BBQ as cuisine is a bit of a paradox... oh how goddamn difficult it is to smoke perfectly such a simple cut of meat. Yet in Lockhart, Barbecue Capital of Texas (officially), there are those who do it everyday, just as they've done it, collectively, for hundreds of years, much of that time within the same four walls.
In want of this bounty was how we found ourselves hovering above an eight foot holding pit on an impossibly hot day made hotter still by the smoldering oak during the hottest Texas summer on record, seeking to satisfy an urge to order meats by pounds and to enjoy the fruits of the labor of these pit masters. Labor that starts long before most folks stir in the morning, involving an often solemn and primordial routine: fire, meat, tend, wait.
Now, to walk through the door of Smitty's Market is to walk into the smoker itself. A 1924 building that's been a barbecue restaurant since inception. I swear, were it not for the soot the hallway would be a foot wider on each side. As we stepped up to the counter the sweat had long since overtaken the brow and was now devouring the shirt. Moist brisket and sausage on order. Goes great with white bread and a little Texas Best. But no sauce, not here. And no forks. Just butcher paper and what you came for.
Black's Barbecue (est. 1932), on the other side of the Caldwell County courthouse, has a significantly more welcoming climate once inside the door, though getting through it may take a while; the line was nearly to the street on our December visit. Sides come first, then the proteins. And this, I've come to realize, is where I get into a bit of a routine... moist fatty beef brisket with coarse ground smoked sausage made in-house, a cold side, a hot side, white bread, pickles and onions. And an ice cold Big Red. Any semblance of method or order, however, completely breaks down once in the seat. More of a ravenous run to the finish line. It must be like watching a duck eat.
But that's how you enjoy good barbecue... not with some slow build to climax. You just get right to it, maybe leave a little room for banana pudding, and look forward to the next visit.
208 South Commerce
Lockhart, TX 78644
215 North Main Street
Lockhart, TX 78644
(This one's for you.)