For more of Gavin's swim in Texas barbecue sauce, see also *The Englishman Reviews Taste of Dallas' BBQ Scene *An Englishman Reviews the BBQ of Hard Eight for The English *An Englishman Reviews the BBQ of Mike Anderson's for The English
I finished my blog the other week with the hope we could move away from its current format of the journalistic equivalent of a man eating his keyboard with joy. No such luck. If you don't like unashamed delight, get out now. The only criticism in this review is going to be how bad food that hasn't been tenderly barbecued is.
Lockhart Smokehouse is definitely the place that had been most relentlessly recommended to me by everyone, not least the staff at the Observer. It had become something of a mantra -- and I had been looking forward to this visit for weeks -- with such an unbelievable amount of hype that it couldn't possibly be as good as I hoped, like Glastonbury Festival (not as good) or the Pixies reunion (just as good as I expected).
Get the clod, use your hands, no sauce. You can see the problem with this, aside from what on earth clod is. I built this blog on BBQ sauce, in much the same way Starship built that city on rock and roll. The idea of Texas BBQ without sauce is anathema to me. Still, I don't really know anything, as we have hopefully established by now. I decided to go with it. When in Rome, etc. etc. All the meat. No sauce. All change. Obviously no sides though; this isn't some sort of party buffet for 8-year-olds. A momentous occasion, I'm sure you'll agree.
I had been warned that Lockharts tends to run out of meat early, so I ran out of work at 5:30 precisely and jumped into my barely functioning car, with its wonky steering and broken air conditioning. Broken car air con in Texas really is no joke, is it? I mean, in some countries, they'd pay you for a mobile sauna, but no one wants to be in a sauna during every trip. It gets monotonous. The car and I huffed and puffed our way over the Trinity to southern Dallas, a part of Dallas I had rarely ventured into except when hopelessly lost or looking for somewhere too trendy to be in the city centre.
Parking around Lockharts is pretty difficult, but you can always get a side street or something and walk a bit, something that seems as alien to Dallas as a sauceless brisket does to me. You can smell the glorious combination of smoke and meat that is Lockhart's from like a block away. The venue is legit, from its concrete floors to its Texan signs on the wall to its dark and shady bar. It's everything I dreamed of when I somehow ended up living in Texas.
I meet up with a group of friends there, as well as my family, the previously mentioned Richard and stepson, and they are all delighted to have an excuse to eat BBQ. I would have driven them here but I was too busy trying to beat the meat rush. They understand, and got there before me anyway while I was driving round side streets in a parking-based frustration, able to see the venue where I could obtain delicious meat but unable to enter it while encased in a large steel sauna. We settle down to the generous happy hour of $2 drinks while we wait for everyone to arrive, and send out a recon party to assess the meat situation and obtain samples.
The advance party returns from the well-hidden meat counter with bad news. They are out of clod, chicken and burnt ends! This does not bode well. I am destined never to discover what clod is. I knew we should have got here at 11 a.m. and eaten barbecue all day. Still, though, there is brisket galore. More brisket than I could ever hope to eat. I get a pound of brisket ($15), a special Kreuz sausage for $5 and three ribs for about $6. This is between three of us, I hasten to add. I'm not a machine.
This won't be a review so much as a eulogy to the meat that has departed this earth. The sausage, like I said the other week, fantastic, the outer skin has bite and snap, but the innards are crumbly and meaty. No crap goes in these sausages. The pork ribs were wonderfully smoky, tender and delicious. I always feel vaguely animalistic when I chew meat off a bone, especially when I'm doing it this fast and am this pleased.
The brisket though. It deserves its own paragraph. It's insane. I have no idea how I'm going to describe it. It falls apart in your hands, and the meat isn't even the best bit. The burned outsides and the fatty parts pretty much make me cry. They're weirdly sweet, but chewy, meaty and smoky. It's like a new experience of food. Imagine if someone made the greatest chocolate you'd ever tasted, but out of delicious meat. Then imagine you were surrounded by your best friends and your family, and that someone was paying for you to eat this chocolate meat, while you drank incredibly cheap alcohol. Exactly. There are no words for that. I spend about the next 20 minutes in stunned silence, while everyone at the table makes polite chit-chat. I'm out. The brisket has ended me.
As for the sauce? Well, Richard got some sauce and it was right there on the table. It's like putting some really delicious crack in front of a crack addict that only very recently stopped using crack. Resistance is futile. In my defence, only about half of the meat goes in the sauce. I have one round of brisket with it, and one without. I can finally appreciate the meat by itself. This meat is good. I thought Hard 8 was good. Lockhart's brisket makes Hard 8 look like Dickey's (I went there the other week for lunch. No review. It was bloody awful, although a large yellow cup is a good souvenir from anything). I still love sauce, though. I have some leftover brisket in the fridge. I'm going to go and eat it now, probably in the dark, while sobbing on the floor of my kitchen. If you remember me any way, remember me like this.