Black’s Barbecue seems to own the town of Lockhart. There are signs pointing you directly to Black’s from far away, and all around the restaurant are parking lots which sternly warn that they are only for customer’s of Black’s.
When you get up to Black’s, it looks like an old Texas roadhouse. It has an all wood exterior, and looks happy to see you.
You enter through the swinging door and step into a long hallway. You’ll be there a while, because that hall leads to the cutting room. But don’t worry, there are lots of photos of the restaurant owners and their family and famous guests. There’s also a long window on the left that looks into the dining room, so you can get your thoughts around what you might want to eat. I try not to look too long, because it makes me real hungry, and I might get in trouble for pawing on the glass. So I recommend chatting up the locals and the regulars in line with you, to find out what’s good. I did and got a lot of good suggestions.
Once you get to the end of the line, you jog left and see the sides line. And oh man do they have a spread. If you like it, they have it. I asked for a pickle and some cole slaw. (Truthfully, I was more focused on getting to the meat, so I just haphazardly made a couple of side choices.)
Next you come to the hot line. The hot line has the meat in large hot boxes behind the line, and the guys take it out and slice it to order. You do miss out on seeing the pit room in action, and I was disappointed in that. When I visit a barbecue restaurant, getting my eyes on the pit room is such a big part of the experience for me. I like to see where the magic happens.
At the hot line, I ordered the pork loin on a recommendation, and also ordered up some pork ribs. Finally, I selected the shiner bock sausage. I had read about and wanted some of the Hatch sausage—made with New Mexico Hatch chiles—but they were out.
Now, Texas is all about the meat market approach to selling BBQ. You order your meat by the pound or the slice and they pile it up on paper: no need for plates, in this state. Unless you’re at Black’s, where all you get is a foam plate. Truth be told, I missed the paper.
Once I had everything, I worked my way down to the seating area. Black’s seating area is great. It was the best of this BBQ tour. It is a really nice looking room. There are lots of family photos on the wall, steer horns, deer heads, and there are checkered tables with low metal brown seats. However, the seats seem surprisingly low. Or perhaps the tables are surprisingly high, but in any event, it felt like I was back in kindergarten again.
So let’s talk food. The sausage is made from 90% beef and 10% pork. It had great snap, and much more flavor (and more interesting things going on) than the sausage at Smitty’s Market. But I still wanted more flavor, more of a kick. I found that at City Market.
The baby back ribs looked good, but their taste was only ok. It may be that I need to come back again and re-review this place. Maybe I hit them on an off day. But I found that the ribs had very little meat. (In comparison, Smitty’s were moist and had a lot of meat on them.) These had a smoky dryness to them, not that they were dried out, but that tightness you get when you smoke something for a long time. These were lean, so that may have been the problem; not enough fat to make them enjoyable. Similarly, the pork loin looked good, but was tough.
My general belief is that good barbecue needs no sauce, and that with sauce, barbecue often becomes just a vehicle to eat sauce, not barbecue. I want to taste the meat, the pitmaster’s craft. But I can’t lie. I make sauce, and do like it. Sauce helped here.
At Black’s there are two sauces available: Mrs. Black’s Original, and Mrs. Black’s Smoky. The Original sauce is sweet, with hints of vinegar, red pepper and what tasted like lemon juice. The Smoky sauce is a browner and smokier version of the Original. I went back and forth between the two and couldn’t decide which I liked better.
Finally, the sides. The pickles tasted like Claussen’s (which is fine because they are my favorite pickle), but the coleslaw I would not seek out again. I’ve read other reviews of Black’s and it sounds like most say to skip the sides. I think that’s decent advice.
Regardless of its culinary shortcomings, Blacks is a fun place. This is a great place to go and hang out with family and friends and have some good, but not great, barbecue in a nice and pleasant environment. I’m looking forward to going back to Black’s, to see if the next experience is different. It has so much going for it. I really hope that the barbecue steps up to the plate.