Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black's Barbecue

LOCKHART: Black’s Barbecue
215 N. Main St.
Lockhart, TX 78644
Open Sun-Thur 10-8, F-Sat 10-8:30

Update: This was the morning where instead of discovering another great BBQ joint in Texas, Smokemaster1 and I were taking my friend Rob to the heart of BBQ country to find out what all the fuss was about. A stop at Chisholm Trail for excellent sausage and brisket, but no ribs was followed by a less than stellar trip to Smitty's. I was thinking to myself that Rob may now be questioning the Lockhart fuss altogether. That is until we stepped into Black's. This was my third visit, and I have yet to see where all the haters get their ammo. Sure there's a sad looking salad bar as you walk in, but the meat here is nothing short of fantastic.

The sausage here is an 85% beef and 15% pork mixture. The casings have a great snap, the meat is well seasoned, and the overall experience of a Black's sausage squirting hot fat into your mouth is something that demands a repeat performance. A recent addition to the menu was baby back ribs. The smokiness and bold flavoring from the rub was all there, but it needed more time on the smoker to reach another degree of tenderness.

I got to use my Q Card for just the second time. It feels good to save money.

A gargantuan beef rib (not pictured) was much better. The moist meat was eminently tender, and the smokiness embedded into the thick black crust was savory goodness. A rib of this size could make a modest meal for two.

Meat makes Rob happy.

After some great sausage and good ribs, Rob was looking satisfied enough. Then we divvied up the slices of brisket. As those tender slices were being passed and devoured I noticed a thick slice of fatty goodness straight from the end of the brisket flat. The surface area of smoky crust got me giddy, but I decided that although I discovered the slice, the newbie needed the experience more than myself. After some discussion, we cut it into three chunks and as if doing a ceremonial shot of tequila, we downed our bites in unison. At that point cracks formed in the ceiling as the roof opened up and sunlight poured into the space. Suddenly, angelic voices filled the room, and Rob was smiling. We were all smiling, as this will be logged into my memory as one of the finest bites of smoked beef that has ever passed these lips. It was that good, and I'm not exaggerating. If they could guarantee a bite like that with every order, I'd consider driving down on weeknights. Thank you Black's, for helping me turn Rob into a Texas BBQ believer.

Rating *****

2009: Some joints are well known for how well they do one meat or another, but Black's does them all well. Brisket, ribs, sausage and turkey were piled on top of our small plate, and they were all picture perfect.

The brisket had a dark crust and deep red smoke line. The meat was flavorful and smoky, but it could have used a little more time on the smoker to tenderize a bit. The ribs had a perfect cross section of deep red crust, well rendered fat, and red smoky meat. The light salt and pepper rub provided a good robust addition to the smokiness, but the ribs too could have been more tender. A link of beef sausage was good with plenty of fat and a coarse grind of good smoky meat. The big winner was the incredibly moist and tender turkey breast. There's no deli turkey in this joint, and the smokiness of the turkey was deeper than in other meats.

As we dined, Norma Black chatted with out table about the history of Black's. It turns out the she and Edgar took over the place in 1949 just after graduating college when Edgar's dad died suddenly. They were just going to run the place until they could find another family member to take over, but 60 years later they're still at it and doing a fine job. Norma was nice enough to arrange a tour of the pits in the back. They smoke with all oak, and try to cook everything at around 350 degrees.

As I was leaving, I noticed three generations of a local family enjoying a Sunday dinner at Black's. If I was a local, I'd probably be a regular here too.

Rating *****

2006: This is the longest continuously running family owned BBQ joint in Texas (76 years), and there's a reason. It's slightly off the beaten track in Lockhart, as all its competition is along the main highway. Like most joints in this region, you order your meat by the pound straight from the pit boss, and its delivered on butcher paper with a plastic knife. It was all I could do to keep from digging into this sweet smelling protein before I reached a booth. The ribs were large meaty spare ribs with a nice dark red crust. They were tender and flavorful, but the fat needed more rendering. The brisket had a beautiful crust with a slightly sweet flavor. The meat was tender and moist with smoke throughout. I tried to illicit a negative point about this brisket, but I could not. The jalapeno beef and pork sausage was great. It was slightly coarse and fatty, but it had excellent snap and robust flavor. Meat like this will keep this place running for many years to come.

Black's Barbecue on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

I've been to this one and actually like it better than the "big two" in town- Kreutz and Smittys. I found the brisket to be exceptionally tender and tasty.

Columbaire said...

It's the best steam tray place I've ever had barbecue.

Brian said...

Black's is a joke. Don't go saying they do all their meat well and then say the brisket needed to be left on longer.

When I ate there a few years ago they needed to leave their brisket on a lot longer, several hours for sure. It was so underdone that the really hadn't even begun to gel as it should in a good brisket.

Course ground sausage is fine but I've had tacos meat that would ground up better than the junk they put into their casings.

To date, Black's is the only BBQ joint in Texas that I've just thrown my plate away after taking a few bites.

Smittys, Kreutz and even Chisolm Trail all cook respectable 'Q, but Black's just puts up big billboards claiming their historic significance. It just goes to shows marketing will keep a poor business open.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Brian. We traveled from Washington State to try this famous barbecue. Big disappointment. The brisket was mostly dry with no taste. I was very surprised. Sides were nice. I would not go there again.

David said...

After eating at Kreutz market on Saturday and being very satisfied, I ventured back to Lockhart on Sunday and only Blacks was open.

I was very disappointed. The turkey was cold and dry and the brisket was very average. I think I would have preferred Rudy's over Blacks, but maybe it was because it was about 3PM on a Sunday and they were the only show in town. There was still always someone at the Q counter making an order though.

Next time, my first stop will be Smitty's which I regret missing on my last trip.

Unknown said...

Smitty's is the best in Lockhart. Black's is a joke and Kreutz is over hype and more of a tourist place.

Michael H said...

Went to Black's on July 4th weekend, and I was underwhelmed to say the least. The brisket was pretty good, the ribs were average at best, and the pork chop was not edible. It was drier than a piece of wood (not kidding at all). While I know BBQ places have good days and bad, I don't expect you get legendary status without some level of consistency. I will probably give it another shot though (at some point in my life)...

bbqlover said...

I've been to Blacks twice in the past year, and can't get enough of the brisket. Best brisket I've encountered in all of TX.

I get down to the Austin area so rarely, I'm hesitant to try Smittys/Kreutz.

TexasBBQbeast said...

I had Black's and was very disappointed. If you want real BBQ and unbelievable brisket that is consistently awesome whenever you go then go to Snow's in Lexington. Kerry Bexley don't have a distiguished Texas BBQ "pedigree" and he is beatin' all of them, just ask the long line of people from all over the world waiting to get in at 8 in the morning. They are only open on Saturdays and sell out by 11.

Don O. said...

I'm right with you on Black's. I've had one bite throw away meals at Smitty's, but I've always had a consistently great meal at Black's. I have probably eaten there 8 or 9 times now, and have yet to leave with anything but a smile on my face and smoke flavor in my mouth.

AW said...

I literally just walked in the door from Lockhart. I was having a hard time deciding between Black's and Kreuz's, and we ultimately chose Kreuz's. While the sausage and ribs were good, the brisket there was an abomination. No fat, no crust, no flavor. My six year old said it was the worst brisket she had ever had, and she was right.

To try to make up for it, we drove over to Black's for a second lunch. We got only brisket, and it was fantastic--food of the gods. It had a nice crust, beautiful smoke ring, perfect amount of fat and was melt-in-your mouth tender. It's hard to believe that the people above could be writing about the same restaurant. It was as close to perfect as brisket gets.

At many BBQ restaurants, a lot of your experience depends on what day you go and what piece of meat you get served from. And I guess that's what distinguishes the consistently good performers from the so-so. In my mind, Black's and Smitty's are the class of Lockhart, and Kreuz's is a distant third.

Unknown said...

As a Hill Country native, I really don't get how you can say Black's is anything short of great. Maybe you went on the wrong day. You can't find consistently better bbq or service anywhere else!

Grenny1968 said...

Glad to see this review. I go between Houston and Austin a bunch and patronize city mkt-luling and blacks. Kreutz and Smittys are both good and get tons of media love but Blacks is seriously underrated. Always have had good experience here. Plus I like side orders and sauce so all you so called purist can stick it!

RL Reeves Jr said...

Black's Barbecue Supremacy Now Undisputed

Article here:

I started eating at Black's in 1991. Kreuz before the move, used to give em a good run for their money.

Not anymore.

Blacks is the best, others are close but the defining quality of Black's is the consistency.

Anonymous said...

Anyone that rates Blacks brisket less than 4 stars out of 5 does not know what GREAT Texas briket tastes like, PERIOD.

Everyone has an opinion but those that diss on Blacks brisket are IGNORANT and UNINFORMED.

Lockhart, TX

Unknown said...

Went to the top 10 Central Texas BBQ establishments in Apr 2011 trip. Lockhart visits included the big three. Blacks was the clear winner with the best silkiest genuine flavored brisket I have ever eaten. The crust, smoke and fat ratios were a perfect combination. Smitty's was not a close second and Kreuz would not rank one star on any of their items we ate there that day. Spend your money and time at Black's.

Anonymous said...

Blacks is sooooo overrated. Appreciate the history...but not the food.

Harleyman said...

Went to Black's before our pre-Thanksgiving drive through the Hill Country of Texas. I hit a few of my regular bbq stops on this trip, added this one our itinerary to form an opinion of my own.

I do agree that the condiment bar is a bit underwhelming, but our group found some tasty additions to complement their meal. For me, a devout meat eater, it’s about what rolls off the smoker.

Our group loaded up on baby back ribs, beef ribs, regular sausage, brisket, and we sampled the shiner sausage.

The sausage fell out of the casings, and was a bit disappointing. It had good flavor, but I like a heartier sausage that stays together. The Shiner sausage was a bit darker, stronger in flavor, stuck together, but was a bit dry from the extra time sitting on the warmers.

The baby back ribs were good, but didn't seem to have as much flavor, and smoking time as the beef ribs. The beef ribs were smoked beautifully, fell off the bone, and had great flavor similar to the brisket. I just wish there was more meat on the bone.

Now the best part for last. The brisket had to be delivered directly from the bbq Gods themselves. Thick smoke ring, tender, juicy, and perfectly rendered. This stuff was pure heaven!!!!!! Keep the sauce away from this blessed hunk of brisket, it stood alone as the highlight of our trip. I opted out of dessert, and headed back for another slice of this cut.

What I found great about Black's was that the meat stood alone on its smoking. I do like a good sauce, because there are so many variations of additional flavors. The Black’s sauce was subtle, and did not overpower what was already good bbq. My son, who likes the hot stuff, had to sample the ghost chili sauce. We left with a bottle…...

I will be heading back for more brisket the next time in the area.

Unknown said...

I have only been to Black's once but the brisket was incredible. We went to Smitty's that day too. I'd have to say we couldn't decide who had the best brisket, but Black's ribs beat Smitty's by a hair.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.