Hill Country Guide

In Lockhart, a Texas Barbecue Pilgrimage Takes Place

From brisket to sausage to, yes, pork chops, Lockhart is a meat-lover’s mecca.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen April 17, 2017 Published in the May 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Black's Barbecue in Lockhart

The problem with a barbecue weekend in Lockhart is that it’s hard to fit in all the good eating the historic town has to offer. But we advise getting in as many meat-centric meals as possible—you’re on vacation, after all.

At the top of the list is Black’s Barbecue, just off Lockhart’s main town square, which rivals the famous Franklin in virtually every metric except for the much-shorter line. After scanning the entrance hall photos covering four generations of the Black family and their many celebrity admirers, the tough decisions begin: The plates have room for about four sides and desserts, and you will want all of them—should you get the potato salad or the creamed corn? The banana pudding or the peach cobbler? The only wrong choice is to fill up on sides and not leave room for the main meat event. There’s the delightfully fatty, falling-apart-on-your-fork brisket, the comically enormous beef ribs with their perfectly marbled texture, and the dense yet spicy sausage rings—all heavenly. Don’t be afraid to add on a few more unconventional options; the smoked turkey breast, for example, is juicy and flavorful enough to rival the red meat.

Just a few blocks north is Kreuz Market. Kreuz opened as a grocer in 1900 and was located downtown for almost 100 years, until two siblings split the business in half; one kept the location, now known as Smitty’s, and the other kept the name. Despite the newish building, the Kreuz team is almost fanatically devoted to regional tradition. There’s no sauce on this ’cue, and no forks on offer either. Diners are expected to eat with their hands, with only a piece of butcher paper to soak up the grease—hey, it was good enough for your granddad. Still, the place puts its own stamp on things:  The beef here is leaner than usual, with a serious bark, and this is the rare Central Texas barbecue joint where pork is a bright spot—from its smoky brown exterior to its plump white center, the pork chop is nothing short of to-die-for.

At the aforementioned Smitty’s Market, you’ll want to Instagram the iconic smokestack before diving into the star of the joint, the sausage rings, which snap appealingly as you bite into their spicy, crumbly jalapeño-flavored awesomeness.

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Kruez Market

Insider Tips

  • Must-Eats: The big three of barbecue are Black’s Barbecue, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market. Those who want a break from barbecue—sacrilege, we know—will delight over hand-tossed pizzas at Loop & Lil’s. And for drinks and live music, hit The Pearl (512-668-3100).
  • Stay: One thing Lockhart does not have is a lot of lodging options. We stayed in nearby Luling, a 20-minute drive away, where the historical Ainsworth House Inn offers well-appointed suites with much-needed mini-fridges for storing leftovers, plus several covered porches ideal for post-’cue food comas.
  • Do: The central square, anchored for a century by the picturesque Caldwell County Courthouse, is the perfect place to start the day, at artisan Chapparal Coffee. Several shops have popped up in the surrounding streets, including vintage cowboy-boot outpost Made For Walkin’ (512-699-3503), gift emporium Wendy R, lingerie boutique Inta Mint and the colorful Flash Candy & Toys.
  • Hike: Get a head start working off your meals with swimming, hiking and golf at Lockhart State Park, which offers a nine-hole course.
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Louie Mueller BBQ

Also Visit

As Texans, we’re supposed to hold the three pillars of the barbecue trinity—brisket, beef ribs and sausage—in equal esteem. But some barbecue is more equal than others, and in the case of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, the brisket reigns supreme—gloriously fatty and encased in a thick, peppery crust with no need for a fork, much less a knife. Sure, the rest of the trinity is top-notch, too—people love the enormous beef ribs—but if you’re looking for the best brisket on the planet, you’ll find it here.

In Lexington, the line at Snow’s BBQ stretches out the door, across the porch, down the front steps and into the parking lot every Saturday. It’s not just the economic law of scarcity, either; the barbecue is a standout, as is world-famous octogenarian pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz. Anyone driving from Houston will have to head out by 6:30 a.m. at the latest to have a shot at the full menu—you’ll want to try the pork spare ribs, the brisket and the turkey, at a minimum—because once it’s gone, it’s gone, until the next Saturday rolls around, at least.

At Luling’s City Market (830-875-9019), the pork ribs get great reviews, but it’s the sausage that wows us—fresh, well-flavored and with a loose, almost crumbly texture. We can only assume that the signs to leave the tangy mustard-based sauce on the tables is designed to prevent customers from sneaking large quantities of it out in their bags.

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