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On the Texas BBQ Trail – Lockhart, Texas BBQ Tour Comparison. Who’s BBQ is Best?

With the title of the “BBQ Capital of Texas”, you know that Lockhart, Texas’s brisket, sausage, and ribs are going to be special. But with 4 famous BBQ restaurants within a mile of each other, which one should you go to?

For us, the answer was all of them! This weekend, myself and 8 friends spent the greater part of a day discovering not only which Lockhart Bar-B-Que restaurant (Kruez Market, Smitty’s Market, Black’s, or Chisholm Trail) has the best grub, we broke the rankings down by meat type in each establishment and have a suggested itinerary for you if you want to make the same meat eating journey.

To figure out which restaurant we liked the best, I created a scorecard that asked everyone to rate the brisket and sausage in each restaurant on a scale of 1 to 10.

Before we get to the scoring and winners – I definitely recommend having at least 4 people in your group if you want to do the self guided Lockhart BBQ tour – that way you can turn the tasting into a social event and you can split both the cost of eating at every restaurant and pace yourself by sharing one portion among many people so your stomach doesn’t explode before the challenge is over. Walking between each restaurant isn’t a bad idea either to aide in digestion :)

I acknowledge that everyone has different tastes, so if you really care I included the makeup of our tasting group at the very end of this article.

Lockhart, Texas Brisket Comparison

Brisket is the king of Texas BBQ so we’ll spend most of this blog post talking about brisket!

The winner of our brisket challenge was described as “flavorful, tasty, moist, and fatty” by some and “amazingly marbled” and “fatty HEAVEN” by others on our tour. There were audible “WOWs” and “SO GOODs” heard around our table after the first bite, and most of us could tell just by looking at the winning meat (look at how juicy, tender, and marbled it looks) that we were in for a delicious treat. If you haven’t guessed it already based on the picture above – the winner of our Lockhart brisket challenege with their extra moist brisket is the legendary Kruez Market.

Because of our amazing experience at Kreuz, we all agreed that a good brisket should be nice and moist (look at the amount of juice leaking onto the paper in the picture above!), is best when hot, and should have a good meat to fat ratio – which our winner nailed on the head. Kreuz Market’s brisket also had a great, salty crust on the outside that added huge flavor, not unlike beefy bacon.

Lockhart BBQ Tour – Brisket Comparison
Chisholm Trail BBQ Kruez Market Smitty’s Market Black’s BBQ
Brisket Score 6.4 9.3 6.6 8.9

 

Coming in a very close 2nd place was Black’s BBQ brisket, which also gave us the “wow” sensation when we took our first bite. Black’s BBQ tasted amazing and had a similar great fat to meat ratio like Kruez, but the brisket we got was a bit crispier, more caramelized, and smokier on the outside and on the inside it was less moist (only a little bit of juice leaking on to the paper in the picture). The comments recorded from the tasters were “love it!”, “amazing”, and “very tasty, fatty, but not as fatty as Kreuz”.

The scores between Black’s and Kreuz were so close that it’s almost a matter of personal preference – The fat was cooked down a good deal in Black’s brisket so you get a more concentrated flavor inside. If you love burnt ends on a brisket Black’s would be the place for you, but there’s something to be said for the super juicy cut of meat we got at Kreuz. Another difference at Black’s is the fact that they make BBQ sauce (Kreuz has a no sauce policy). Everyone in our group liked Black’s sauce which I describe as a homemade, better tasting A1 sauce.

Surprisingly Smitty’s Market, which serves very similar brisket to Kreuz due to a family feud that resulted in two different BBQ joints serving up almost identical cuisine, did not deliver for us this time. Despite asking for the moistest brisket they had, our food was surprisingly dry. The brisket had great taste like Kreuz, but without the right meat-fat ratio, juiciness, or marbled texture of their rivals. We didn’t get the same WOW flavor explosion in our mouths when we took a first bite… more like a collective MEH. Maybe we went on a bad day or maybe the quality there has fallen off, but everyone in our group was disappointed especially after just eating at Kreuz.

Finally, Chisholm Trail’s brisket came in 4th place, but this isn’t really a bad thing. Their brisket was still quite good, but when going up against Black’s and Kreuz it gets overshadowed (big fish in a small pond). Their brisket is moist and flavorful (although some patches were a bit dry) but for some reason it doesn’t taste like Chisholm Trail puts the dedication, time and effort into producing their brisket that the other places do.

For those from Austin who are familiar with BBQ, I would put their brisket a notch above Rudy or the Salt Lick, Ruby’s, or County Line, but I think their meat is a bit on the salty side.

That said, the one very obvious thing Chisholm trail has going for it is extreme value! You can get a whole plate of meat plus 3 sides for about 6 bucks. Cold Lonestar beers in a bottle are only 80 cents each. I don’t even think you can get them for that price in the supermarket here in Austin! Of the 20 or so options for sides, we tried the fried okra, which was excellent and the black eyed peas were tasty as well. Chisholm trail also has a homemade sauce unlike some of the other places which tastes like a better, homemade Heinz 57 sauce.

Lockhart, Texas Sausage Comparison

We were obsessed with the brisket in Lockhart at each restaurant – while it tasted good, sadly I felt the sausage was merely complimentary or playing backup to the lead singer / rockstar that is brisket. There were far fewer audible “wows” from the group when eating sausage and this was reflected in lower overall scores, but the group did find a couple that it really liked.

Most of the eaters on our trip loved the Jalapeno cheese sausage from Kreuz Market which was described as “very good”, “mmm”, full of great “jalapeno flavor”, and the “perfect compliment to brisket”. Kreuz’s sausage was bursting with juice and moisture just like the brisket was, and perhaps for that reason, Kreuz Market’s sausage took the #1 spot on our tour of Lockhart BBQ restaurants.

Lockhart BBQ Tour – Sausage Comparison
Chisholm Trail BBQ Kruez Market Smitty’s Market Black’s BBQ
Brisket Score 5.3 8.75 5.8 7.8

 

2nd place went to the Jalapeno cheese sausage from Black’s BBQ which was described as “very good”, “spicy”, and hotter than the other Lockhart BBQ places. The general sentiment was that we were all pleasantly surprised that Black’s could deliver the goods, especially after having the good stuff from Kreutz. I personally liked the flavor of the sausage from Black’s a little better, but it definitely wasn’t as moist as Kreuz.

Again, we were universally disappointed by Smitty’s, which was described as “kinda bland”, “not flavorful”, and lacking in moisture and “crumbly” despite having a recipe that’s very similar to the one at Kreuz.

Sadly my personal favorite sausage of the tour at Chisholm Trail was not a hit among my friends. Their sausage has a thicker and tougher skin, but was very moist and bursting with flavor inside. My tasting buddies thought the flavor was too much like breakfast sausage and did not enjoy the thickness of the skin or the flaky / loose nature of the meat inside. Chisholm Trail BBQ’s sausage is flavored pretty heavily with pepper and was a tad on the salty side. I thought the Chisholm Trail sausage was very similar to what I got in Argentina on my last trip and one taster compared it to Scottish Haggis.

Personally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to drive to Lockhart just to get sausage (the brisket is the star) since we already have some decent options in Austin but the 5-6 people who loved Kreuz and Black’s jalapeno cheese sausage would probably disagree with me on this point.

Lockhart, Texas – Best Pork Ribs

While we didn’t officially score ribs on a 1 to 10 scale to judge the best pork ribs in Lockhart, we had a clear winner. The pork rib at Smitty’s topped our list and gained the following comments: “pork rib was the best”, “pork rib 8 of 10″, “best one I’ve ever had!”, “pork ribs were really good!”, and “awesome! juicy and sweet… delicious 9 out of 10″.

So, even without the official 1 to 10 score, you can be sure that it would have scored pretty high and it tasted great.

The ribs at Smitty’s, like our other meat favorites were moist on the inside yet caramelized enough on the outside to give an extra punch of flavor. The ribs were also well seasoned and not overly salty (like the ones at Chisholm Trail). Like all of the other great BBQ we had on our adventure, the ribs from Smitty’s elicited wows from the group.

I’m glad that Smitty’s took home the crown for at least one of the best meats in our tasting, because I went there 4-5 years ago and remember the brisket and sausage being much better then.

Lockhart, Texas – Recommended Tour and Conclusion

In conclusion, I definitely recommend grabbing some friends and heading to Lockhart for a day trip. Don’t eat breakfast and come hungry! You may have had Texas BBQ before, but Lockhart is pretty much the epicenter of “real” Texas BBQ so this is where the good stuff is – you are missing out if you have never been.

The town itself is worth seeing as they have a beautiful courthouse in the middle of town and the interiors of each restaurant scream small town Texas.

The whole tour took about 4 hours total but we walked from restaurant to restaurant to work off some calories and make extra space. Lines weren’t that bad for us because we showed up before the 12:15 rush at Chisholm trail and we went to the other restaurants a little off lunch hour peak.

Here are our rankings once again:

    Brisket in Lockhart, Texas:
    Kreuz Market – 1st
    Black’s BBQ – a close 2nd
    Smitty’s Market – 3rd
    Chisholm Trail – 4th

    Sausage in Lockhart, Texas:
    Kreuz Market – 1st
    Black’s BBQ – 2nd
    Smitty’s Market – 3rd
    Chisholm Trail – 4th

    Pork Ribs in Lockhart, Texas:
    Smitty’s – 1st

Definitely go to Lockhart for the brisket at Kreuz and Black’s and for the pork rib at Smitty’s. While the sausage is really good in Lockhart, I don’t think it blows away other places in Austin like the brisket does.

Eating Lockhart BBQ overall is an experience: Lockhard is a different kind of Texas than Austin and the food is better for the most part, especially the brisket. I would say the only place that can hang with Lockhart BBQ in Austin is Franklin BBQ, but there’s a crazy 2 hour line to get any food there. All of the brisket we ate in Lockhart is better than Rudy’s but several people said they like the Salt Lick sausage better than sausage in Lockhart (partly because of the Salt Lick sauce).

If you want to do your own tour of Lockhart, here’s my suggested route:

Suggested Tourist BBQ Tour of Lockhart

  1. Come Hungry and pace yourself! Don’t try to eat everything.
  2. Start @ Kreuz to get extra moist Brisket and jalapeno ceese sausage
  3. Drive to Black’s to get their brisket (and sausage if you really want some).
  4. Walk (to digest) over to Smitty’s to get their awesome pork ribs.

Optional:
If you want to celebrate the completion of your tour with a cheap beer or take some food home for the road, Chisholm Trail is the place to do that at the end. 12 oz Lonestar bottles were only 80 cents! Also, a to go plate with 3 sides & 3 meats (enough food for 1 person for lunch and dinner) is only $7.50

That wraps up our overview – For a more in depth look at the history of the BBQ joints in Lockhart, including a detailed overview of the Kreuz / Smitty’s family feud, check out the excellent Episode 203 of “The Daytripper with Chet Garner” in Lockhart, TX. Chet won’t pass judgement on the BBQ establishments in Lockhart, but we did that for him.

As always thanks for reading, leave your thoughts in the comments, and happy tasting
Peter

Additional Notes for Food Geeks:

*** Info about our tasting panel ***
Our group consisted of a diverse group of experienced BBQ eaters. For the most part we are all between 25-35, we had 6 males and 3 females, and we are long time Austin residents (almost all have lived here for more than 5 years) so we’ve eaten lots of BBQ in the past. We have diverse palates, as most of us have traveled extensively and we are originally from many different parts of the country and the world including Texas, Seattle, LA, Canada, Atlanta, and Korea. Our one outlier was a guy from San Francisco just in town for the weekend who thought “it all tastes good!”. Our friend from SF kept rating each restaurant a 10 until he found a better place later on our tour so he had to go back and re-rate his old scores a couple of times :)

The order that we ate in was first Chisholm Trail BBQ, then Kruez, Smitty’s, and finally Black’s BBQ last. Some in the group suggested that we might have been biased based on the order, especially when going from Kreuz to Smitty’s as they have almost the same recipes so we had a direct comparison. That said we all felt confident that the rankings would be the same no matter what order we went in.

Posted in Comparisons, Food, Travel.

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5 Responses

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  1. Aaron says

    Great review! I know where I am headed. I have been to Black’s personally, and I wasn’t impressed by anything really. But I have not been to the other ones. Good stuff!

  2. Optimista says

    Love the roundup! Have you been to the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival? They do a scorecard there, too, to help with the rankings…but after tasting so many meats from so many places, I got a little overwhelmed and it became hard to remember them all well enough to really compare. It was really fun, though; I was disappointed that they raised the price so much this year.

  3. Aaron says

    You have to try the pork chops and Prime rib at Kreuz!! Best in the area and some of their best meats!!

  4. BBQ Hunter says

    Wow! Just found this blog thanks to a friend. We did Lockhart 12/3/11. I got similar notes – but, different places. Consistency must not be great. I really liked brisket at Chisholm – moist, smoke, tender, etc. Basically, same writeup as online – but, different place. Concur on sauces, too – did not find one I really liked, but, not a sauce fan. Guess I will have to go back and re-taste. Durn – hate having to eat good to great BBQ like that. :-)

  5. Tony (@tjewell) says

    I aimed to do all four, but failed after two! I must be a lightweight. But I thought Black’s had awesome brisket, whereas on that day at least, Smitty’s was just okay. If you’re interested, here’s my adventures in Lockhart – http://www.dontdrivetodinner.com/2014/07/more-of-best-blacks-bbq-and-smittys.html



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