Barbecue is a passion for most Americans including the 2foodtrippers. That’s why it was a no-brainer for us to stop in Lockhart, Texas during our road trip so that we could live out our own personal Lockhart barbecue fantasy.
After enjoying the crazy-good Brisket at Smitty’s Market in the heart of Lockhart, Texas, we couldn’t avoid exploring where all the magic happens – in the back of the butcher/barbecue shop.
While admiring the primitive smokey pits, we spoke to temporary pitmaster Jim Sells. Sells didn’t hesitate to show off the meaty morsels that were parked on the pit smokers. A simple bonfire burned on one end of the brick constructed pits while smoke was drawn through a large simple ceiling fan that looked as old as the century old building that houses Smitty’s.
“My wife does all the real work everyday. I’m just filling in,” Sells said.
So goes the day-to-day routine for one of the epicenters of Texas barbecue and one of the true eating treasures of the United States.
Lockhart, Texas is a barbecue fantasy. It’s a city located just 30 minutes outside Austin yet decades away from its hi-tech neighbor. Walk into some of the great meat markets of Lockhart, and you’ll feel like it’s 1950, and much of the barbecue is still made that way.
Eateries like Smitty’s Market take cooking to its core essence and produce some of the greatest slow cooked and smoked meat products on the face of the earth. Old line markets like Kreuz produces sausages that make you wonder what you’ve been eating your whole life. Restaurants like Black’s Barbecue purvey Brontosaurus sized ribs and fixings that are born of cooking traditions handed down through the years with love.
There were only two of us on our road trip, so approaching Lockhart barbecue was a challenge. Contrary to rumors, we can only eat so much. So, armed with empty stomachs after a two-hour drive from Houston, we attacked the town with as much abandon as our two stomachs could handle.
We began our journey at Kreuz Market. The smoky smells transported our olfactory senses straight to BBQ land as we pulled our trusty Nissan Sentra into Kreuz’s large gravel parking lot. Their layout is simple. An amply sized eat-in dining room yields to three large ordering counters where customers place their orders by the pound. There are really no secrets here. As soon as your order is taken, the sales clerk reaches back to one of the large pits behind the counter where prodigious quantities of smoked brisket, ribs and sausage wait in Kreuz’s large brick barbecue pits. On this stop, we ordered ribs, brisket and one link of cheddar jalapeño sausage.
The flavors of the ribs and brisket struck us right away. Texans don’t mess with a lot of complicated spices. There’s even a sign that proudly proclaims the market’s ban on barbecue sauce. Here in Lockhart, the seasoning mix is basically just salt and pepper. What makes Texas BBQ so great is the art, decades in the making, of low and slow cookery. This approach enables the deep and rich flavors found in the meat to meld perfectly with a simple spice blend. After tasting the brisket and ribs, we dug into the sausage – which absolutely stole the show and our hearts (no pun intended.)
At Kreuz Market, meat is basically served on butcher paper with a plastic knife and NO FORKS. It’s really not all that messy due to the ‘no sauce’ thing, so all you have is a knife and your fingers. With the sausage, we gripped the one end, sliced open the link and watched with awe as the precious porky juices slowly flowed from the center. Once in our mouths, the sausage made a perfect snap upon chewing. And the flavor? It was perfect – the jalapeno was spicy without being overbearing, ending with a cheesy, smoky flavor punch.
We’ve eaten more than our share of great sausages in our lives, but the link at Kreutz Market may be the greatest we’ve tasted so far.
Tasting Tip: Go to Kreutz Market on a weekday. There are no lines for food and plenty of parking.
Kreuz Market is located at 619 N Colorado St, Lockhart, TX 78644, United States.
When visiting Lockhart, you can easily travel around the town’s cute yet walkable center. As we walked toward the city center, we were drawn to the town’s late 19th century courthouse building that screamed small town Texas. There are a few small bars and even a couple of art galleries. Of course, being there on a BBQ mission, we headed to Smitty’s Market for the second stop of our day.
Smitty’s Market has two entrances. We entered through the back, but we recommend entering through the well-lit front entrance. Once inside, we noticed a dining area with long tables, fluorescent lights and an old school lunch counter vibe. There are some interesting quirks to Smitty’s menu like the popular prime rib (which, unfortunately, they were sold out of) and smoked pork chops. We opted for the moist brisket and, out of pure curiosity, a pork chop.
Let’s start with the pork chop. Pork chops are lean and don’t lend themselves well to low and slow cookery but the true treasure is in their ends, cooked hours to spicy, carmelized meltiness. Then we tasted the moist brisket – that was the treasure of Smitty’s.
Smitty’s brisket is nirvana for the meat lover. Once the deeply barked meat is removed from the pit, you can see the juices flow out gently as the knife courses its way through the fatty, succulent beef. We enjoyed every bit of it. Mindi loved the bark-like outside. (Real burnt ends – Are you paying attention Kansas City?) Daryl relished in the fatty meat with its smoky, beefy, melt in your mouth flavors.
Add in Smitty’s old-time ambience, and you have the essence of a Texas barbecue fantasy.
Tasting Tip: Be sure to explore the rear of Smitty’s Market so that you don’t miss out on seeing where the magic happens.
Smitty’s Market is located at 208 S Commerce St, Lockhart, TX 78644, United States.
Black’s Barbecue may be the most conventional dining hall of the bunch, but what makes Black’s different is the sides… and the Brontosaurus sized Texas ribs of course.
Instead of being a butcher shop / lunch counter like Smitty’s and Kreuz, Black’s is more of a family style restaurant featuring tables lined with plastic gingham and walls covered with nostalgia. Customers line up and pick their choice of sides like peach cobbler, sweet potatoes, green beans and potato salad.
For our third stop of the day, we ordered the brisket and a huge beef rib. The brisket was solid with good smoke and nice bark, but the fattiness of the rib conveyed the true essence of great barbecue with its nicely browned bark edge and juicy meat. The peach cobbler was especially good – gooey yet not too sweet with a buttery, cinnamon crust. While Kreuz and Smitty’s make for excellent barbecue excursions, Black’s provides a range of options for a pleasant night out.
Tasting Tip: Don’t be scared off by the price of the beef ribs at Black’s Barbecue. They are big, meaty and worth every penny.
Black’s Barbecue is located at 215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX 78644, United States.
And, like a dream, our Lockhart barbecue fantasy ended. We didn’t have enough appetite left to try Chisholm Trail, a fourth barbecue spot in the tiny town. Next time we go to Lockhart, Texas, we’ll go with friends so we can taste more stuff.
Until then, we will always have Lockhart barbecue in our dreams.