"The Lockhart Showdown"
Rudy: Lockhart, Texas, is a small town (population around 12,000) just outside of Austin that is known all over the country for producing some of the best barbecue in the world. The Huffington Post recently listed it as the #1 best city for barbecue in America.
Speedy: I made a visit to San Antonio, so Rudy and I decided to take in 2 of the big 4 barbecue places in town.
Rudy: I don’t want to say there is a trend, but Speedy has come twice to taste some of Texas’ best barbecue, yet no signs of Monk.
Monk: Hey now! I mean I’d love to have been able to come one or both times, but such is the life of a new dad. Not that I need to tell you…
Speedy: Rudy solved that problem by bringing his son with. More on that later…with so many great spots so close together, we figured this would be a good time to try a barbecue showdown and see which place was the best. We chose Kreuz’s Market and Black’s Barbecue. Both were ranked in Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ Joints in
Texas The World!
Rudy: …Don’t blame me or get territorial, that’s the name of the article. Anyway, this would be some great eating.
Speedy: So let’s break it down into the different categories, give a winner for each category, and then we’ll crown the overall champion.
Rudy: This one isn’t even close. Kreuz Market looks like an old barn from the outside, and has a great barbecue joint feel to the inside. Even though they moved into a new building in 1999, lots of old photos and memorabilia hangs on the walls to give it a historic feel. They have plenty of signs around stating their slogan “No Sauce, No Forks, No Kidding.” After standing in line for 15 minutes, we walked into the smoker. That’s right, you walk right into the room where they are smoking the meat and they cut your order right in front of you.
Speedy: Black’s looks more like a cafeteria line, where you come through and spoon your own side. Like Kreuz’s, they do cut the meat right in front of you, and throw it on the scale to price out. There’s a fair amount of seating indoors that feels very “diner-ish” (as opposed to the plethora of long picnic tables at Kreuz’s) and very minimal seating in an outside area that, frankly, isn’t well kept up. Like Rudy said, from an atmosphere standpoint, we have a blowout.
Winner: Kreuz’s Market
Rudy: Kreuz is serious about their slogan that they don’t offer any sauce or any forks. And it really doesn’t matter, because neither is needed. I had the fatty brisket, which had great flavor, a good smoke ring, and a good amount of tug. While I liked it, the bark had no crunch to it and seemed to have little pepper in the seasoning. The brisket was good but not great.
Speedy: Agreed. One of the guys I was visiting in San Antonio ordered the lean brisket (amateur…) and it was very dry. Kreuz’s advertises that they don’t carry sauce because their brisket doesn’t need it, but this lean brisket most certainly did. With that being said, I was not disappointed at all with the moist brisket - it seemed to be cooked perfectly, but I think Kreuz’s takes the “let the meat speak for itself” thing a little too far. Rubbing on a little black pepper before the smoke never made anything taste worse.
As for Black’s brisket, I have no suggestion for how the brisket could be improved. It was perfect. It had just the right amount of tug, a good smoke ring, excellent flavor, and the right amount of bark. Being the brisket novice that I am, eating Kreuz’s and Black’s brisket back to back really let me see the difference between good brisket and great brisket.
Rudy: Kreuz is famous for their sausage and ship them all over the world. They serve 2 different types of sausage, plain and jalapeno cheddar. I had both and thought, while both were very good, the jalapeno cheese was much better. Both had great flavor and a good amount of snap to the casings. The spice from the jalapeno, combined with the creaminess of the cheese was fantastic.
Speedy: I only had the plain sausage, which I thought was fine. I wouldn’t place an order to have it delivered to NC or anything, but I did enjoy my link. As Black’s was the second stop on our BBQ tour, neither Rudy nor I had the stomach room to try the sausage there.
Rudy: At Black’s I opted for the giant beef rib. When they weighed it and brought it to me, they said “Congrats, you got the 2 pound rib!” Getting the large portion is a normally a good thing, except when you are buying meat by weight and have already eaten the equivalent of two full meals. This rib was unbelievable. The meat was tender and flavorful. There was a great bark, and the fat was rendered evenly throughout the rib, resulting in every bite being tender and juicy. The only complaint that I have about it is the same one that I had about the brisket: I would have liked a little more pepper in the seasoning and a crunchier bark. But even without it, this rib was great.
Speedy: I had a similar rib, though mine was only one pound (which was still more than enough). I have no complaints. I thought it was perfect. Members from our group also got pork spare and baby back ribs. The baby backs were awesome - perfectly cooked and super tender. The spare ribs were good, but not great.
At Kreuz’s, the only ribs they serve are pork spare ribs. Honestly, I thought these were better than the spare ribs at Black’s, but not as good as the baby backs. And I don’t think anything on Kreuz’s menu could touch the glory of the giant beef rib we had at Black’s. It was that good.
Speedy: Since I knew we were visiting two joints in the span of a couple hours, I didn’t waste any stomach room on sides, save for a couple of bites of jalapeno corn bread at Black’s. But I’ll tell you who did: Rudy, Jr. RJ went to town on some mac and cheese at Kreuz’s. He must’ve eaten a pound of that stuff. When offered brisket, he would just throw it aside and dive right back in to the mac and cheese. What’s up with that, Rudy? Your son can’t eat some meat like a man? How are you raising this kid? I’m really starting to question your parenting skills…
Rudy: I can’t really explain it either. I was a bit ashamed of him turning away the brisket, but I guess it was good because that means there is more meat for me. However, if he loved barbecue, that would give me more ammo for taking him to more places. This was his first experience eating barbecue, so hopefully he’ll pick up on how it’s done before next time.
Monk: Well, congrats guys. Well done. You’ve officially made me even more jealous of the trip than I was before. Really wish I could have been there.
Winner: Who cares?
The group consensus is that we all liked Black’s better. There was a noticeable difference in the quality of the food, which more than made up for the lesser atmosphere.
Winner: Black’s BBQ
Atmosphere - 5 hogs
Brisket - 3 hogs
Sausage - 4 hogs
Ribs - 3 hogs (docked for lack of variety)
Sides - 3 hogs
Overall - 4 hogs
Atmosphere - 2 hogs
Brisket - 4.5 hogs
Ribs - 5 hogs
Overall - 4.5 hogs