Arkansas lies at a BBQ crossroads, with the beef and sausage BBQ of Texas to the West, the dry rubbed and spicy-sauced pork BBQ of Memphis to the East, and the dry rubbed beef and sweet sauced BBQ of Kansas City, Missouri to the North. To better understand the true essence of Arkansas BBQ, I felt a need to visit its brethren.
Now, a barbecue tour is a serious endeavor, and requires much contemplation and planning. A barbecue tour of Texas requires even more thought and planning because of Texas’ size and BBQ quality, and the finite limits of one’s time in crossing great distances (even where it is in search of great food). It was clear that I would have to take this in stages.
I found myself in South Central Texas recently, running between San Antonio and Austin on a Sunday and Monday. I figured would have just enough time to fit in four BBQ joints, if I worked quickly (and I’m good at working quickly, especially if it involves BBQ). After much hemming and hawing, I decided to visit Black’s Barbecue, Kreutz Market, Smitty’s Market and City Market. The first three are all located in Lockhart, Texas, which is about 30 miles south of Austin. City Market is a short drive away in Luling, about 15 miles south of Lockhart.
I carefully chose each of these places, and for particular reasons. I chose Black’s because it is the oldest BBQ joint continuously-run by the same family (since 1932). Kreutz Market has a storied history darkened by a family split, where one half of the family split off from Smitty’s Market to open Kreutz’s (so of course I had to eat at them both). And City Market, I threw that in on a whim. It had great reviews, and was considered by some to be putting out the best barbecue in Texas.
It’s true that Texas is so serious about BBQ, that any place is bound to be good. Each of these places are established, storied BBQ joints in cities full of other established, storied BBQ joints. (In fact, you could just walk down the streets in Lockhart or Luling and pass numerous other places that may offer better, or just different, BBQ.)
But good is not what I was after. I wanted an etherial experience. I wanted BBQ enlightenment.
Now comparing BBQ restaurants is like comparing your kids, if you voice it, someone’s feelings are always going to get hurt. The good news is that everyone differs on what they like. I strongly feel that what you like is primarily set by what you grew up eating, so you like what you have always liked. I can guar-an-tee that some won’t like these reviews and comparisons. Yes, I did not hit every restaurant; just four. Yes, I want to but did not go to Franklin’s and the Salt Lick and whatever-place-it-is-that-you-love-and-I-should-have-gone-to-but-missed.
So be it. Let’s rip off the band-aid. Here are the rankings:
Individual reviews of each restaurant are on separate pages, so hit up the links above! And thanks for reading.