Our Englishman in BBQ Sauce finally made it down to Lockhart, the Vatican City of Texas barbecue, where he and his posse gorged on smoked meat from Black's Barbecue (see yesterday's post), Smitty's and, coming tomorrow, Kreuz Market. As soon as the Border Patrol rounds him up, he'll be back in Dallas eating North Texas barbecue, no doubt washed in tears of longing and disappointment.
The short walk across Lockhart, past the picturesque square and the old-timey buildings, was uncomfortable. We had all eaten too much at the first venue of three. As much as I can blame the Equal Opportunities BBQ Posse (EOBBQP) for their incredible desire to come to the capital of Texas barbecue and eat green beans and pasta, we were all the guilty parties. I will now introduce a scale of how afraid we are of more barbecued meat (and the current severity of the meat sweats) at this time. I would say that, on a scale of excited at the prospect to about to vomit in a trashcan, we were probably, as a group, at a level in the upper reaches, nervously considering the cost of heart bypass surgery.
Smitty's BBQ is kind of a difficult one to spot. You can smell it, no doubt, but to get to the actual meat you enter through a completely unassuming screen door, the wooden type that snaps back. What you're greeted with through the door is anything but unassuming. Every wall of Smitty's is pitch black, crusted with years and years of smoke. Open fires rage in pits, the heat is sweltering, employees run around helter-skelter with entire wheeled buckets of black smoked briskets (perfect mugging victims if you ask me), and the line to get meat winds around all of it. It's really a sight to behold. There are immense piles of wood out the back, animal skulls, and everything and everywhere is smoke.
We all stopped for a while to take it in, apart from those who immediately decided it was too hot and ran to the starkly contrasted cleaner (and whiter) dining room. Really, it's incredibly striking. It immediately puts you in mind of a particularly effective dramatic interpretation of hell, or just the inside of a well-used, time-worn barbecue pit. If there hasn't been a theater production set in Smitty's yet, then the local amateur dramatics society have totally missed a trick.
After an interminable length of time spent standing in a line next to a beautiful wood fire underneath one of the pits, I get to the front of the cash-only line at a till in the middle of two humongous fire pits full to bursting with Texas barbecue heaven. I'm in charge of everything this time, after the grievous missteps of the last venue, and we get just enough to go round, no more. Back in the dining room, people are groaning. You know that point at which you've eaten enough, but the food in front of you is so clearly delicious that you're obviously going to eat it, against all advice you might be receiving from your brain? That seems to me how everyone else felt.
However, as I am Gavin, and my capacity for barbecue knows no bounds, I attacked the meat with gusto. It was divine. The sausage, made in-house, had a perfect snap and crumble and smokiness to it, but the ribs, in particular, made me pull a face similar to the one I had pulled only 30 minutes previously (steady). I still struggle to process a lot of the aspects of this Saturday. Was it all a dream? Did any of this really happen? Did I end up in a Texan depiction of hell where I was served probably the best ribs I've ever tasted?
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There were photos and everyone else seems to have the same recollections, so I'm going to go with yes, but the quality of meat in general served down in Lockhart is so stratospheric, so ridiculous, and so honest and totally without gimmicks, that it seems unbelievable a place like this could be a brisk five minute walk from the sheer wonder and beauty of Black's. I am totally overwhelmed with dead cow. The EOBBQP began to grudgingly eat the meat, increasing in application with each delicious bite until again, almost everything was gone. This time there was real groaning.
The brisket would again be probably the best in Dallas, but the ribs were sen-fucking-sational. There was a sweet glaze to them, and they were cooked so perfectly that they almost ate themselves. You didn't really need to do anything apart from sit there, kind of stunned. The trepidation within the group, though, had moved from happiness to outright mutiny over a third barbecue place. The EOBBQP had reached the previously mentioned trashcan levels of meat sweats. I didn't care. We were pushing on. In Lockhart it's either death or glory, and neither is mutually exclusive.