When it comes to barbecue in the United States, a few places come to mind. There’s the Carolinas, Kansas City, Memphis, and, of course, Texas. And, boy, just as they always say, everything is bigger in Texas, including the barbecue (OK, maybe not physically bigger, but just roll with it).
Known primarily for brisket, Texas (especially Central Texas) is a haven for anyone looking for crunchy bark, fat that melts in your mouth and, of course, delicious, delicious pork meat. With barbecue on our mind, we decided to head to the barbecue capital of the world, Lockhart (population: 13,527), to eat as much as we possibly could.
What’s the best way to explore Texas barbecue country? Sitting behind the wheel of a Chevy Silverado, blasting some of our favorite road tunes, and stuffing ourselves until we felt that the only thing we could do was lay down in the bed of the pickup and to see if the buzzards would confuse us with carrion. (Just kidding, we’d lay down inside in the air conditioning – it is Texas, after all).
For our journey, we started with some breakfast tacos in Houston — a necessity, if you ask us — followed by a stop at the Gator Pit of Texas, a custom barbecue pit manufacturing facility started by Ritch Robin to make the best barbecue pits and smokers on the market (his waiting list stretches into the years at this point). From there, we set off. Destination: Lockhart.
Below you’ll find the best places for barbecue in Central Texas. Brisket aside, we learned that the region’s German roots have helped it become the basis of some delicious non-brisket Texas barbecue treats. Namely the sausage. We’re talking about the sausage here.
What to eat: Lean brisket, both types of sausage (original smoked and jalapeño cheddar)
One of the first places you see when driving into Lockhart (and one of the oldest, even though the current iteration has only been around since 1999), Kreuz’s offers up everything you might think about when the words “Texas barbecue country” come to mind. First, pick your meats, then head into the next room and get your sides. Load up — they’re delicious.
What to eat: Brisket, prime rib, sausage
As mentioned above, Kreuz’s current iteration has only been open since 1999. That is because up until then, it was open where Smitty’s is. A family dispute led to the split and since then, Lockhart has been blessed with even more barbecue. At Smitty’s, credit cards aren’t accepted.
What to eat: Brisket, dinosaur beef rib (be careful with this one, though, it can get a little pricey)
Started by the Black family all the way back in 1932, Black’s Barbecue is currently run by third-generation pitmaster Kent Black. Start out by getting your sides, then you step up to get your meats – a counter that is a vision as lovely as heaven itself. As with many of the barbecue places around Texas, expect lines, especially if you’re going around lunch.
What to eat: Pork ribs, sausage
With a tagline like “where the locals eat,” it’s got to be good, right? Right. Chisholm Trail was started by a former employee of Black’s and offers up delicious barbecue a little bit out of the way. Being off the beaten path, though, doesn’t stop the lines. Bonus points go to Chisholm Trail for having a drive-thru.
What to eat: ribs, brisket
Located in just up the road from Lockhart in Austin, Franklin Barbecue was founded by Aaron Franklin, a James Beard award-winning chef. What started as a humble barbecue trailer grew into the biggest barbecue behemoth in Austin today.
What do Drink
You can’t have barbecue without something to drink and, thankfully, Texas has plenty of options for wetting your whistle. You can choose to go with one of the mainstays of Texas beer, Shiner, which has of late released a slew of new beers (including the new Wicked Juicy IPA, among others) or you can tap into Austin’s rich craft brewing scene.
There are a variety of winners, which includes the likes of Independence Brewing Company’s Native Texan Pilsner, Family Business Beer Company’s The Fox Rye Lager, and Austin Eastciders’ Hopped Cider. Then, if you need something a little stronger, you’ll just have to pour yourself a finger or three of Garrison Brother’s Bourbon. If those options aren’t a way to end a barbecue trail, we don’t know what are.