One of our main objectives in our 7 months in Texas was to sample BBQ throughout the state. Texas is known primarily for their brisket and beef based BBQ. With soo many places proclaiming they are the best BBQ in TX, we knew we needed to find out for ourselves. We have sampled BBQ at a couple places as we have traveled through TX so far and were now ready to hit the BBQ capital of Texas. The holy grail of BBQ in the Lone Star state! Lockhart, TX.
Lockhart has 4 primary BBQ joints, with 3 of them being touted in numerous sources as some of the best. Therefore we decided to devote an entire day to eating our way through the BBQ Capital. There is alot of BBQ family history here, not all good. For starters, we hit Kruez Market, the first location as you drive south into Lockhart from Austin and is the newest...due to a family rift. As the story goes, the owner of Kruez and his sister had a falling out and the brother moved the Kruez business to the new location on the north side of town since his sister owned the downtown building. She then opened Smitty's Market in the old, downtown location. It was said by a customer in line with us, that it cost approx. 6 million to build and open the new Kruez location. That's alot in this little town!
The third "Q" joint also has a long family history in the BBQ business and Blacks BBQ has been in business since 1932, being the oldest in TX and is now in the 4th generation of family owners.
This being the newest location, it is on the northside of town in a newer building and there is lots of parking and lots of seating. They also had more pits than the others. What was really interesting was the process of how you work your way through these places. At Kruez, you start by going to the pit room where all of the pits are lined up and smoking away. The butcher block table is on the middle and you give your order, chosen by the pound, and they slice it for your order. Your meat is placed on butcher paper and wrapped up. No plate, no tray, just the paper.
After paying for your wrapped meat, you go into the next room where you choose your sides and drinks. We got the coleslaw and cheesy potato casserole. Sauce is not promoted and you need to look real close for some sitting on a counter. We knew the place had to be good because the local police officers were dining here with us.
Our ratings: The brisket had a good smoke and bark but a little dry. The sausage had good seasoning and a great snap on the casing. The cheesy potato salad was very good and the tasty coleslaw was creamy and homemade. The staff was very friendly and helpful in leading us through the process.
This location is right off the downtown square in a small, nondescript old building. Just walking in the front door you see the smoke markings on the walls and smell the years of BBQ. Similar to Kreuz, you walk to the back, into the meat room first. We were quite surprised to see that you walk right past the hot fire, no wall or barricade blocking you from the fire. Must be really interesting with children! We ordered the same brisket and sausage and it was again packaged for us in butcher paper and we paid for the meat there. One difference, Smitty's is cash or check only. Come prepared!
You then took your meat into the next room and pick your sides and drinks. Smitty's mostly had cold sides and less of a selection. Since this was our second lunch, we were getting a bit full so we only got the coleslaw to split. This location felt more like a cafeteria and had a couple long tables with folding chairs for seating. There were lots of older locals here for lunch and it seemed like it was the meeting place. Oh did I mention they do not have forks???? You eat with your fingers, but we did have a plastic knife for cutting meat and a spoon for the coleslaw. Interesting....
Our ratings: We got the top cap on this brisket which means that it was super flavorful with the bark melting in your mouth. Yet still, a bit dry. The sausage had a good snap, but unlike the first sausage, this one was loosely packed which gave it more smokey flavor. It was good but I was a little torn on if I liked the looser pack. Rick liked it. The coleslaw was premade without much flavor.
At this point we had two lunches, even being smaller portions, we decided we needed to call a BBQ time out and went to see Knives Out at the local theater. We were again fortunate enough to get free tickets from VetTix and really enjoyed the movie. After a two hour rest we were ready to take on the last Lockhart BBQ joint.
Black's is also located downtown on a side street, but there are definitely signs that lead you to them. The process here was a bit different in that you come in the door, grab a plate and go through a cafeteria setup were you choose your sides, both hot and cold, including delicious desserts. Once you have loaded up there, you are at the counter were you order your meat and they package it up for you and you pay for everything together.
One of the 3rd generation owners was at the helm of the butcher block and upon hearing we were first timers, gave us burnt ends and a giant beef rib to try. They are known for those big ribs! We also splurged and got the banana pudding. The eating area felt more like a dining room, with booths and tables. They also had self serve soda fountains and a healthy condiment bar, including pickles, bread and onions. The walls were filled with family pictures and well known individuals who have dined there. The staff was really friendly and welcoming, which made it a really nice dining experience.
Our ratings: The brisket had good, crusty bark that melted in your mouth and holy cow it was moist with juices still pooling on the paper! The texture was really satisfying as well. We opted for the garlic sausage, which was not offered at the other locations. It again had a nice snap and was loosely packed, similar to Smitty's. By now I was starting to warm up to the idea since it was soo tasty. It was also very moist and juicy. The burnt ends were to die for and melted in your mouth. The beef rib did not disappoint, big yumminess. The coleslaw was your standard coleslaw with a touch of radish shreds. The banana pudding was really good!
Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs and we ended up taking some of the brisket and burnt ends home with us which reheated well and was still moist.
Sooo...after all of that BBQ meat consumption, we decided on the winners...
Brisket- Black's- it was moist and had a really good smoke and bark to it. The other two would have been contenders if they weren't so dry. Perhaps we hit them on an off day.
Sausage- Again, Black's took the prize here. The moist and flavorful sausage really won both of us over.
Sides- Kreuz was the winner here. Their coleslaw had the best taste and the cheesy potato casserole was delicious! Although, Black's had alot of side choices, but we stayed with the same side we had at the others. We could have definitely tried more...if we had room. We were pretty full by then!
There is not much else going on in Lockhart, but we did take a walk on their downtown square between our two lunches and enjoyed the beautiful courthouse in the middle of the square.
All in all, we really enjoyed eating our way through Lockhart, even if we did have to go for a long walk once we got home, just to feel comfortable again. We have 5 1/2 more months in TX to sample more BBQ, but now we can say we have eaten our way through the BBQ capital of TX. We feel pretty accomplished...and FULL!!!
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