Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: BBQ Road Trip to Lockhart, Texas

One of the best things about living in Central Texas is how easy it is to find great BBQ. What makes our BBQ unique is that the meat is rubbed with spices and slow-smoked over wood. Sauce is only added as a condiment at the table, never brushed on during cooking. Most places serve the meat straight from the huge smokers by the pound, on butcher paper (tray optional). You'll be offered sliced bread or saltine crackers...a hunk of cheddar cheese...and some onion and pickles. A few places offer "fancier" sides like potato salad or pinto beans, but the star of the show is meant to be the meat.

In a state that's known for having some of the best BBQ in the entire country, the Texas Hill Country is a truly a BBQ mecca!! If you ask any Texan where the best BBQ in Texas is located, there's a really good chance that they'll point you to Lockhart. Lockhart is home to 11,000 people and three of the best BBQ joints in the entire country. It's no wonder that the Texas Legislature has officially declared Lockhart The Barbecue Capital of Texas. It's an easy drive from San Antonio...just over an we love to drive up on pretty weekend afternoons to get our BBQ fix. 

Who has the best BBQ in Lockhart is a source of much fierce debate among Texas BBQ lovers. Some say Smitty's Market is best, some prefer Black's BBQ, and still others claim that Kreuz Market (pronounced "krites") is the best. The loyalty of these fans can be quite fierce...much like which college football team they cheer for. BBQ is serious business in Texas, people! We had our inaugural BBQ roadie of 2012 last weekend, visiting both Black's and Smitty's to eat some brisket, ribs, and house-made sausages. 

Our first stop was Black's, which is Texas's oldest BBQ joint continuously operated by the same family. They opened in 1932, and they've been smoking meat ever since! Unlike many other places, Black's offers a wide variety of hot side dishes, paper plates, and plastic utensils. They also offer smoked pork loin and turkey, which is something you don't see at most Texas BBQ joints.

You step inside and are immediately greeted by the aroma of smoking meat. Your mouth starts you get in line, grab a paper plate, and pick your sides while you wait your turn at the smoker. We usually grab a deviled egg or two, but otherwise save room for BBQ...and blackberry cobbler. When it's your turn to order, you tell the dude behind the counter which meats you want and how much. He slices it to order, weighs it, and places it on your plate. 

You settle up at the register and take your tray to the dining room. Then you go grab some sodas...Big Red is the unofficial drink of choice for most people. Now it's finally time to settle in and eat some serious BBQ! Families dine together...most of them seem to be talking about football and politics between bites of food. You take your first bite, smile, and agree that it's good to be a Texan...and that Texas Monthly knew what it was talking about when it named Black's one of the Top 50 BBQ restaurants in the state!

If you have room after eating all that BBQ, Black's has amazing homemade fruit cobbler and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream for dessert. We had seen Girl Scouts selling cookies outside when we arrived, so we opted to take home a box of Samoa's instead this time. Plus? We had one more stop to make: Smitty's Market, located literally two blocks up the street.

Our good friend...and fellow BBQ lover...Bekah joined us for this trip. She asked if we could stop at Smitty's to pick up some brisket for her dad while we were in town. More BBQ? No problem, my friend! We were too full to eat another bite after our meal at Black's, but we decided to take some brisket home to make sandwiches for dinner the next evening. Smitty's was named one of the Top 5 BBQ joints in Texas by Texas Monthly, so they're the real deal.

When we walked in the door, that comforting smoky aroma once again greeted us. Smitty's keeps the fire burning on their ginormous pit all day long. The pit master opens the pit and removes one of the many gorgeous briskets inside. It's cooked golden-brown on the outside...and juicy on the inside! Then he slices the brisket into thick slabs and lovingly places it on butcher paper. There are no plates or utensils in sight...and he asks, "You want bread with that?". You say yes, and he wraps the brisket and bread in separate sheets of butcher paper and places both parcels in a brown paper bag. You settle up at the register, stop off to buy another Big Red for the road, and head back to the city. 

If you live within driving distance of Lockhart, I hope that you'll plan a BBQ roadie this Spring so you can enjoy some fantastic BBQ served up by friendly people! If not, Black's offers online ordering so you can enjoy a taste of Texas anywhere in the United States. My brother in law moved to Portland, Oregon last Fall...and he's ordered BBQ from Black's at least once already. 

If you haven't added your favorite Super Bowl snack to my linky party below, there's still time. The linky part is open for a few more days, so please feel free to share. Come back here on Tuesday for my first giveaway of 2012...I'll be featuring a fantastic gourmet pasta company that's based nearby, in Austin. I know you're going to love their products, so I can't wait to tell you all about them!!!


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