Category Archives: Barbeque

Barbecue of Lockhart, Texas

Disneyland for the mouth

Lockhart, Texas — about 40 minutes outside Austin — is the self-proclaimed “Barbecue Capital of Texas” and they are probably selling themselves short. Texas tends to be beef-centric, and in general it is unfair to compare the barbecues of different regions; I myself have enjoyed delicious Memphis ribs and Carolina pulled pork from time to time, as often as possible really. Lots of other types out there too, all (at least sometimes) good, all unique. But while it is not really true (as the Kreuz folk say) that good barbecue needs no sauce — and anyway some sauces are great in their own right ; indeed, I had an interesting philosophy-of-barbecue conversation with official blog photographer/barbecue expert/pork-preferrer P last night in which, among other things, he argued that often, in the context of pork, the sauce is the whole point — it seems self-evident that any barbecue so good that it needs no sauce must be very good indeed.  And that barbecue lives in Lockhart.

Smitty's Market

In the beginning (of the 20th Century), God made Kreuz Market, and he saw that it was good, and he ate Kreuz’ beef brisket, and he tasted that it was really really REALLY good, and so Kreuz begat Black’s, and it too was good, and Black’s begat Chisholm Trail, which is probably also good but who can tell when we’re all eating at Kreuz or Black’s. After nearly a half-century, Kreuz Market was bought by Edgar “Smitty” Schmidt, in 1948. After another half-century, in the late 1990s, just as Cain turned on Abel, so Smitty’s heirs turned on each other, and God divided the barbecue from the barbecue: Kreuz Market on the one side, and Smitty’s on the other (more on the Kreuz-Smitty’s history here among other places on the internets).

Black's Barbecue

Smitty’s kept the original building, but Kreuz kept the name, moving a ceremonial original pit ember to a new, much larger barn-like location just down the road.  Some locals are loyal to one or the other, depending on who was friends with whom; others just go to Black’s, either because it’s better or some folks just find it easier that way.  Mrs. Me and I are Kreuz people; I don’t really know how it happened, but that’s the way it is.  I’m sure I would enjoy Smitty’s or Black’s, but the trouble is I only get to Lockhart for about one hour every two years, and I don’t see any point in trying Black’s or Smitty’s or Chisholm Trail when I already know that Kreuz is The Happiest Place on Earth (suck it, Disney).

Heaven's Pit-Smoked Gate

Kreuz Market is a church of barbecue, looming tall over the parking lot and flat Texas terrain, beckoning one and all to make pilgrimage to the brisket of the gods.  Upon entering, there is a dining room to the left, a dining room to the right, and straight ahead, down a long hallway adorned with photos of adoring Kreuz fans (Dennis Hopper!), rises the gate of heaven: the doorway to the barbecue pit.  The gate is preceded by a sink, that one might be clean before the barbecue lord. The pit (indeed the entire building) has only been there for a dozen years, but the ember goes back decades, and some of the pit masters and meat carvers have been there for decades too; the dude with the huge mutton-chop sideburns has been there on each of our visits over ten years and I bet he’s been at Kreuz much longer than that. They’ve done a great job creating a throwback, 1940s-50s environment.

It would be hard to choose if I didn't know how good the brisket is

Order by the pound: brisket, chops, ribs, even prime rib if you get there early enough, which we did this time and Mrs. Me can now vouch for the prime rib; or order a variety of sausages by the link.  It’s all good, I’ve tried most of it once, and though some swear by the pork chop, I am all about the brisket. They used to offer a choice of regular or “fatty” brisket (I’m not imagining that am I?), but now it’s just “brisket” and it is plenty fatty, just the right amount; it spends enough time in the pit so the fat mostly renders down to crisp black deliciousness, becoming distilled, concentrated salty-smoky-savory bursts of umami.  Incredible flavor.  The meaty part of the brisket is wonderful too, pale pink and juicy inside, rimmed by a darker pink smoke ring. Like mutton-chop man says, Kreuz brisket needs no sauce.  It is the perfect food.  At least I think it is, although I have never tried it with bacon, or bacon-wrapped and deep-fried, so there may yet be room for improvement.  Kreuz doesn’t sell bacon — maybe I will suggest that next time.

The brisket is so much better than the photo

I always order the baked beans as a side, not because I need the extra calories, but because they are good in their own right, and provide a tangy counterpoint to the smoky barbecue, plus all it takes is one bite of beans, no matter how good they are, to make me want to take another bite of brisket.  SO GOOD.  Washes down well with a cold Lone Star, or a Diet Coke in a pinch.  Texas is by and large a Coke state, not Pepsi, just another added bonus.

Pilgrimage complete, we waddled to the car and drove back to whatever less happy place we came from, we didn’t even really remember at that point, thank goodness for GPS; we were able to relax and enjoy our Kreuz coma.  It’s just as well we don’t live in Austin or even Houston, between Kreuz and Tex-Mex I wouldn’t last long (but would die happy — obese and congealed, but happy).

Road Trip: Wildwood BBQ (St. Pete Beach, Fla.)

Our Florida sojourn began at St. Pete Beach’s Post Card Inn (6300 Gulf Blvd.), coincidentally and accurately reviewed by the NYT a day after we reserved our room — a good value via Hotwire but I wouldn’t pay the usual $100 and up despite the on-the-beach location.  For our first meal, we hit PCI’s on-site restaurant, Wildwood BBQ, whose better-known location is in New York City.  Abita Turbodog on tap!  But downhill from there: pork nachos marred by a deluge of too-sweet barbecue sauce; only average pulled pork, but preferable to bland chicken or dry, too-lean brisket. Grilled chicken salad was okay, and bacon-studded collard greens were pretty good, but monochromatic congealed mac & cheese? Yawn. Big portions, but bad quality/quantity ratio, and not inexpensive either.

Asheville Barbeque Battle

Asheville, North Carolina for Memorial Day Weekend. 12 Bones. Luella’s. Appetites. We’re all winners here.

My barbeque expertise is in Texas, not North Carolina, which means historically I’m all about brisket not pork, but I love good pig parts when I can get them, and this weekend opportunity knocked like shave-and-a-haircut to Roger Rabbit. We sampled baby back ribs, pulled pork, and a variety of sides from the regionally famous 12 Bones and from Luella’s, another well-regarded local joint.

12 Bones Ribs

12 Bones Ribs

(how did that lime get in there?)  Here are our results from the taste test.

Ribs: essentially a tie, both half-racks were meaty and juicy; 12 Bones were a bit longer, thinner, curvier, and more blackened at the ends, and maybe just a bit juicier; if I had to pick one I would pick 12 Bones but Luella’s ribs are plenty good.  12 Bones are also less expensive ($10 vs. $12.95 including two sides per each order).

Luella's Ribs

Luella's Ribs

Pulled/chopped pork: Luella’s was good but dry, with vinegary overtones, and chopped too fine for my taste. 12 Bones was the winner here with big juicy chunks o’ pig.

Collard greens: veggies were, surprisingly, the biggest differentiator between the restaurants; 12 Bones collards were bright, vibrant green with pork flavor despite little evident bacon, well-balanced bacon-vinegar goodness; Luella’s greens were maybe a bit overcooked, washed-out color, big chunks of bacon but less pork flavor.

12 Bones Pulled Pork Platter

12 Bones Pulled Pork Platter

Coleslaw: 12 Bones slaw was exemplary, tangy, vinegary, mustard seeds, all slaw should aspire to this level of quality; Luella’s was no better than KFC.

Mac’n’cheese: biggest disappointment overall, both were pale, bland, and not particularly creamy, clearly an afterthought.

Luella's Chopped Pork Platter

Luella's Chopped Pork Platter

Beans: Luella’s served up some good looking mixed bean salad but it didn’t have much flavor, more ketchupy than anything despite any visible evidence of ketchup; 12 Bones was more standard baked beans styley but still nothing special; no real winner here, as both paled in comparison to your better Texas bbq joint sides of beans (e.g. Kreutz Market).

Bonus Starch: because mac/cheese and various potato options are never enough, we get cornbread from 12 Bones and hush puppies from Luella’s; both good; the cornbread was moist and delicately corny, a fine example of the genre; the hush puppies were a little on the heavy side, but hey, hush puppies, tasty.

Overall, a clear win for top-ranked 12 Bones. If I found myself at Luella’s again I would stick to ribs and hush puppies.  If I find myself in Asheville again, I will go straight to 12 Bones. That said, we found several other excellent eating options this weekend, more about which in a day or so.