Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lockhart, Texas BBQ Showdown: Kreuz vs. Smitty's vs. Black's vs. Chisholm Trail

I grew up in North Texas eating BBQ all my life. For a long time I've wanted to head south to Lockhart for a BBQ showdown between their four BBQ palaces that are considered to be the best in the state. So in March I finally freed up a weekend and headed down with a friend for an eating experience I'll never forget. We drove 25 miles southeast of Austin to the little town called Lockhart, the self-proclaimed, "BBQ Capital of Texas." As soon as we got there we started taking on their famous BBQ establishments one-by-one: Kreuz Market, Smitty's Market, Chisholm Trail Bar B Q, and Black's Barbecue.

We arrived at Kreuz Market (619 N. Colorado Street - right before they opened. There was already a line out front. I had actually been here before so I knew what to expect. The last meal I had here was absolutely amazing. We walked through the fairly new, large dining hall into the pit room. The smokey smell of meat here is like no other - it had me drooling. I loaded up on 1/4lb beef brisket and a jalepeno cheese sausage. Everything was served on butcher paper. Once I had my meats I went into the next room for some side dishes. (The German potatoes are a MUST.)

Kreuz does not have forks, and does not have BBQ sauce. Once you start eating this stuff sauce won't even cross your mind. The brisket flavor is perfect and sauce would actually take away from the taste. The sausage was my favorite of all the places in Lockhart, so make sure you get some if you stop here.

After a short break we went to Smitty's Market (208 South Commerce Street - for a late lunch. There was a long line to get into the building. Most of the people in line seemed to be first-time tourists, not locals. The building Smitty's is in is a historic building with lots of character near the Lockhart town square. I had really high expectations ever since watching Smitty's and Kreuz go head-to-head on Travel Channel's Foodwars.

I got a 1/4lb beef brisket and a sausage. Just like Kreuz, Smitty's does not have forks or BBQ sauce. In this case sauce would have helped because the meat was dry and the flavor was not very good. The sausage fell apart and had a very dry texture. I was really disappointed in this meal. I will definitely pass on Smitty's on my next trip to Lockhart.  

After Smitty's we checked into the hotel for a break before dinner. (Side note: If you go to Smitty's or Kreuz be prepared to smell like BBQ smoke from the pit room. People will know you've been to one of those places after you've eaten there!)

We were planning on eating at Black's for dinner and calling it a trip, but a local said that Chisholm Trail Bar B Q (1323 South Colorado Street - had all the other Lockhart legends beat so we added it to our list. Even if it wasn't as well known at least we could say we went to all four places in Lockhart.

Chisholm has been around since 1978, and it holds its own against the other places. It seemed like it was mostly locals eating there. The decor is fairly run down, and it has a simple cafeteria style line without the fanfare and show of a pitroom.

I stuck with the same winning combo of 1/4lb beef brisket and sausage. There was sauce available that I tried, but I did not care for the taste of it. Overall the food was good, actually very good, but not amazing. That being said it was still better than most BBQ I've had in my life.

After a good night's sleep we hit up Black's Barbecue (215 North Main Street - Black's is the oldest BBQ place in Texas still owned by the same family, since 1932. At this point we were sick of BBQ so our hopes weren't very high, but then something magical happened - we ate the first bite.

It was the best brisket I've ever had. It was the saltiest and fattiest of all the Lockhart places we had been. I cleaned the plate and was hungry for more. That's how good it was. There was sauce available, but I did not try it. I did not even think of trying it. I was, "keeping it real" without sauce as the locals would say. At the end of the journey I knew that if I could only stop at one place in Lockhart for BBQ, it would be Black's hands down.

So here's a more complete breakdown of what I thought:

  1. Black’s - 9.5
  2. Kreuz - 9.0
  3. Chisholm - 6.5
  4. Smitty’s - 4.5

Beef Brisket

  1. Black’s - salty, juicy, tender. - 9.5
  2. Kreuz - close second. great flavor. very juicy. - 9.0
  3. Chisholm - good, but not amazing. - 6.5
  4. Smitty’s - dry, bad flavor. - 4.5


  1. Kreuz - juicy, flavorful, amazing. - 9.5
  2. Chisholm - good, but not great. - 5.5
  3. Black’s - close to Chilsoms. good, not great. - 5.0
  4. Smitty’s - tough, bad texture, very average flavor. - 4.5

  1. Black’s - amazing, everything complemented the food perfectly. - 9.0
  2. Kreuz - very close second. German potatoes were great. - 8.9
  3. Chisholm - very good. close third. - 8.5
  4. Smitty’s - very average - 5.0

Bang for the buck
  1. Chisholm - very reasonable - 9.0
  2. Smitty’s - tie - 6.0
  3. Kreuz - tie - 6.0
  4. Black’s - bit overpriced - 4.5

  1. Smitty’s - historic building with lots of character. - 9.0
  2. Black’s - old building with a cozy feel. - 8.0
  3. Kreuz - new and clean. - 6.5
  4. Chisholm - a bit rundown - 4.5