Racing has brought me many travel opportunities over the years. For the last four years, I got to spend a weekend in Austin, Texas in April. Racing was obviously the focus so seeking out the best tacos and barbecue that Hill Country has to offer was not necessarily in the cards. It pained me every time to leave Texas without sampling their great barbecue. More than once, I ended up stuffing my face with a brisket sandwich bought at Salt Lick’s airport outpost. It was the last chance for Texas barbecue before the long flight home and I was desperate.
With a bit of better planning, I finally got my taste of the great barbecue tradition from Lockhart, Texas. Before my early afternoon flight, a short road trip gave me not one, not two, but three highly-regard barbeque restaurants to enjoy. Obviously I had to try all. Kreuz Market, Black’s Barbecue, and Smitty’s Market were all excellent in their own right and unlike anything I’ve ever had.
Being the only girl in our group of five, you would think I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to barbecue tasting. Not at all! My experience with food-centric vacation prepares me well. It’s about pacing and not be distracted by fillers. Our first stop at Kreuz included orders of brisket, shoulder, pork ribs, regular and jalapeno sausages. We arrived before the doors were open and our request for burnt ends was met with a burnished and crispy piece of brisket that I’m still thinking about. I’m all about the burnt ends! The sausages had great snap too and just the right about of smokiness. The guys couldn’t get enough and our group pretty much demolished the whole order. I wanted to warn them against all that water and bread but I was too occupied by the deliciousness in front of me.
Our second stop was Black’s. With half-full bellies and a little wiser, we ordered half the amount of brisket, back ribs, side ribs, and sausages this time. It sure didn’t look this way from the photo, right? Well, a LOT of burnt ends were thrown in on the house for our order. What you didn’t see in the photo is the plethora of sides we ordered. Of the three barbecue restaurants we visited, the sides at Black’s are not to be missed. We shared mac & cheese, black eye peas, corn bread, banana pudding, peach cobbler, and blackberry cobbler among us. Classic case of eyes bigger than stomach, I’d say! The banana puddings and blackberry cobblers were the unanimous winner in our selection. I quite liked their side ribs too though the sausages were too crumbly and the brisket a bit dry for my taste.
By now, the guys could not take another bite but somehow were game enough to accompany me to our final stop, Smitty’s. I’m all about unwavering focus. I wanted brisket and brisket only. It was pretty ridiculous to see my order of 1/4lb of brisket sitting forlornly on the butcher paper. That was two slices of brisket and under $3. For this reason, I have no photo to show. But it was by far the brisket I love the most in this trip. Tender, beefy, and smoky. This is the brisket I would happily eat anytime of day. Years of tradition and craftsmanship and skill distilled into a slice of beef.
My first visit to the capitol of barbecue did not disappoint. It is an experience I cannot get anywhere else in the world and that only made the visit more special. I hope to return again this time next year. Probably with a bigger entourage and more stomach room!