Lockhart, Texas is the BBQ capital of Texas. It’s a town of 12,000 with four BBQ joints that are packed, even at 2PM. That’s some good BBQ, across the board. If you love BBQ, you need to go to Lockhart and sample the wares there. If you don’t know what BBQ is, then you will discover it in Lockhart.
First of all, let’s get something straight: BBQ is not merely grilling meats. It is an art form executed in meat, wood, and smoke that requires participatory involvement among its intended audience. When you see the Mona Lisa, it would be a crime to bite into it and savor its flavors. When you see a plate of Lockhart BBQ, it would be a crime to not bite into it. That is the key difference between most other art and BBQ.
Now for the breakdown: Lockhart’s barbeque restaurants number four: Chisolm Trail, Smitty’s, Black’s, and Kreuz. This past Thursday and Friday, my wife and I went to all four for a scientific research expedition that was much yummier than trying to find the North Pole, I assure you. If you want to know which one is best, my answer is, “Yes.”
By that, I mean that they all have an aspect that I found to be truly excellent. All four served up meats that made me pause to savor, even at the expense of enduring discomfort as my throat yearned for water. Taste took precedence over comfort, and that is a true mark of an excellent plate.
A few general comments before I deal with the restaurants individually: these are not polished dining establishments, nor should they be. Each has its own ritual of waiting in line and selecting one’s food. Follow the lead of the natives in front of you in each of these places. They all have strong ambient aromas of the BBQ pit: best not to expect smelling like something other than a smoke pit after paying them a visit. Plastic table covers, metal chairs, and a lack of utensils is the rule at these places, with Smitty’s and Kreuz not even offering forks: your fingers will do just fine. If the thought of your hands smelling like meat for the rest of the day makes you recoil, you are reading the wrong article and you should always give Texas wide berth, on account you won’t be pleased with what goes on here. We-all barbeque here, I tell you what.
Chisolm Trail had the lowest prices, the most sides, and the best sausage – nice and spicy, and I enjoyed that. The other places had great sausage – Black’s being most reminiscent of Gerik’s sausage up in West, which I am mad about – but if I go back to Lockhart in a sausagey mood, I’ll poke my nose into Chisolm Trail and get my fix there.
Smitty’s had it a great pork rib and a fine brisket. Smitty’s sauce was not entirely to my liking, but the good news there is that the pork rib tastes much better without adding sauce. My wife enjoyed their brisket best. I am more of a rib fan, so I’ll defer to her assessment of the brisket here.
Black’s has been a place I’ve gone to many times over the decades, so I really was comparing the other places to it. Its prices were highest and its sauce has an amazing dimension to it that made it the best in town and one of my favorite sauces, right up there with Corky’s in Memphis, Tennessee. The picture above is of the giant beef rib we ordered up at Black’s. That is one of the best things I have ever eaten, and I would gladly do it again. It was brilliant with or without the sauce, but I preferred it with Black’s intricate sauce that complements the meat so very well. Everything was grand at Black’s, and it remains my overall favorite, but that is now an informed judgment on my part.
Kreuz is a place I had always seen but never been inside of. I disagreed with their “no sauce at all” policy, so I took their meat to go and ate it in the car with a small bowl of Black’s sauce, just to see if the sauce made a difference. In the case of their pork rib, as at Smitty’s, the meat was better on its own. I would attribute that to the sauce that had already been applied to the rib in the smoker – there was no need to dress it any more. I consider the pork ribs there to be almost as good as the ribs I hold dearest – Corky’s – and relished my discovery therein. I really enjoyed their brisket as well, with and without sauce, and celebrated the flavors. I thought it had scored big, but my wife called a penalty on that play. Our cut of brisket had not been trimmed, so we had paid for a pretty sizable hunk of inedible stuff. Everywhere else had trimmed the brisket, but not this one.
It was great having a BBQ crawl over two days. We spent the night in Austin and had a lovely trip, all the more enjoyable with our bold research. Any fan of BBQ owes it to himself or herself to see what Lockhart has to offer. All four of these places are great eats, and will give the gourmet some memorable experiences. While I enjoyed my giant rib at Black’s the most, I don’t consider it a winner of the BBQ wars of Lockhart. The real winner is the city itself and those lucky enough to live within smelling distance of four of the finest BBQ joints on the planet.