What can I say about Lockhart, Texas? There are four major barbecue joints (Smitty’s, Kreuz’s, Chisholm Trail and Black’s) within five minutes of each other. All of them are good, three are possibly great. According to the City of Lockhart's website, "The restaurants estimate that about 5,000 people visit their establishments each week. This would be roughly 250,000 people a year who eat BBQ in Lockhart.
Texas Legislature, first the House of Representatives in the Spring of 1999, then in the Fall of 2003, the Senate passed a resolution proclaiming Lockhart to be The Barbecue Capital of Texas." I humbly have to agree.
The first one I visited was Smitty's Market. Nina Schmidt Sells established Smitty's Market in 1999. They're in the same building that housed her father's Kreuz Market. You feel the history as soon as you enter the building. Entering from the street, you pass through a long hallway with the butcher shop on the left, the dining room on the right and the pit room at the end. It's dark, smokey and mysterious. It’s yet another religious experience for the barbeque fanatic.
When I entered Smitty's from the parking lot, I walked down a narrow hall and made a slight turn into the pit room, where I almost burned my leg on the wood fire that was sitting open on the floor. The fire heated the long low pit where Smitty’s cooks their meat. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture of the pit, but here's a picture of Smitty’s wood.
How’s Smitty’s food? Excellent, I loved all of it, except the cheese. It's that same bland cheese served at all the Texas BBQ joints. Blah. Texas needs to be introduced to a good New York State sharp cheddar!
Entering Lockhart from Austin, the first BBQ joint you see is Kreuz’s. Kreuz’s market is a huge barn of a building that was built in 1999 when the family split up. Apparently Smitty’s opened in the original building, but the pits were moved into the newly built Kreuz’s market.
Kreuz’s market was obviously built for the tourist trade. It is very similar to a theme restaurant where a lot of effort was spent to recapture the feel and ambience of an old time barbecue restaurant. They succeed in part, but it’s just too big. The intimacy of all the old restaurants just isn’t there. It’s one of those restaurants where the busses can drop a load of hungry tourists and feed them all within 20 minutes.
But how’s the food? Honestly, it was good, but not as good as I expected. The brisket was on the dry side, but the sausage was very good. Before the trip I asked my brothers at The BBQ-Brethren for recommendations and Kreuz’s was highly recommended as the best barbeque joint in Lockhart, but I think Smitty’s has the edge.
And lastly, there’s Black’s Barbecue. Black’s is off the beaten path, but it’s easy to find. There are billboards all over town and a huge yellow arrow pointing the way. Judging from the amount of advertising, Black’s seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex when dealing with the more famous Kreuz’s and Smitty’s. Their fears are misplaced.
Entering Black’s you are immediately on the food line. To the left are the side dishes on a steam table, but I didn’t try any of them. Right in front of you, at the end of the line, is the real reason I was here, the BBQ. Here you order your meat by the pound or link, just like in every other joint in Texas. The smoker is just behind the counter, but separated by a windowed wall. The woman slicing the meat was very good. I asked for 1/4 lb of brisket. She sliced it and when it was put it on the scale, it weighed in at exactly 0.251 pounds. I was impressed.
So how’s Black’s food? It’s great. The brisket was perfectly cooked, tender, moist and flavorful. The sausage was good, but not outstanding. An interesting find was the pork loin. Texas is beef country. Pork is not the meat of choice here, but Black’s does an outstanding job with it. I highly recommend it when visiting.
The last barbecue joint in Lockhart is Chisholm Trail Barbeque (No website as far as I can find). Unfortunately after trying Smitty’s, Kreuz’s and Black’s all in one morning, I didn’t have any room left in my large stomach to go into Chisholm. Chisholm Trail Barbeque is unique as it is cafeteria style barbecue. From the city of Lockhart’s website, “The restaurant packs in a daily crowd made up mostly of locals and it too, has made the Texas Monthly list of Texas' best barbecue restaurants.” So Chisholm is on the top of my list for my next visit.
If you're heading down to Texas, check out this website on the Texas Barbecue Trail. I wish I had before I went.