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