Few things can start an argument faster in Texas than proclaiming your favorite BBQ joint as the “Best in Texas”. Such a claim really implies that the BBQ is the best in the entire world. After all Texas does have the best “Q”, right? Okay, okay, this piece is not about who has the best BBQ. I am not here to call out Memphis, Kansas City, or the boys doing their thing with mustard up in the Carolina’s. They all have good stuff. I was just setting the stage by pointing out that no other food group (BBQ is a food group isn’t it?) touches off passion like BBQ.
Okay, now that we are all on the same page, and your guard has been dropped, I want to tell you about my favorite BBQ town. Yes, I said town! This place has more BBQ restaurants than New York has hot dog carts. Not really but you get the idea. Lockhart Texas, located just south of Austin and West of San Antonio is the most storied BBQ town in all the world. With a population of around thirteen thousand Lockhart has all the charm of a typical Central Texas town. The German influence is as noticeable in the architecture of the court house as the Czech heritage is in the names of the family owned businesses. I am pretty sure a book has been written about all of the Lockhart BBQ spots and the influence they have had on the BBQ world (actually more than one, I checked Amazon) and not being one to compete with other authors, I will just talk about my favorite of them all- Smitty’s.
My daughter Alex had a craving for BBQ and wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than the legendary Smitty’s Market. We headed West from Houston for the 3 hour drive, following our noses until we found the red brick building marked by a smoked stained stack with a faded “Smitty’s” sign perched thirty feet above the gravel parking lot. Finding a parking spot on a Saturday morning was impossible. After a quick turn through the lot we abandoned our search and resigned ourselves to parking in an empty lot down the street. Our short walk to Smitty’s was rewarded by a long line out the door.Slowly working our way into the building we became absorbed into the history of the place.
Decades (like 9 or 10) of BBQ making has left a serious mark on this place. The walls were pitch black with oak soot and the pit, oh the pit, was impossibly seasoned. I would bet the farm this pit has never seen steel wool or a chemical cleaner of any kind. The one thing that makes Smitty’s totally unique is the open flames just inches from the customer. The heat, the smell of the smoke, and the glow of the flames just added to the anticipation that was building since leaving Houston. We make it to the counter, order way more than we could eat at one sitting, and move into the adjacent dining area. We staked our claim for three seats at the community table, grabbed a couple of iced teas, one Lone Star for you know who, and commenced to eating. Indulging is more like it but I was trying to avoid the visual.
After “sampling” the brisket, ribs, and two types of sausage, we sat back at let it all sink in. The smells, the taste, the people. I am not sure I would change a thing.There are a lot of cool places to see and things to do within three hours of Houston but if it is BBQ you are after there is no place like Lockhart!