Austin Day Trip to the BBQ Capital of Texas
With a population barely spilling over 11,000, Lockhart, Texas, is home to four BBQ powerhouses, earning it the title of the BBQ Capital of Texas. Each offers legendary BBQ, and any meat-eater within a 100-mile radius of Kreuz Market, would be foolish for missing out. Lucky for Austinites, Lockhart BBQ is a quick 45-minute drive from the city, and well worth the trip if meat is your thing. Vegetarians, be warned. You will be asked to enter through a separate door.
The Daily Meal advises heading south as early in the morning as possible, without breakfast. If you’re visiting the area for a short time, take the day and hit as many of these best joints in town as your appetite will allow, but at least one for lunch and one for dinner. While Black's Barbecue, serving its famous brisket "eight days a week" since 1932, and Floyd Wilhelm's cafeteria-style Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Q has been serving some of the best sausage, brisket, ribs, and catfish in Texas, two spots not to miss are part of The Daily Meal's Ultimate BBQ Road Trip.
The debate is ongoing about who smokes their meat the best, and a large consensus is it depends on the day, but barbecue purists tend to favor the pork chops and the fatty, untrimmed brisket at Smitty’s Market. Housed in the old Kreuz Market space, Smitty's is considerably smaller than the transplanted Kreuz, but has the patina of age and a time-worn ambience. Here, Nina Schmidt Sells keeps things simple, serving barbecue and sausage with just bread, crackers, pickles, onions, tomatoes, avocado, and cheese, with plastic utensils.
Between meals (if you must take a breather), take a lazy stroll around Lockhart’s main square, with a large church and its historic city hall. The tiny Texas town has a charming Hill Country simplicity. It’s a charm that has attracted the attention of an unexpected number of filmmakers over the years. Christopher Guest, for one, shot his film Waiting for Guffman here. If you like to shop, Lockhart also has a small collection of antique shops and a burgeoning farmers' market on Saturdays on Main Street.
Once the first round of 'cue has settled, it’s time to take on Kreuz Market. Founded by Charles Kreuz (pronounced "krites" in these parts) in 1900, it was originally a meat market and a grocery store, according to the Southern Foodways Alliance. Like most markets at the time, it pit-barbecued the better cuts of meat and made sausage out of the lesser cuts. Customers bought barbecue and sausage and garnishes like bread, crackers, pickles, onions, tomatoes, and cheese from the grocery store, and ate it straight off butcher paper. The business was passed on to Kreuz’s sons, who ran it until 1948. That year, Edgar A. "Smitty" Schmidt bought the place, phased out the groceries, but continued to serve the same barbecue and sausage. Cabbage knives were chained to the tables so that customers could cut their meat (but not take home the cutlery). Schmidt’s son, Rick Schmidt, bought the business, and when he and his sister Nina went their separate ways, he moved, along with the Kreuz name, to a cavernous new 560-seat location nearby, opening in 1999. Today, Kreuz boasts eight 16-foot pits for barbecuing meat (it cooks for four to six hours, a short period by industry standards) and for grilling approximately 15,000 rings of sausage each week.
You’ll receive either crackers or a slice of white bread with your meat and the German potatoes are about as refined as the side selection gets at Kreuz. The meat favorites tend to be brisket, ribs, and their spicy jalapeño-cheese sausage. The tender brisket is flavored simply, with salt and black pepper crust. The sausage is hot, tight, and pungeant. Moist and smoky, the sauce-less BBQ is meant to highlight the flavors of local Texas beef.
While you might need to unbuckle your belt on the drive home, you're not alone. Most of the 260,000 folks who visit annually likely did as well.
Elizabeth Trovall is the Austin Travel City Editor for The Daily Meal.