Originally posted on You Only Live Once.
Lockhart is a small town some 40 minutes south of Austin, Texas. While its population barely scrapes above 10,000, it actually contains three of the most famous BBQ joints in Texas, and was even proclaimed The Barbecue Capital of Texas by the Texas Legislature. So that’s why my wife, sister and I found ourselves haulin’ ass down Highway 183 on a Tuesday evening.
We had first heard of Lockhart while watching a short lived TV series we became addicted to –Food Wars, a show which, for each episode, would travel to a different part of America and pitted two rival restaurants who served the same cuisine against each other, resulting in a blind taste test to decide who served better food. In the Lockhart episode, they pit the two most famous of Lockhart’s BBQ joints, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market, against each other to decide who served the better Texas BBQ. This rivalry was far more intense than the other episodes of Food Wars because it involved the falling out of a brother and sister, who used to run Kreuz Market together. They parted ways in 1999, with the brother keeping the name and moving Kreuz Market to a new, bigger location; while the sister renamed the 100 year old Kreuz site to Smitty’s Market and the siblings have been in a smokey barbecue war ever since.
Kruez Market, 619 N Colorado St Lockhart, TX +1 512-398-2361
Kreuz Market came home with the glory in that Food Wars episode, with their brisket and sausage declared more delicious by the local judges. It’s the first BBQ joint you go past on your way into Lockhart. It’s huge – the carpark could fit well over 100 cars. Inside is like a BBQ museum, as you walk past hundred year old kitchen artifacts from Kreuz’ history on your way to the counter. The BBQ pit – where all the meat is smoked on low heat for hours and hours – is on display for all to see. You order your meat, they pull a huge smouldering piece of animal from the pit, slice some off for you, weigh it and plonk it onto some brown paper. You take your tray of meat to the next room, add some slices of bread, saltine crackers and a pickle and take your seat in the dining hall. As we entered there was a sign saying “Vegetarians Enter Here”, which leads directly into the dining hall, excluding the less carnivorous minded from the bloodthirsty horror of the pit.
The stars of Kreuz’s meaty lineup are their pork ribs. The brisket is pretty good, and the sausage is fantastic, fatty and peppery, but those ribs are smoked to perfection, looking as good as they taste with a nice red ring around the meat and the amazing balance of chew versus fall off the bone tenderness. Good stuff. Here’s as good a place as any to profess my love for saltine crackers as well, which should be served on the side of every meal, even if your meal is just a packet of saltines. Kreuz Market gets two thumbs up!
Smitty’s, 208 S Commerce St, Lockhart, TX +1 (512) 398-9344
Because of their rivalry, for many years it was always about Kreuz and Smitty’s in Lockhart. However in recent years, Smitty’s Market has received bad reviews from BBQ judges all over Texas – with the 113 year old restaurant not even making the cut in Texas Monthly’s Top 50! So when we realised that Smitty’s Market closes early and we wouldn’t be able to eat there, we weren’t too upset – it was enough just to head over to the site and have a gander at the outside of Smitty’s Market though, marvelling at their smokestack and impressive display of wood – ready to fuel the week’s barbecue.
Blacks, 215 N Main St, Lockhart, TX +1 512-398-2712
Around the corner from Smitty’s is the underdog, Black’s BBQ, a comparatively small and unassuming bar and bbq joint. This place is famous for their beef brisket, which is all that we order – one pound for each of us – with a pickle and a cornbread muffin on the side. Black’s is the only place we’ve been to so far in Texas that seems to take pride in their sauce, offering a wide selection of home made BBQ sauces, some sweet, others spicy.
Their brisket is glorious. The fatty side is fall apart tender and the lean side isn’t dry at all. What’s wild about Black’s is the way they cook – cooking their meat for 8 hours, then foiling it up, refrigerating it overnight and cooking it for a further 8 hours before serving it the next day. This method is unique, and the staff are probably grateful for the less intense hours!
We leave Lockhart happy and full of meat. It could be argued that if you only have a few days in Austin there’s more than enough incredible barbecue joints to check out before wandering off to any neighbouring towns, but the rich history of BBQ in Lockhart is definitely worth a visit.
Next up: Mississippi!
Stay tuned for the rest of the smokey meat eating tour of America with Levins right here.
If you missed it, see part 1 when Levins did Austin, Texas