We're on the way to the Bluebonnet Festival in the Hill Country, but after a long, long three hour drive, it was time to stop. We'd read about a state park that has a golf course and a scenic bike ride near here, but it looked thickly forested - not good for the satellite dish reception. And after our last adventure picking up the mail, it seemed better to stay in a commercial campground where the mail could be forwarded. We could drive to the state park from there. Once we got here, I realized I had heard about this town before.
We are in the middle of the Texas BBQ Trail. There was a story on NPR about people driving 3 - 4 hours to get here and stand in long lines to eat BBQ at Kreuz Market. The market started in 1900 as a grocery store and is currently housed in a giant, modern building with antiques displayed inside. Customers would start lining up for lunch at 10am, because it was quite likely that the restaurant would run out of meat to serve because business was so good. Then the Food Channel did a series on Lockhart and three other towns in the area with outstanding BBQ restaurants and the mania went big time. Lockhart is at the epicenter with four featured spots, while the other towns only have one or two. So we headed to town to do some serious research before deciding where to sample the local delicacies. We did find some similarities with other Texas BBQ joints we've enjoyed in the Rio Grande Valley. The routine involves going up to the counter to order from a choice of perhaps ten different smoked meats. Often you order by the pound. Then you select side dishes - typically these include cole slaw and potato salad, but fried okra or green beans with bacon are also often available.
When we got to Lockhart the county court house dominated the landscape, just like the court houses we admired in many small towns in West Texas. Efforts have been made to restore the down town, but some of the stores looked like they were hanging on by a thread. However, the restaurants were doing just fine!
Kreuz Market definitely is a quirky experience. The biggest quirks are about how they serve their BBQ. Believing that good meat doesn't need to be covered up with sauce, they don't really offer a good BBQ sauce. They also seem to stand on the idea that their meat is so tender you don't need a fork, so you are served your meal without plate or utensils. It seems rather barbaric to be eating meat with your bare hands off of butcher paper and we read that they give you a hard time if you ask for utensils.
Black's Market offered the typical oil cloth covered tables experience and was more accommodating with the silver ware - plastic of course. Their claim to fame is to be the oldest BBQ restaurant continuously run by the same family.
Smitty's Market felt the most authentic. The walls are blackened from years of BBQ'ing and when you walk in, you can see the original counters where people sat and used knives that were chained to the walls. Soon we felt coated by the rich, meaty smell. Stand in the doorway and gain ten pounds. Smitty and the Kreuz's used to be in the BBQ biz together, but they had a falling out and the Kreuz's moved to their new digs on the edge of town.
After investigating these choices, we ended up at the Chisholm Trail, which was recommended by the camp ground owner as the place where the locals really eat BBQ and not featured on the Food Channel. For $12 we got so much meat and three sides, that the left overs will easily make another meal. The meat was so moist and tender, we could understand why the Kreuz's don't bother with knives.
You shouldn't eat like this on a regular basis, but it is so much fun to find restaurants, menus, and a style of eating this is truly unique to this part of the world. No Disney-fication here!