Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Barbecue pilgrimage

The weekend before last, the kids and I took a road trip down to New Braunfels. Due to their travel plans for this week, it was pretty much the last chance we'd have this summer to do a Schlitterbahn visit, something we'd been wanting to do for a while. So on Sunday morning, we loaded up the truck and headed south...

Game on! How did kids ever survive long-distance highway trips before the Nintendo DS?

Southbound on I-35W near Hillsboro

As anxious as we were to reach New Braunfels, we all agreed that a slight detour to Lockhart was in order. Why Lockhart? So that we make our biennial pilgrimage to Smitty's Market, one of the sacred shrines of Texas barbecue.

Smitty's Market - Lockhart, TX

If barbecue is a religion, there's little debate among people "of faith" that the Barbecue Holy Land begins and ends in Lockhart. With its three legendary barbecue eateries (Smitty's Market, Kreuz Market, and Black's), one can enjoy a Trinity of post-oak smoked, mouth-watering goodness. Alas, since Kreuz Market observes the Sabbath day as a day of rest, our choices were narrowed down to two. It wasn't much of a choice, actually... Smitty's tall smokestack on the edge of the downtown area summoned us like a beacon from above, and the full parking lot out back told us we were in the right place.

Smitty's pit bosses

Watch your step when you walk in that back door... an open fire will be at your feet, feeding smoke into the enormous brick pit that lines the entire east wall. And it is HOT in there... no air conditioning in the pit area... just a few open windows. Pit bosses busily scurry around, opening and closing the pits, tending the fire, tossing cuts of meat onto the cutting block, weighing them, and slapping them down onto sheets of brown butcher paper in front of salivating customers. They'll ask how many are in your party, and then tear off that many additional sheets of butcher paper. Those are your "plates". You'll also be offered side dishes of white bread and saltine crackers.
Before the feast

Once you've paid for your meat, you head inside to the air conditioned dining room to purchase your drinks -- and sides, if you want any. They offer beans, potato salad, tomatoes and avocados. You'll get a plastic knife to slice your meat and a plastic spoon for your beans or potato salad, but no forks -- Lockhart-style barbecue requires one to eat with his or her hands. Then it's time to find a seat at one of the long wooden picnic-style tables. Don't bother asking for barbecue sauce... they might keep a bottle of it somewhere behind the counter, but you don't need it. The Smitty's experience is about two things -- smoke and meat. Sauce would only get in the way. Oh, and do I even need to mention -- once you've had Lockhart barbecue, you'll never be able to enjoy "regular" barbecue again? I didn't think so.

After the feast: look at those glazed eyes and inane grins - we're barbecue addicts!

Even after all that brisket, the kids somehow still had room for dessert. So we got them some Blue Bell ice cream "to go".

Finishing dessert

It was almost time to head for New Braunfels, but before we left Lockhart, we made a quick tour around the downtown area to look for ghost signs. Stay tuned for the next report...


np: Ralph Stanley - "Worried Man Blues"

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Blogger Matthew said...

I've never been to Lockhart, living just north of Austin, and I'm not worse for wear. There's plenty of Barbeque heaven out in the Hill Country too.

I'll admit that Rudy's is not the greatest (though I often go there), but the Bertram Smokehaus is amazing. I remember the one time we stopped in Luling, at City Market, it was okay... crappy sauce (and I'm not much of a sauce person, either).

I do need to go to Taylor for Louie Mueller's though... Maybe Cooper's....

4:45 PM  

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