Station. On OSR is the Blue Moon BBQ. I swear it sooo good. They have ribs that are so moist and tender, but stay on the bone when you bite into them. They have turkey, brisket, sausage, and hot shots- these are stuffed with sausage and cream cheese. Very good. They have bean pots with whatever meat you want, baked potatoes that are huge. Desert and Salads. Just a hole in the wall type of place. We love it.

                                  2. Firstly, I do not like Black's. Lived in Lockhart for many years and did not like the bbq there. But the best I had was in Luling at City Market. It was soooo good. If you get the chance, go and maybe make the watermelon thump. It is fun, fun. We went every year for about 12 years. Sorry I cannot recommend Black's. We did like Chisholm Trail. Have you tried it? I might try a place once or twice, but not three times. First time - shame on you, second time - shame on me, third time -

                                    City Market
                                    633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: teddiwalk

                                      I agree. I don't get the attraction of Black's. We've been twice over a couple of years. Brisket is dang nigh flavorless, most of the side vegetables are atrocious, sausages remind me of Eckrich, not an inhouse sausage.