With four thriving barbecue restaurants within its small-town city limits, Lockhart, Texas, was dubbed the “Barbecue Capital of Texas” by the state’s legislature in 1999. Until recently, if you drove into Lockhart on Highway 183 South from Austin, you probably saw the welcome sign that proudly displayed Lockhart’s barbecue title. (Recently, they changed it to read, “Shop Lockhart First.” I guess the other businesses thought it was their turn for a plug.)
Anyway, if you’re wondering how a town with just 11,615 people supports four barbecue restaurants, I’ll tell you. They get some help from hungry motorists passing through. But mostly, Lockhart people just eat a lot of barbecue. After all, it’s Texas, y’all.
But not just any barbecue will do, so those of us who are locals have our favorites. After trying each one (and some of them more times that I care to count), here is how I rank the barbecue restaurants in Lockhart, Texas.
Black’s does plenty of its own advertising to reel in passers-through. The restaurant’s signs, which you’ll see if you’re coming into Lockhart from any direction you can possibly come into Lockhart, proudly proclaim that the restaurant is the “Oldest in Texas, Same Family.” Black’s is the oldest barbecue restaurant in Texas that has been continuously run by one family. Since 1932, when it first opened its doors, Black’s has seen its share of publicity and famous customers. But perhaps its most powerful was President Lyndon Johnson. Word is around Lockhart that in the 1960s, when Johnson was in office, he had Black’s homemade sausage flown all the way from Texas to cater an affair in the U.S. Capital. That’s a powerful hankerin’ for some Texas barbecue.
To be honest, the sausage isn’t my favorite item on Black’s menu. It’s extremely fresh and flavorful. But I go for the smoked turkey breast every time. Each enormous turkey breast is thickly coated in cracked pepper before it’s smoked. I’ve also had the brisket many times and never left the table hungry. I’ve enjoyed it the most when I’ve asked for a lean cut. Then there’s the ribs, chicken, ham, pork chops Ã¢Â?Â¦ oh, and all the sides.
When you enter Black’s, you can grab yourself a paper plate and help yourself to side items from a small salad bar. I recommend the coleslaw and potato salad. Then a Black’s BBQ employee will ask you what else you’d like. She will fill your plate even higher with any helpings of hot sides you want (pinto or green beans, black-eyed peas, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, etc.) and take your meat order, which is sliced right there before your eyes as your mouth waters.
Most times, I pick up the “Family Pack,” and take it home to share. For $15.75, you get one pound of the meat of your choice, three pints of sides, sliced onions and pickles, lots of sauce, and they’ll even throw in a loaf of bread.
Are your taste buds ready to go to Black’s BBQ? Well, you’re in luck because Black’s is open “8 days a week.” What that really means is every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and when the restaurant happens to be in a background shot of a movie being filmed in Lockhart.
Black’s BBQ-215 N. Main St., Lockhart, Texas; Phone: (512) 398-2712; E-mail: email@example.com; Web site: www.blacksbbq.com
2. Chisholm Trail Barbeque
Barbecue purists might not agree with my second choice, because Chisholm Trail is the youngest of Lockhart’s barbecue restaurants. It opened in 1978, and it’s the only one of Lockhart’s four barbecue restaurants that has a “new-fangled” drive-through window. Don’t laugh; that window comes in really handy when you haven’t combed your hair all day. And let me tell you, there must be a lot of hungry people with uncombed hair in Lockhart, because there is always a long line of cars at that drive-through window.
Chisholm Trail is known for its chopped beef sandwich, which they serve on a bun with mayonnaise, unless you tell them not to. You can’t get a tastier sandwich anywhere, and at just a dollar and some change each, you can afford two. The brisket is excellent at Chisholm Trail, and it’s several dollars per pound cheaper than at Black’s.
If you’re dining in at Chisholm Trail, you’ll encounter a similar fix-your-own-plate-set-up as you do at Black’s. Chisholm Trail might have a few more items to choose from, but the slaw is still better at Black’s. Sauce, you say? Yes, Chisholm Trail will happily provide all the sauce you can slather, as well as bread, pickles and onions.
Be forewarned, however. If you have a problem looking at dead animals while you eat dead animals, stick to the drive-through. Chisholm Trail’s dining room resembles a taxidermist’s showroom. (To be fair, Black’s displays its share of stuffed deer heads on its walls, too.)
Chisholm Trail Barbeque-1323 S. Colorado, Lockhart, Texas; Phone: (512) 398-6027; Chisholm Trail doesn’t have a Web site, but it is listed on the City of Lockhart’s site at www.lockhart-tx.org. Click on “Visitors” then on “Barbeque Restaurants.”
3. Smitty’s Market
I’ve only eaten at Smitty’s Market a couple of times. This is mainly because I like my top two choices of barbecue restaurants in Lockhart so much. But ranking Smitty’s third is probably blasphemy in Lockhart. Even though it opened in 1999, it is considered old-school Lockhart barbecue. You see, Kreuz Market (my number-four choice) used to sit where Smitty’s does today. The same family ran Kreuz there for years. Then, due to what might or might not have been a family feud (rumors abound), one sibling moved Kreuz Market to an enormous new building on Lockhart’s north side, and the other opened Smitty’s in Kreuz’s original location. Oh, the drama.
I was a little surprised the first time I entered Smitty’s. I came in through the back door, and if the barbecue smells hadn’t been so delectable, I swear I would have thought I had entered the waiting room for hell. The room where you order your meats by the pound at Smitty’s is dark except for a few log fires burning in several corners, and it’s really hot. Between the heat and the smell of the barbecue that makes your stomach growl, I don’t know how the employees take it all day.
Aesthetics aside, Smitty’s offers a large assortment of barbecued meats ranging from brisket to sausage to ribs. They don’t have turkey, however. Oh, and they do have sauce, but they keep it hidden away. You have to ask for it in the dining area, where you also can purchase some side items. But wait! You have to pay for your meats there at the meat counter before you go.
The dining area is right next to the meat counter, but once you go through that door you get a refreshing blast of air conditioning. Just head to the counter and order and pay for your sides and drinks. I’ve had the coleslaw, potato salad and beans. All were good. The sauce was a little on the vinegary side, however. This is probably on purpose so you won’t use it on their meat. That’s also blasphemous.
Smitty’s Market-208 S. Commerce St., Lockhart, Texas; Phone: (512) 398-9344; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.smittysmarket.com
4. Kreuz (pronounced Krites) Market
OK, I’ll probably be ridden out of town on a rail for this one, but I’m ranking Kreuz, Lockhart’s oldest barbecue restaurant, founded in 1900, in last place. I will admit that I might not have given Kreuz enough of a shot. I’ve only eaten there once, but I stand by my rankings given the information I have now.
If you’re coming into Lockhart from Austin on Highway 183, you can’t miss Kreuz Market. It is housed in an enormous red sheet metal building on your right. It’s set up similar to Smitty’s in that the meat counter is in one area, and the dining and side-item area is in another.
Kreuz serves up the whole list of barbecue meats. I had the brisket, and it was too fatty for my taste, but many people order it that way specifically. I didn’t try the sides, which are new to Kreuz. Until the move in 1999, Kreuz didn’t serve any. Asking for barbecue sauce (or a fork for that matter) at Kreuz was and still is a major faux pas. They are quite proud of their meat and don’t want you mucking it up with sauce. And forks? That’s what fingers are for!
Still, I will give Kreuz the benefit of the doubt. They must know something about barbecue. They’ve been around for more than 100 years. I’ve only lived in Lockhart for four. What do I know?
Kreuz Market-619 N. Colorado St., Lockhart, Texas; Phone: (512) 398-2361; E-mail: email@example.com; Web site: www.kreuzmarket.com