14 March 2006

STYOK About BBQ Mecca

That's right, folks. Lockhart, TX...with a population of just over 11,000 is Mecca for BBQ fans. I am pretty confident that all 11,615 residents can smoke some beef brisket better than you and me. Fortunately for me, Lockhart is just a short half-hour drive from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport -- and double fortune for me, my flight got in this afternoon around 12:30 pm. By the time I gathered my bags and found my rental car, I was ready to chow down. Face it, after two flights connecting me from Orlando to Austin with only one small Biscoff cookie package, I was ready to put away some 'Q.

I have made the trip down TX-183 a couple of times now. Each time, I try to convince myself that I am going to get off of the main road and check out either Black's or Smitty's and each time I end up pulling into the vast parking lot that precedes Kreuz's Market (pronounced as though it rhymes with 'fights').

The building is massive. The place was busy, but not at all full when I arrived (past the lunch rush), and nearly empty when I left. I suppose I should have asked some more history of this building, but I wasn't into being too chatty. I think that there was a plaque on the outside of the building that says something about a refurbishing in or around 1999. It may have been built (or refurb'ed) in 1999, but it has an old feel. Decorations include an odd assortment of old cash registers and scales, that give the impression that a nearby antique store exploded and the shrapnel landed at Kreuz's.

The menu -- "spartan" can only describe the selections. They keep things simple here, and simple works. I thought that the last time I was here, the lean beef (shoulder) was more expensive than the brisket (fatty), but now they are the same price.

Continue on down below the fold....

I wanted to sample a number of items this time around. The last time I was here, I didn't have a camera -- and, as you can tell from the photos, I am still learning to use this one! I ordered a small portion of lean shoulder beef, "fatty" brisket beef, and three pork spare ribs. This was more food than I could eat, but still ran only about $12.

If you need a scorecard, those are the pork ribs at the top, the shoulder clockwise to the right, and the brisket on the left. Plain white bread accompanies this fine meal -- and nothing else, except an iced tea (absent on photo day!).

My favorite was the shoulder. It had just enough fat to keep it moist, and some intense smoke flavor, especially on the blackened "bark" that you can see on the edges. I tried to get a close up picture, but it came out way too blurry to use. I scarfed down the shoulder meat without stopping to breathe much. I thought that the brisket was too fatty for my liking. I know that you tend to get less flavor without the fat, but this was so fatty, there didn't appear to be much meat. It was really the only disappointment, and since I had over-ordered, I didn't much care that it wasn't too good. The ribs had a brilliant peppery flavoring. Again, I tried the close-up photo to show the peppered crust from the rub:

I found the ribs quite good, even though some of the folks there told me that I would do better ordering the ribs at some of the other barbecue joints in town, and just outside of town.

One of the surprises to the day was the friendliness of the staff. They were more than helpful when I asked to take a few photos, accommodating me in any way they could. Where would I get the idea that the staff wouldn't be friendly?

Again with the blurry....GRRRR. I will get better, I promise. Anyway, the sign is still readable, and surely gives you the gist. I like that they don't serve sauce -- I like the flavor of the meat, and I am not generally a condiment guy anyway. The fork rule is just funny -- and, it is true, I didn't see a fork in the place. I also knew to come with cash from my list visit there. There is also a sign (you can see it -- blurry again -- in the photo above with the antique cash registers) that prohibits outside drink from being brought in. It just seemed like a lot of rules (even joking or half-joking ones) for a place with such all-around friendly folks.

My favorite sign in the place, though, was this one:

I tried getting this shot at various angles, and this was the best I could do. It says "Vegetarians enter here....Normal people down the hall." Behind that door is a vast, brightly lit dining room where the bulk of the patrons were sitting when I arrived. I tend to prefer to eat in this room, which is a bit darker, but has much more of a homey feel to it:

The chairs in this room are all emblazoned with the Kreuz logo:

Before I left, I asked the pitmasters in the back if they would allow me a quick picture. This one shows the wood fire burning and the sausage sitting on the far end of the smoker. They only opened it for my photo, and just to show the indirect method for smoking their product.

All in all, Kreuz Market gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me. I will still try to hit one of the other 'Q joints the next time I get down this way, but I make no promises. It seems as though the car just knows to pull into the Kreuz parking lot without much steering from me.

I am sure that they have an address, but I have no idea what it is. Just drive south on 183 from Austin and it will be on your right. If you miss it, you're just not paying attention.


clothier said...

so i'm sitting at my desk, reading your piece, and i could smell it, I could feel it, but I just couldn't taste it.Damn the internet's lack of taste buds.

Anonymous said...

You have missed out if you have not gone to Louie Mueller's BBQ in Taylor. Better than anything in Lockhart.