1. Kreuz Market
Coming down 183 into Lockhart, Kreuz Market is the first barbecue place you will see on your right. While it’s been around since 1900, the physical restaurant has only been in the current building since 1999. After a family dispute, Rick Schmidt moved Kreuz to its current location. You place your order for the meats at the back of the massive restaurant among the brick pits. No barbecue sauce, no forks, no kidding. Say hi to pitmaster Roy Perez with his iconic mutton chop sideburns on your way out.
Tips: Avoid going during peak lunch hours on weekends. You might wait in line for 30 minutes or so. Plan on coming earlier or a little late.
What to order: The shoulder clod is the equivalent of lean brisket here, and it's exceptional. Add a pork chop, both types of homemade sausage, and pork ribs, and you will have a solid meal to start the day.
2. Smitty’s Market
Next up: Smitty’s. Enter from the Commerce Street side and you will see the smoke-lined walls as you proceed to the back of the restaurant. You’ll feel like you are walking into history. Kreuz Market was located here before its departure. Rick’s sister, Nina, opened up Smitty’s Market after the family disagreement.
Tips: Do not forget to run to the ATM because credit cards are not accepted. Get there early if you can. With the Texas summer, the open fire brick pits, and the lunch-time rush, it can get pretty toasty in the back room.
What to order: Shoulder clod is here, too. So order that, some brisket, sausage, pork ribs, and prime rib. Use barbecue sauce if you like or just because you can. Not everyone has to use it. Sample everything, but do not go crazy. This is only your second stop, and there is a reason why coolers exist.
3. Black’s Barbecue
You'll want to burn some extra calories now, so walk to Black’s, just past the gorgeous Caldwell County Courthouse. The Black family started the barbecue joint back in 1932. Their claim is that Black’s is the oldest barbecue restaurant run by one family in Texas. Third-generation pitmaster Kent Black and his son Barrett are running the show these days.
Tips: The line gets pretty thick around lunch, but the brisket doesn’t run out. You order cafeteria style by getting your sides and desserts first. When you arrive to the butcher block, do not get shy.
What to order: Order the dinosaur beef rib, brisket, both pork ribs, all three types of sausage (original, garlic and jalapeno cheddar), and for good measure: turkey. You are sharing all of this, what’s the harm?
4. Chisholm Trail BBQ
You are almost there. You can see the finish line. Opened in 1978 by a former Black’s Barbecue employee, Chisholm Trail BBQ is where the locals go. Located in the south part of town, it is off the well-beaten barbecue path.
Tips: If you need a quick barbecue fix, there is even a drive-through for the sake of ultimate convenience. Every time I go, I see at least five cars waiting. That is a good sign right? A steady stream of customers come and go throughout the day, so the wait is bearable.
What to order: Once you get to the front, grab a plate and load up on sides. You have a bunch of choices. How about some hash browns? Green beans? You could use some vegetables at this point. Share a three-meat plate which also comes with three sides. Get the Texas Trinity: brisket, pork ribs, and homemade sausage. It’s the right way to go. Order some extra brisket to-go. At $11.50 per pound, you have to, right?
What is next? Off to Luling for some more barbecue? How about a beer? A nap? Or both? You deserve it. After a day like today, you will no longer be prone to meat sweats.
All photos: Jimmy Ho
Lead image: Smitty’s Market’s fire pits.