Oh boy, was Smitty’s fun. It’s like going over to Grandma’s house for lunch, if Grandma made barbecue. You walk in through a pair of old clacking wooden screen doors, and walk down a long, dark, and somewhat smoky hallway to the dimly lit pit room.
The first thing you see when you enter the pit room is an oak log fire burning on the floor at your left, and you think to yourself, it’s June. (That’s what makes the coals they place under the pits.)
Then you turn your gaze to the bricked in pits, looking a little bit like kitchen counters with metal counter tops, and then you see the big old round chopping table in the center. It’s a quiet room, broken only by the sound of chop, chop, chopping. (Check out that sawdust floor!)
The pitmasters will ask you what you want, then reach into the pits and pull out primal cuts from which they slice off what you need. Then they pile the meat onto red butcher paper which they crinkle up like a boat, weigh it on an old scale, and drop it onto your tray.
You gingerly take your barbecue paper boat covered tray into the bright, cheerful, noisy room next door, where you slide down the sides and drink line.
I recommend you pick up the pinto beans, which are smoky and rich, and are reminiscent of the charro beans you might find at a good Mexican restaurant. Just excellent!
I also recommend the sweet tea, or that ubiquitous and eponymous red-flavored soda, Big Red.
I had ordered a hot sausage link, three ribs, and a slice of brisket. (They gave me four ribs, but only charged me for three.) The nice ladies in the sides line asked if I wanted bread or crackers, and I chose a couple slices of white bread. Sitting down on the long benches, I tore into my meal. The baby back pork ribs were fabulous—absolutely fabulous. Meaty and juicy, they should be the primary reason you go to Smitty’s Market. Seriously, go for these fabulous pork ribs. As I finished them up, I was really glad they tossed in an extra rib.
I turned to the sausage. I found that it had a very nice, crispy snap; just what you want. And it was insanely-super-juicy, with a nice smoke ring. But unfortunately it had very little taste. It really needed something extra: some spices, some fennel seed, some sauce—something to jazz it up. So I hit it with the Texas Best hot sauce that lines the tables. That helped—but I would have preferred not to have had to sauce it at all. Texas barbecue should be good enough that sauce is superfluous.
The brisket was beautiful to the eye, juicy, with a nice smoke ring. Being from pork country, I’m not a big brisket fan. I usually find it tough. And so I thought this was ok. I’m sure a serious brisket fan would probably put Smitty’s brisket at about a 7 or an 8 on a 10 scale…and we should be finding 10 in this city. I’ll wait for Franklin’s BBQ before I write off brisket as a whole. I guess I’m just really looking for someone to wow me.
All in all, Smitty’s Market is fun. It’s a real barbecue experience. The pits are old, and the pitmasters know what they are doing. It is a beautiful and authentic place to eat. While I would have liked more layers of flavor in the sausage, and more “something” in the brisket, Smitty’s Market is a place I would go again, and is a place I would take family and friends for a great Texas barbecue experience.