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View Full Version : Texas BBQ Pilgrimage Review


Chenernator
07-30-2011, 11:17 PM
A while back, I posted a request for good eats in the San Antonio/Boerne area http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=110596. I got a lot of good suggestions (too many to check out:mad:), but the best had to come from Jim aka He Smells Like Smoke. He suggested I make the trip to Lockhart :clap2:. Here's my review:

I flew in a week ago Tuesday, picked up the rental, and headed north on I-35. I took me about 1:15 to get to Lockhart. I had skipped lunch and was resolved to make up for it.

Black's - http://www.blacksbbq.com/default.aspx - some friends had told me that the brisket was the best they had tasted, so I made it a last minute addition to the itinerary. It was also the first stop on the way into town.

You enter a small corridor and then come to a buffet style server with all of their sides and desserts. Prices are listed on a board above that. A typical combo plate is a meat and two sides. I was there for meat, so I passed on the sides. They didn't look super appetizing, which made the decision easier. Options included fried okra, corn on the cob, green beans, pinto beans, potatoe salad, deviled eggs, peach cobbler and berry cobbler. Once you pass the sides, you order your meat by increments of a pound. They pull it out of the smoker and slice it for you as ordered. I ordered a hot ring sausage and moist brisket. The sausage was moist with good bite. The brisket was also moist with good flavor. The sauce was thin and tangy, but not really essential or worth taking home.

Items of note: Sauce and forks are readily available. The ordering and dining areas are air conditioned. They serve you on a plate. The seating includes booths and long communal tables.

Smitty's Market - http://www.smittysmarket.com/ Smitty's is the old, new place in town. You go through a battered screen door and enter a long, dark, hot hallway. There a rough tables attached to the wall. At the end of the hall, one of the staff pointed and said, "In there." You go through a door into an even hotter room with walls coated in creosote. It's hotter because there is an open fire of post oak on the floor sending heat and smoke through long L-shaped brick ovens with iron doors that lift up to access the meats. You order your meats by weight and they offer white bread or crackers. For consistency, I went with brisket and ring sausage, and added a pork rib. Other options included pork chops and prime rib. After ordering and paying (cash only), you can go into a room with AC and order and pay for sides - beans, cole slaw, potatoe salad, avocado, pickles, or cheese. This is also where you eat, at long communal tables.

The brisket was tough and dry. I believe they gave me lean instead of moist brisket, but even so, it was nowhere near good texture (maybe a 4 or 5 in KCBS scoring). Flavor was okay, but not as good as Black's. The sausage was as juicy as the brisket was dry; it nearly squirted all over me. The pork rib was fair (underdone), but that's what you get for ordering pork in Texas. The beans were pretty good.

Items of note: Cash only, no forks, meat served on thick butcher paper. My friends told me afterward that sauce can be had, but I didn't see any.

Kreuz Market - http://www.kreuzmarket.com - Kreuz is the new, old place. It's a cavernous establishment that, being 12 years old, lacks the associated age of Black's or Smitty's. The interior is somewhat reminiscent of a Cracker Barrel, i.e. trying to look old, but not quite pulling it off. There is a large, un-airconditioned seating area which is also where you order your meat. Same smoker set-up as Smitty's. After ordering and paying for your meat, you go into the room with AC for your sides - beans, potatoe salad, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, avocado.

I was particularly eager to try the shoulder clod (called lean beef). It did not disappoint. In fact, it was the highlight of the trip. Moist, flavorful, but not fatty like brisket. Truly outstanding. The brisket (fat beef) was moist and flavorful and also a good choice. I also tried out a pork rib. It was decent (for a Texas joint) with large chunks of cracked pepper in the rub.

Items of note: cash only, no forks, no sauce, meat served on butcher paper. The Kreuz people were the original operators of Smitty's before a family falling out caused them to move to the new locale. I picked up a 1 lb bag of their rub for the unholy price of $1.

So after hitting all three places in a two hour span, I was ready for a break. Two days later, I hit Rudy's in Leon Springs.

Rudys - http://www.rudysbbq.com - Rudy's has franchised itself, but I visited the original. Their setup is similar to Kreuz and Smitty's, minus the open fires on the floor. You order everything, including sides, by weight in an area that is covered, but otherwise open-air. Since I was with friends, we went with moist brisket, pork ribs, cream corn, cole slaw, and Shiner Bock. We also got a sample of their sausage, which was the best I had in Texas. The cream corn should probably be called candy corn - super sweet with large kernels of corn and obviously made with real cream. It could have been dessert. Brisket was moist and tender, but not as good as Kreuz or Blacks. Pork ribs, again, were fair.

Items of note: They prominantly display their sauce, but it's not outstanding by any measure.

Overall, here are my rankings (best to worst):

Ambience/Experience - Smitty's, Kreuz, Rudy's, Black's.
Brisket - Kreuz/Blacks (too close to call), Rudy's, Smitty's (DAL by a mile)
Sausage - Rudy's, Black's, Smitty's. I just couldn't squeeze in another ring at Kreuz, so this is incomplete.:roll:
Ribs - skip 'em and go to Memphis :-P
Shoulder Clod - Kreuz!!!!

Recommendations - If you had to pick one, go to Kreuz. The clod alone is worth the trip. Instead of ordering by increments of the pound, just order the number of slices you want (especially if you're hitting all three places in Lockhart in the same day). Try to make the trip in November-March instead of mid-July. You might want to try both lean and moist brisket for the experience, but I would stick with moist.

Other eats in the area -

Papa Nachos - Leon Springs - This was a nice surpise. Excellent fajitas and good service. I requested to substitute veggies for rice and beans, and I got some great grilled zucchini and squash.

Dodging Duck - Boerne - Everyone can find something they like here. I had a cinnamon chipotle rainbow trout that was very tasty. Good service here, too, with a very generous serving of asparagus and sauted veggies.

Flagstop Cafe - Fair Oaks area - Good roadstop for breakfast. Generous sized omelettes.

Willie's Icehouse - Leon Springs - I was pinched for time, so I settled for this. Good if you like fried stuff. My steak was passable, at best. Not worth a return trip.

jgh1204
08-06-2011, 03:02 PM
I guess it is a matter of taste, I like Rudy's sauce a lot.

bigsapper
08-06-2011, 03:21 PM
Yeah, I just canned 1/2 gal of my version of Rudy's sause.

Glad you made the trip and enjoyed it. Thanks for the extensive review.

My family & I take a little weekender trip thru the Hill Country twice a year as a feast fest. Love me some Kreuz!

Dallas Dan
08-06-2011, 03:48 PM
Great review and write up. I've been to the original Rudy's and several of their franchises (Denton & OKC). I will compliment them on doing a good job of maintaining the same taste and quality in their franchises as in the original.

In contrast, I've found Dickey's franchise quality to be questionable in consistency.

bigsapper
08-06-2011, 04:08 PM
IMHO, Dickey's is the McDonald's of chain BBQ.

caseydog
08-06-2011, 04:14 PM
IMHO, Dickey's is the McDonald's of chain BBQ.

Yeah, but at least is is edible, unlike the smoked leather they sell at Sonny Bryan's. Get an order of SB's onion rings, if you really want to gag.

Every time some some New York journalist writes up Sonny Bryan's, I want to fly up there and punch them in the face.

CD

bigsapper
08-06-2011, 04:27 PM
:shock:



:wink:

HeSmellsLikeSmoke
08-06-2011, 04:57 PM
I am glad you took the time and trouble to get over to Lockhart. I also liked Kruez's brisket the best with Black's a very close second.

Thanks for taking the time for the review.

jgh1204
08-06-2011, 05:31 PM
Yeah, I just canned 1/2 gal of my version of Rudy's sause.

Glad you made the trip and enjoyed it. Thanks for the extensive review.

My family & I take a little weekender trip thru the Hill Country twice a year as a feast fest. Love me some Kreuz!

HIJACKING THREAD

Try making this sauce. Very easy. I leave out the sugar and use beef broth instead of water. I also cook it for about 30 minutes.

Texas Table sauce

I have found that after years of
consuming enough barbeque sauce
to fill up crater left by a
meteor, I do not really care for
thick tomatoey sauce anymore. The
table sauce below is thin, very
basic and good on all smoked
meats.

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
6 Tbl white sugar
2 Tsp salt
2 Tsp chili powder (Guajillo powder, chile d'arbol powder
and ground cumin)

In a quart vinegar bottle, combine (through
a funnel) vinegar, ketchup, water, sugar,
salt and chili powder. Shake well and
store in the refrigerator for about a
week, so that the flavor is well blended.

bigsapper
08-06-2011, 05:43 PM
Wow, thanks for that. It looks like it'll taste similar to a sauce from a joint near me, Meshack's in Garland. I drink their sauce straight. :shock: Good stuff.


Oh and Gig'Em!

Chenernator
08-06-2011, 06:17 PM
I guess it is a matter of taste, I like Rudy's sauce a lot. Probably the best I've had in Texas, but I've lived in both KC and Memphis, and I'm more partial to the sauce from those regions.

IMHO, Dickey's is the McDonald's of chain BBQ. Ouch. I thought it was Famous Dave's.

Next time I'm in the area, I'm going to try getting over to Luling.

HeSmellsLikeSmoke
08-06-2011, 08:34 PM
City Market in Luling is worth considerable effort to visit. Their sausage is the best I have eaten so far, so make sure not to pass on it.

Luling City Market in Houston is not associated with it and isn't as good.

El Lobo
08-06-2011, 10:08 PM
Cool reviews. Will put that in my iphone for my next trip down there.

caseydog
08-06-2011, 10:20 PM
There are so many good BBQ joints in the hill country, it is hard to pick one that is the best. But, if you are limited for time, going to Lockhart is certainly not a bad choice of towns.

It sounds like you enjoyed your Hill Country BBQ Journey -- and probably had to loosen you belt by a notch or two. Come back again, and pick out some other places to go -- there are plenty of good ones in the Hill Country. :thumb:

CD

MilitantSquatter
08-06-2011, 11:34 PM
Always interesting to see how opinions vary by person or one of the places has an off day to one and a great day to another...

When I visited Hill Country area in April, out of the three in Lockhart, Smitty's left the best overall impression from both quality and atmosphere, followed by Black's and lastly by Kreuz...

I would certainly recommend visits to City Market in Luling, Snow's in Lexington and Louis Mueller's in Taylor (and Taylor Cafe around the corner, but I didn't get to that one).

ThomEmery
08-07-2011, 08:24 AM
The brisket we had at Smittys was the best of the day when we did our Lockhart tour

Chenernator
08-07-2011, 05:09 PM
There are so many good BBQ joints in the hill country, it is hard to pick one that is the best. But, if you are limited for time, going to Lockhart is certainly not a bad choice of towns.

It sounds like you enjoyed your Hill Country BBQ Journey -- and probably had to loosen you belt by a notch or two. Come back again, and pick out some other places to go -- there are plenty of good ones in the Hill Country. :thumb:

I plan to be back. When I was reading one of the articles on the walls, there was also a reference to Chisholm Trail BBQ in Lockhart. Anyone tried that one?

Always interesting to see how opinions vary by person or one of the places has an off day to one and a great day to another...

When I visited Hill Country area in April, out of the three in Lockhart, Smitty's left the best overall impression from both quality and atmosphere, followed by Black's and lastly by Kreuz...

I would certainly recommend visits to City Market in Luling, Snow's in Lexington and Louis Mueller's in Taylor (and Taylor Cafe around the corner, but I didn't get to that one).

Not unlike BBQ comps. Some days you nail it, others you don't. I guess a second trip would offer confirmation :becky:

Thom - nice picture. It's hard to imagine without seeing it.

ThomEmery
08-07-2011, 07:07 PM
Inside Smittys Market and the pit tour at Blacks

ThomEmery
08-07-2011, 07:09 PM
Ticket for running a red light in Fort Worth

the pit crew
09-12-2011, 07:53 AM
Thank you for the review. We went to the Salt Lick because Bobby Flay said it was his favorite and then the next day to Rudys. Salt Lick was just average and Salty as all get out and Rudy's was better by a long shot but not the best we ever had.
Thanks for documenting your trip!