Ever since I started my hunt for the holy grail of BBQ in North Texas, reader after reader has told me that I need to make the journey to Lockhart in Central Texas, which many believe to be the center of the barbecue universe. The Kreuz (pronounced “Krites) Market opened in 1900, and over the years has earned a rep for the best in sausage and other smoked meats in the state.
But before I could make the trip to the Hill Country, Lockhart came to me. Or more accurately, Lockhart came to DFW.
A couple of years back, Jill Grobowsky Bergus (the granddaughter of Kreuz Market founder Ed Schmidt) opened a barbecue joint in the Bishop Arts district of Dallas, as sort of a frontier mission to bring ’cue to the North Texas masses. Jill, her husband, Jeff, and pitmaster Tim McLaughlin have been serving it up in the grand tradition of Kreuz and piling up the best-of awards.
They recently opened another DFW location, in downtown Plano.
All this buzz compelled me to finally add Lockhart Smokehouse to my BBQ Safari itinerary. While the awards, accolades and expansion news are all encouraging, in the end, when it comes to ’cue, I don’t take anyone else’s word for it.
Lockhart is in an older building, but it’s clean and recently renovated. This earns them a few demerits in authenticity: to me, the quintessential ’cue joint is housed in a ramshackle building populated by indifferent if not surly staff. But they win points back by having a serving line. Meat is served by the pound, wrapped in butcher paper, and you get to watch them carve it.
Sides are pre-packaged in little tubs in a cooler you pass while waiting in line, and you get your drinks yourself. I got my standard brisket, and ribs (half pound of each), and a link of the famous Kreuz jalapeño sausage. I got a tub of slaw and potato salad for sides. When I asked the carver for some of the fatty end of the brisket, and he looked at me like asking for anything else would be absurd — I decided I liked this place already. They handed me a bundle of butcher paper the size of a Black Diamond watermelon, and I handed over about 35 bucks. The filmmakers got a bundle about that big to split, along with some kind of hell-fire mac and cheese, and we headed to a table.
Once unwrapped, our table was awash in meat, grease and butcher paper. We decided to tear into the sides first. The slaw and the potato salad were homemade, and had that touch of an orange color that tells you there’s a touch of heat to here — not overpowering but just enough to keep it interesting. Then I tried some of the mac and cheese. Very tasty, and very spicy — and it sticks to the back of your throat like napalm and tries to burn its way through to your medulla oblongata. I recommend getting this, but eat it last if you want to taste everything else.
So on to the meat. The sausage had a great snap to it, and a nice smokiness. It had a perfect blend of cheddar, heat, and beef (yeah, there was some pork in there, too). Kreuz is famous for its sausage, and Lockhart Smokehouse imports it from their kinfolk in, well, Lockhart.
The ribs were pork spare ribs, and while not St. Louis-cut (my only complaint), they were meaty and smoked to perfection. The meat pulled off the bone cleanly with each bite, but didn’t fall off the bone. They had a nice rub that added just enough spice without overpowering the meat. First-rate pigsicles — some of the best I’ve had.
I saved the brisket for last, and while the movie folk were talking about gaffs and grips and a bunch of other stuff I don’t understand, I tore into this pile of cow on my side of the butcher paper. The brisket I got was teetering on the ragged edge between perfection and over-done. When I picked it up (you eat this with your hands) it would start to separate like it was going to fall apart, but it remained structurally sound. The fat was perfectly rendered, and there was nice layer of bark on the outside edges from exposure of the rub to the smoke. I’ve had a lot of brisket — a lot — and this was the best brisket I have ever had.
So, is Lockhart the holy grail we’re looking for? It’s close. The food is nearly perfect, and the original Kreuz very well could be. But our delicious search will continue. If you know a place we should check out, tell us on DFW.com.