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Some of you have read this before, but I was feeling a bit nostalgic tonight and wanted to share with my HS buddies. 

 

Last summer I took a trip to Lockhart with my son, and this is the recap.  For those that have read it before, I apologize for rehashing.  For those that have not, read on.  One of the best father/son trips I've ever had with my boy. 

 

 

As I drove the Ford F150 rental down the 130 Toll Road on Thursday, on my way to Lockart, I think my taste buds were racing faster than the 85 MPH speed limit.

You see, when NTG came to Washington for a visit a  few weeks back, we got to talking 'cue.

I was planning a trip to Austin to bring my son to the UT Baseball Camp.

On our last trip to Central Texas my son and I hit up Coopers in Llano.
My boy constantly talked about Coopers and I wanted to give him more of the same on this trip.

I had mulled over standing in line at Franklin, but NTG had another recommendation.
He said, "Do the Lockhart Challenge."

Now for those of you not familiar with the Lockhart Callenge, let me explain.

You hit up the three majors in Lockhart; Smitty's, Kreuz and Black's.
You order a quarter pound of brisket, sausage link and, perhaps, a rib at each.

No sides until you hit the final stop of the three, otherwise you'll fill up too fast.



Back on TX130, I had just hung up the phone with NTG.

He was invited, but opted out because he said he had to work.

I guess that translates into about 40 or so posts on OB before 10 AM on a Thursday morning.

Hell, Ketch should be paying NTG for his content contributions, but I digress.

When I hung up, my 15 yr old son was as pumped as I was to get to Lockhart.

Never has driving at 85+ felt so damn slow.

We get off the toll road and begin to putt along through the outskirts of Lockhart.

We are starving, and the truck needs some gas.

A quick stop at the Corner Food Stop for some petrol, and were back on our way.


First stop, Smitty's


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As you walk into the nondescript screen door, you enter a hallway that
smells of BBQ and smoke.  It's about 20 yds long, with a long bench
running along the left side.  There was an old, skinny black gentleman
sitting at the very end of the bench, and he greeted us kindly.  It was
98 degrees outside, and easily 10 degrees warmer in this hallway.  I
felt like I had entered BBQ's version of the Sistine Chapel.  It was
quiet, with the only sound being the crackle of wood burning a few more
yards in front of us.

I returned the greeting to the old man, and fixated my eyes on what lay
before us, merely a few short steps away.  As a BBQ guy, this was it.
This was the place.  The place where all the magic happened to briskets,
transforming them from a fatty, throw-away cut to a tasty goodness with
bark, smoke rings and flavor for days.  I smelled it coming in, and all
I could think about was getting my order and sitting down.

My son and I stood and took in the view of the pits.  Fire burning on both
ends in fireboxes.  Old, made of brick and mortar.  The crackling of the
wood seemed to be singing the prettiest song I had ever heard.


 

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After a moment of silence, my boy and I proceed to the counter in the next room.

We order a couple of sausage links, and a quarter pound of brisket then head to the dining room.

I get him an 7-Up and I get a Shiner Bock.  No forks, only butcher paper, food and a knife.

I grab some napkins and we sit down to dive in.

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We have no bar to judge how good this product is in comparison to the next two stops, but the food on our paper rapidly disappeared as if we had not eaten in months. We cleaned our mess and walked out the same hallway we entered.

My only regret is not taking a picture of the long hallway as we walked in.


Hot, sweaty and ready for more, we head to the second stop-the famous Kreuz.

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Upon entering Kreuz, we are immediately in front of two pay-for-a-toy crane vending machines.  NOT what I expected.
This was the anti-Smitty's.  While Smitty's had the smells, the aura and the vision of a BBQ joint from days long past, this was more modern.

Oh, there were some old pictures and a few old cash registers and antiques around the next corner, but this we clearly newer than Smitty's.
It wasn't the same.
The dining area on the left was open, but there were individual tables, as you'd find at any restaurant in 100 different small Texas towns.
We stop and look at the signs and both laugh.  I appreciated the candor of the "rules."



image94.jpg

We head to the pit.

The pit at Kreuz is similar to the one at Smitty's, only it doesn't look as aged.



We place our order, same as Smitty's, quarter pound of brisket, two sausage links, and a piece of bread.
After a quick stop at the next counter, we order an RC for the boy and a Big Red for me.



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So now we have two candidates to compare.

The Smitty's brisket was better.  It had a better smoke ring, and the bark was done perfectly.
The flavors all came together with each bite.  The Kreuz brisket was just OK.
It wasn't bad, mind you, but it wasn't nearly as flavorful as Smitty's.  The bark was virtually nonexistent.

The sausage at both Smitty's and Kreuz were similar.  The flavor was nice, but not knock-your-socks-off great.
Both were a bit greasy.  I'm not what you'd call a "healthy" eater, but I was a bit disappointed in the amount of grease.

The casing on each was tough, and there was a time or two that I felt the plastic knife may not be enough to do the trick.

Nonetheless, we cleaned our butcher paper, threw the trash away, and hopped in the truck to go visit Black's.

As we were leaving Kreuz, I noticed their supply of logs beside the restaurant.  Holy crap do they have a supply.  Unbelievable.  This was all fenced in, and stacked to the top of the fence.

It was probably 20 yards deep and 30 yards wide.  Impressive to say the least.

Off we go back into old-town Lockhart.

As we turn the corner, there is Black's.  It's back to the old-school look.

Black's, from the street looks like an old saloon.

image95.jpg



We stop as we walk in, and look at the signs for the Chisolm Trail Roundup coming in late August.

As we walk inside, the air is filled with the familiar smokey BBQ aroma.

We wander slowly down a short hallway, checking out the pictures on the wall of folks that have dined here.

We turn the corner, and are met with an array of sides.
My belly is telling me to skip the sides, and go for the brisket.  I listen.

We tell the gentleman that we'll pass on the sides, and we order a half pound of brisket.

We get the rundown on the sausage that they have, original, spicy and Shiner Bock.

Well, this is a no brainer for me.  We get the Shiner Bock sausage.

As they're cutting our order, we get to talking.  I ask if he ever showed anyone the pit setup.

He said, "you want a tour?"  Hell yeah I want a tour.

I pay for our order and we are invited behind the counter.

We are promptly given tastes of the Shiner Bock sausage, and an explanation of how they make it.

They don't waste anything. The trim from the ribs and briskets goes into their sausage recipe.

And that's exactly how it tastes.  The texture is one of homemade sausage.  The flavor is out of this world.

Winner on sausage, and we haven't even made it to the next step of the pit tour.

On to the pit tour. The first stop is the warmer.  It's kept warm by Pit #2.



As you turn right, you see the smoke boxes.  In box 1 are sausage smoking over top of the briskets.

image100.jpg

As we move along to our right, the pit master is explaining the process.

He's telling me how they trim their briskets, what pieces they cut out, what temperatures they smoke at, and what they keep their serving/warming line at.

I'm sure my eyes were as big as saucers.  I was like a kid in a candy store.

I could not believe how huge this operation was, in such a small space.  The layout was very functional.

I take this picture, and upon review, this is a BBQ guy's masterpiece.  Wow, just wow.

image105.jpg

We get to the end of the tour, and it's easily 105 degrees inside the smoke room, probably hotter.

I can feel the heat radiating through my boots.  Damn it's hot!

Directly in front of the firebox below, about 15 feet away, is a screen door.

The pit master tells us that Mr. Black designed this to allow for a constant draft to help with the smoke flow and maintaining the fire box.




He tells us about the post oak that they use.  That's all they use.  He offers up a lesson on post oak aging, discusses some more sausage making tips, and we begin to talk about lack of BBQ in the northwest.  He's a very pleasant guy.  He's been doing this for 18 years.  He wants to open a place of his own one day.  My son and I thanked him for taking time out of his day to do this tour with us, and we headed out.

The Black's brisket was extremely flavorful.  It had the right amount of bark, perfect smoke ring, and the lean portions were just as tender as the marbled pieces.

I would rank the locations as follows:

1. Black's.  Sausage was far superior in flavor and texture to the others.  Brisket was as good as Smitty's.
2. Smitty's. Brisket was tied with Black's, sausage was a bit tough on the casing, and the flavor was nowhere near what Black's was.
3. Kreuz.  Brisket was nowhere close to the others.  Sausage was on the same level as Smitty's.

I think my expectations of Kreuz may have been too high.  I really thought that their product would be better.

Maybe it was an off day; it happens.  There have been too many reviews of the greatness of Kreuz for this to be the norm.

I was thoroughly surprised by Black's, and Smitty's gets the award for the best ambiance.
I seriously felt like I had been thrown back to the early 1940's walking in there.  What an experience.

As we hopped back onto the tollway, Austin in our sights, my son couldn't stop thanking me for taking him on this excursion.
He came away with a full belly, a shirt from Black's, and hopefully some memories that one day he'll share with his son.

I wouldn't have traded this day for anything.  Our next trip will probably include a visit to Franklin.
I've been, but he needs to give that a try.

Thanks to NTG for the rec.  This was clearly a trip that was Texas Good.

And to the BBQ Trifecta, it was the Holy Trinity of BBQ in one day.

In the name of the Brisket, the Sausage and the Shiner Bock....Amen.

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Great story, thanks for posting it. I have always put Smitty's #1, but I will have to give Black's another try next time. I agree they definitely had better sausage. I just think Smitty's brisket is a thing of beauty. I've always found Kreuz to be #3 as well. 

 

After smoking MANY briskets, I truly think the brisket test really all depends upon the day that you go.  Brisket is easy to smoke satisfactory.  Brisket is easy to keep moist.  Brisket is a BITCH to do consistently from one smoke to another.  My hat is off to all three pit masters at these places.

 

Also, my personal opionion on Kreuz is that it had too commercial of an atmosphere when compared to Black's and Smitty's.  Just an observation.

 

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Yummmmmmmmmy!!!

 

I must smoke brisket this weekend!

 

Funny, in college I was so clueless about bbq. I drove from Austin to my hometown of Port Lavaca through Lockhart all the time but never once stopped for bbq or anything except gas.

 

I'd recommend skipping smoking a brisket this weekend and making the trek to Lockhart.  Ask for a tour from the pitmaster at each place; I'm fairly certain they'll accomodate your request.  You will learn more in one day than you will tossing a brisket on the pit at your house.  Trust me on this.  I learned a ton on my trip.  The pitmaster at Black's was very gracious and forthcoming on some tips/tricks.  Don't be afraid to ask questions.

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fabulous story, fascinating illustrations, i shall need to head to the hill country...

 

Before you go to the hill country, check out  Killen's BBQ in Pearland. I've never been to Franklin's or any of the places in Lockhart , but I don't see how it can be any better than Killen's. And yes he's the same guy as the steak place.

 

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OK. . .the personal attack rule is going out the window. . . 

 

NTG was invited and not me??????

 

 

Flacking loser. . . . . 

 

See if I eat your halibut and drink your bourbon again. . . .

 

 

:P

 

How's the old saying go about a gift horse?  :lol:

 

You'll be back.  B)

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