Texas BBQ is my favorite style amongst the more well known styles of BBQ. Recently I booked a flight from Philly to Austin and along with a buddy of mine headed straight for Lockhart. Lockhart is a mecca for BBQ lovers, a self proclaimed capitol of Texas BBQ. And not without reason. Lockhart is this ultra small texas town with the cute picturesque (if a bit run down) center about a 30 minutes drive south of Austin. This story would be a great food coma story were I to hit up all 5 places in and around Austin but I couldn’t do the 5 places in a day setup, so on the first day we did hit the 3 in lockhart: smittys, blacks and kruez all in one sitting.
Oh man was it well worth it. I love Texas so much. You don’t even know.
Kruez while being like the “south of the border” building and setup you see on I-95 (multiple billboards along the way for example) was the king of them all on that day. There, like the south of the border, is a holy hell huge cant miss building. It’s the kind of behemoth building that says here is a place to EAT MEAT. When driving up I noticed this huge fenced off area that was confusing at first. I’m thinking what could that possibly be? As we got closer it dawned on me that this was in fact THEIR WOOD PILE. What the! Oh my lord. Their wood pile is out of this world and makes one feel small by comparison.
Given the size of that wood pile, the entire place and the parking I fear what this place is like on a sunday after church! So to the meat. We got a piece of the burnt ends and it was magic. This is giving me chills thinking about it. Get it. It’s so good this taste will transcend generations and be engrained into your DNA. It’s that good. The ribs were….so so. Darn. However! The sausage was pretty amazing and had this kick at the end of it that creeped up on you. Imagine 10,000 10 year olds hitting you on the arm for flinching and then waking up the next day being hit 10,000 times in the arm. It was wild. Needless to say I was a bigggg fan. As you walk in you are herded not so unlike Cattle and in the back they have a janky counter area for swag and I picked up a coozie. It’s cheese ball, but I dig that stuff.OH man, I forgot. Also!!!! The lean brisket was like what i do in a vertical smoker! mind blown. They are the brisket champs on this day, hands down. Or hoofs down.
Blacks BBQ was 2nd best. The slaw was good but I’m not a expert on slaw. You might dislike it or like it. The beans were gnarly andIi would avoid it like the plague. Then again I’ve never had good baked beans in Texas. The ribs were juicy and had the right texture you’d expect from a legend like this so they beat Kruzen by comparison. The brisket (fatty part ordered) was solid and a crisp smokey flavor. I liked the lean less.
Smittys was the first stop and our least favorite spot although the ambiance was killer. You walk in and see an open smoke pit! The ribs tasted more Iike ham than pork which still surprises me. I liked it but it was weird. Not sure what happened there. The brisket was less moist and had no real bark. Again, the ambiance was awesome. I felt like Lyndon b Johnson would come strolling through any minute.
I knock on smitty’s a little, but all of these places I would love to have as my local BBQ joint. As I state above Kruez was the best for me.
The next day I hit up Franklins. And I’ll devote this entire part to it. If there is once place you visit in Austin it needs to be this. This is, by leaps and bounds, and I didn’t imagine this possible, the best bbq i’ve ever had. Now I’ve had some great bbq, and from the known legends of our trade no less, but I stand by this statement. Aaron Franklin is the master of Briskets.A man amongst children. What I remember fondly were two things. One was the line that forms prior to opening. I’ve read about it and couldn’t believe it myself, but there is a line. I’m guessing it’s gone down in time and varies by day, but there was still a very long line. By the time he opens you find yourself still waiting a considerable amount of time. This is due to how much people order. I swear I heard one lady say “18 pounds of brisket”. Another woman had an entire notebook full of what I can only assume was an entire’s office order. We waited about 30 minutes and finally arrived before Aaron. He greeted us with a huge smile and actually spent time talking to us. To me it’s that customer service that is a gigantic cherry on top. I never see that up in Philadelphia and to get it there with such a huge line behind us brings almost a tear to my eye. Mike Mills is my cooking hero and I wish i could cook like that champ, but Aaron Franklin makes me want to open a place just like his as an homage to it. I’m dead serious.
As Aaron pulled the brisket out of a neatly wrapped very dark butcher paper a waft of steam poured and the smell created chills. A huge smile appeared. He smiled back. I told him I love the burnt ends so he very liberally chopped end pieces. Oh my GOD. I was ready to jump over the counter and proclaim my undying love for this brisket. I also ordered Turkey which I found to be really interesting. I’ve never had smoked Turkey at a BBQ joint – extremely surprising when I realized this fact at that moment. Upon finishing the chopping of the meats he then put a Au-jus sauce over – most likely from the juices of his brisket. The only thing I can think of how this puts something over the top is when you add bacon to Chili. It’s like he’s cheating. He had that sauce on standby. As if it was his last magic trick, A steve jobs reveal moment or the last seconds of the grand finale for the 4th of July fireworks display. Kind of like he said you think you saw everything well check out THIS. BOOOM. I was in a BBQ daze and totally unprepared.
Unfortunately is has been some time so I cannot completely describe what I ate in great detail so please just check out the pictures in the gallery – though this does no justice to it. What I can say is that it was a near religious experience. I’ve mentioned great moments in food before and I believe there is lots of great food out there, but this is it. This food is the equivalent of the final boss battle in the legend of zelda times about 15,000. Go there. Go to franklins. If you hate it – you just don’t know what good bbq is. This is a MUST.