Christmas and New Year's have gotten in the way of my blogging for a while (not to mention my other obligations), but here I am again, bright-eyed(ish), with a fairly bushy tail, ready to tell you guys about some barbecue!
That we ate on December 10th. Hey, that's less than a month ago, right?
We've eaten BBQ in Lockhart before, but our go-to has always been Smitty's, that paragon of the pits, master of the brisket, occasional over-cooker of the pork chop. We've taken multiple out of towners there, including Logan's parents (who got a whole blog post to themselves), Paul when he came through town on his cross-country odyssey to Boston, and Andy and Jackson when we were trying to convince them to move from South Carolina to Austin. (It worked.) I even made the Far Flung Youngs drive down there when they dropped in from Belfast. They loved it.
But I'd never visited any of the other contenders for the crown of best BBQ in Lockhart, that is Black's and Kreuz Market. That's because Logan had been to the other two spots in the past, and despite the constant accolades they receive, pronounced them lacking.
It was time I put my foot down. I wanted to try Black's.
Black's is a bit odd. For one thing, they have a substantial buffet line of sides and desserts, which seems out of place in a central Texas BBQ joint. Most places around here, you'll find onions and pickles. Probably beans. Maybe potato salad and coleslaw, if you're a particularly lucky vegatarian. But at Black's, they had five different desserts, three pasta salads, greens, green beans, two different kinds of bread (aside from the usual sliced white bread) and several composed salads.
I guess if you have a group of people come visit, and one's a vegetarian, this would be a good place to take them. Never thought I'd call a TX BBQ joint vegetarian-friendly, but there it is.
More carnivorous wranglin' after the jump.
We ordered a good sampling of the meats Black's had on offer, including sausage (plain and jalapeno cheese), pork ribs, the ubiquitous brisket, and turkey. The guys cutting the meat were nice as can be and offered us tastes, if we needed trouble deciding. The pork loin they let us try was dusty and dry, so we skipped it in favor of the turkey.
After heaving our trays into the next room, I grabbed some sweet tea and sliced bread and gazed around at the evidence of the restaurant's almost 80 years in business. There were pictures of local football teams, family photos, and letters from near and far extolling Black's virtues. It was a comfortable place to eat some meat.
I also grabbed a bottle of Black's barbecue sauce. In another touch I thought was odd for a Texas BBQ place, the blurb on the back of the sauce bottle described how Mrs. Black began bottling her sauce after visiting Northerners demanded it.
That's gotta be the first time a Texan did anything because a Northerner told them to.
After I tasted the sauce (on a bit of white bread, of course), I understood immediately why these non-Texans liked it. Its sweetness and bit of vinegar reminded me strongly of the Chicago-style ribs I used to eat at the now sadly gone Glass Dome Hickory Pit when I was growing up. There was only a touch of heat, and this thick sauce had very little in common with the thin, spicy sauces I've had at other joints in the area.
And on to the meat. This is where my narrative will unfortunately take a turn for the worse.
I feel bad saying this, because I've read so many good reviews of this place, and the people who work there were so nice to us, but not only was our experience with this meat not satisfying - it was downright bad. The brisket was tough and chewy, with a fat line in the middle that hadn't rendered properly. The sausage's loosely packed texture brought to mind greasy wads of cardboard. The ribs were dry and crumbly and the crust was difficult to bite through. The only bright spot was the turkey, which was moist with a good smoke flavor, but had an odd texture like the pressed turkey breast I used to eat at summer camp.
I know that barbecue is difficult to get right 100 percent of the time. Long, slow cooking over fire can be really hard to do properly, and even places I love have been known to turn out the occasional substandard cut. But here, we tried five different meats and were sorely disappointed in four of them.
All in all, a disappointment. Yeah, I said it. Sorry, Black's - next time I'll trust my husband. After I make him take me to Kreuz Market, that is.
Black's BBQ is at 215 N. Main Street in Lockhart. 512.398.2712.