Great American Bites: The best of Texas Hill Country BBQ

This includes the town of Lockhart, the epicenter of Texas barbecue and home to several choices, including two of the most famous joints in the nation, Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market, and the nearby town of Luling, known in smoked-food circles for the more cultish City Market barbecue parlor. There are certainly others here (Black’s, Salt Lick, etc.), as well as many in Austin itself, but these three are representative of the best Texas Hill Country traditions – similar yet uniquely different.

In each case the smokers, huge metal contraptions, occupy their own room at the back, where you order amidst the heat, smoke and fire. There are no “platters” or entrees, just meat sold by weight, and one of the pitmen cuts your food to order on a big wooden butcher block. Ask for half a pound of brisket, and one of many briskets is pulled, sliced, and returned to the smoker. Your meats are laid on a sheet of brown butcher paper, weighed on an old-fashioned scale, topped with white bread or crackers, then artfully folded up and handed to you. You take this package into a dining room, where you can usually order sides and drinks, seat yourself and eat.

The process is the same, but the settings are much different: Smitty’s is in a long established storefront on the town square in downtown Lockhart, with one main dining room featuring long communal tables. Smitty’s location was previously home to Kreuz, but amidst family squabbles, Kreuz Market moved to a new, modern location on the edge of Lockhart in 1999. It’s now in an enormous red-brick building that resembles a college sports field house, filled with individual tables, soda dispensing stands, and even a private function room. It definitely has a more modern, commercial feel, but the ‘cue is the real thing. City Market sits next to the train

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