For us, the best barbecue in the world comes from central Texas. Others think that a different area makes better barbecue, and those people are wrong. 😉
While the barbecue you get almost anywhere in Texas will be better than what you’ll find anywhere else, there’s one place that indisputably serves the finest smoked meat around. That place is Lockhart, the barbecue capital of Texas.
There are other places where you’ll find great meat, like Franklin’s in Austin, but it’s only in Lockhart where you’ll find three locations that claim that they have the best barbecue.
Doing a barbecue tour of Lockhart isn’t easy. Each location serves a tempting selection of smoked meats and side dishes. Sharon and I visited the town previously and were only able to visit one location and sample a few types of meat before we had had our fill and headed back to our hotel.
This time we came prepared. Our group of 6 foodies went out on a Friday afternoon determined to see the best that each location had to offer.
Lockhart is located 30 minutes south of Austin and we arrived at our first stop around 11:30 AM. Google Maps led us to a gravel parking lot behind a brick building. There was no mistaking we were in the right place once we opened the car door and a smoky aroma was everywhere.
If you walk in the back door from the parking lot, you’ll enter directly into the room with the pit.
You order all of the meats by the pound (you don’t need to order a full pound, ordering 1/4 or 1/2 pound portions is fine) and the counter only accepts cash. There’s an ATM located near the checkout.
What does one of the pits look like? We were allowed to take a peek inside.
Once paying for your meat, you can take a seat in the dining room. This is also where you’ll find the counter where you purchase drinks, sides and Blue Bell ice cream. The room was filled with a mixture of locals and tourists.
While the brisket is what Texas barbecue is most famous for, Smitty’s had something on the menu we really wanted to try, smoked prime rib.
It’s common for barbecue in Texas to be served on butcher paper with a side of white bread (or crackers) and pickles. We also ordered a pork chop, turkey and brisket.
The star of the meal was the prime rib, which was amazing. We all wanted to go home and try to cook one on our smokers. The big surprise was the turkey. While you’d think it might dry out, it was moist and had a wonderful smoky flavor.
From here, we decided to walk around before heading to our next stop. Around the back of Smitty’s, you can see what it takes to run a barbecue place every day. Lots and lots of wood stacked neatly into piles and drying out in the Texas sun.
After an hour or so, we felt that we’d digested enough to head to location #2.
The Original Black’s Barbecue
215 North Main St
Lockhart, Texas 78644
At first appearance, Black’s looks more like what you’d expect a Texas barbecue place to look like. It’s also set up to be easily approachable if you’ve never been to a traditional barbecue place before. You enter the front door, get in line and head through the process of picking out what you want. Imagine a Chipotle but instead of burritos, it’s brisket.
Black’s serves several classic side dishes. We stayed away from most of them because we wanted to save room for as much meat as possible.
There’s also a selection of branded sauces and rubs for sale. From there, you’re led to the meat counter. Just as before, all purchases are by the pound. Black’s also serves sandwiches, if you’re so inclined.
Just past this is the checkout where you can add a drink to your order. The big difference is that Black’s accepts credit cards.
Black’s offers a menu item not found at the other places, so we had to try the beef rib. Each rib weighs around 1 pound.
We also ordered the jalapeno cheddar sausage, barbecue chicken, brisket and ribs.
Unlike the butcher paper, our meals were put in styrofoam containers and we were given paper plates to divide everything up between the group. Most of us ate outside but I found the flies to be overly bothersome so I went inside to eat. There was the main dining room adjacent to the entrance and an overflow seating area in the next room, which is also where the bathrooms are.
The brisket and sausage were great and the beef rib was way more tender than I’d imagined it would be. Fall off the bone and pull apart with your fork type of tender.
At this point, we all were stuffed and needed a nap. However, for the sake of completeness, we had to head to the third location.
619 N Colorado St
Lockhart, TX 78644
If Smitty’s was the local joint and Black’s designed for the tourists, then Kreuz is the megastore. The place is massive.
This was one of the dining areas but it wasn’t air-conditioned. It was August and HOT, so we sat in the other dining room, which had the A/C on and was cooler. There’s a door as you walk to the pit area going into the dining room. We headed down the hall.
The pit area here is huge, with several of the smokers going at the same time.
While we were all full, there was one thing on the menu that we had to try. I present to you, smoked pork belly (AKA, Meat candy)
This was so good that it was worth taking myself from comfortably full to uncomfortably full. After all of this eating, I didn’t want to think about food again for quite a while.
We’ve finally been able to do Lockhart correctly and visited all three locations. Going with a larger group is the way to go since you’ll be able to try much more than if you’re trying to do it solo or as a couple.
Here are my awards for the trip
- Best thing I ate all day – Smoked Prime Rib at Smitty’s Market
- Most surprisingly good meat – Beef Rib at The Original Black’s Barbecue
- Most indulgent dish – Smoked Pork Belly at Kreuz Market
If you’re able, I’d try to stop by at least two locations if you visit Lockhart. However, some people will want to stop by to try the barbecue and wonder which is the best place they should visit.
First off, I don’t think you’ll do bad at any of the three. All of them make wonderful smoky meats that will probably be the best that you’ve ever tried. Smoking meat is an art and a science and any number of environmental or physical differences can cause even the best place to turn out average (or even below average) barbecue on any given day.
For our tastes, if we had to pick only one place, we’d go to Smitty’s Market. Besides serving the best single thing we ate, all of the things we tried there were wonderful. The pork chop to the turkey and the brisket were all on point. It also had the best vibe of the three. Eating there felt like going to a neighborhood place that makes great food. Long picnic-style tables where everyone from the businessman in a shirt and tie, to the family out for the afternoon and the local sheriff all sit down and enjoy their meals. The only negative was the cash-only policy, so be prepared if you’re headed there for some barbecue.
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