Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Smitty's Market

LOCKHART: Smitty’s Market
208 S. Commerce St.
Lockhart, TX 78644
Open M-F 7-6, Sat. 7-6:30, Sunday 9-3

Update: Smitty's is just too good to dock it a star based on one mediocre visit, but this last one wasn't up to the level I'm used to at Smitty's. [After some poignant review of the last few visits, I must reconsider the high rating of five stars. Of four visits, three have been mediocre, including the last two. This is not a streak worthy of such a high rating.] While the sausage was well smoked as always, I realized I just like a bit of pork in the mix to moisten things up. This all beef sausage is just so intensely beefy, but it if you top a saltine with a slice and a dot of hot sauce, it makes for a great flavor combination.

The sweet glazed pork ribs were huge and meaty, but needed more time on the smoker to render out those gobs of fat. The end cut off the pork chop was an excellent cut with plenty of seasoning and great smokiness. The meat was moist, and the chunks of fat were nicely rendered. Clod wasn't ready so we opted for brisket which was the biggest disappointment. The tough slices held little smokiness, and while they were well seasoned, they needed much more cooking time to tenderize. The fat remaining on each slice was also a bit chewy and unappetizing. This is odd since Smitty's has a knack for making fat appetizing, seriously.

Finally, there's just something about the attitude the staff here. The meat cutter almost seemed annoyed that he had to stop his smoke break at the counter to go back and cut off some brisket for us. I know they'll get the business regardless of the level of service, but it would add so much to the mystique and small town feel of this joint if they just made a sincere effort to help their customers enjoy what can be a great meal.

Rating ****

2009: Something about watching a man in a grease stained white jacket and a large knife portioning out my lunch, makes me crave it even more with every slice. Service is curt and efficient at this Lockhart legend, but the only niceties I need were piled on that butcher paper.

An order of fatty brisket, lean shoulder clod, ribs, sausage and a large pork chop were tantalizing atop the greasy butcher paper. The sweet glaze on the ribs adds a great flavor to the meat, but the smokiness was missing. The fatty brisket had too much unrendered fat, but the flavor from the rub was great. The smokiness was better than the ribs, so it surprised me that the shoulder clod was missing the smoke factor. It was good enough, but not to the level that I've come to expect from Smitty's.

The pork chop and the sausage were the best. The sausage was fatty with a good snap, and a great smoky flavor, while the pork chop was equally good. It could have been a little more moist, but the delicious crust made up for it.

On our way out we noticed this older man taking a smoke break in this historic corridor, and something about the picture just oozes Smitty's.

While they didn't get the coveted sixth star, this is still a must on any BBQ trip in this region, and I fully expect them to come back into exemplary form on my next visit.

2008: When you're driving down the interstate and you still cannot force yourself to put that rib bone down until it is licked clean, then you know you've found something special. Our first experience here was not particularly favorable, but we chalked it up to a slight case of meat coma as it had been our sixth place of the day in a span of only 5 hours, so I gave it a other try. Was I ever rewarded. On my way out of town I got some lean brisket, fatty brisket, a pork chop and some pork ribs. My wife could see in my demeanor that I desperately wanted to chow, but she wanted to get on the road just as badly. As a compromise, she allowed her lap to act as a makeshift dining table, and she fed me some of the best BBQ I've tasted.

The lean brisket (actually a misnomer, it's beef shoulder) was perfectly seasoned, but this lean meat could have been more tender, and tasted a bit roast-beefy . The crust was remarkable, and the smoke line was pronounced. The fatty brisket was so good that I even ate all the fat. It was pull-apart tender and beautifully smoky with a slight salt rub. The pork chop was similarly dry to the one tried at Kreuz. The spare ribs were the standout here, and rank among the best I've ever tasted. The rub was slightly sweet creating a tacky texture and a nice crust. The meat was perfectly rendered and smoky, and I just could not stop eating them, even at the wheel.

Smitty's name is worth mentioning as well. You'll notice the name is simply "Smitty's Market" instead of "Smitty's BBQ". This was the original name of the meat market. Back when refrigeration was non-existent, the extra meat that didn't sell at the meat market was smoked and sold. Soon this smoked meat became more popular than the raw stuff, so they experienced a shift in focus, and became a BBQ joint. In this, we're all winners.

Smitty's Market on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

I've never been to Smitty's or Kreuz, but I hate places that act like it's a privilege for you to eat their food. Part of Franklin Barbecue's appeal is how nice Aaron Franklin is every time you come by. Yeah, it makes the line take a while, but I always appreciate the conversation.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/ Eugene. I believe you might be suffering from good ole days syndrome a little. Having been to Smitty's, I can attest to them having some good Que but your last 2 post have shown them to be somewhat lacking, especially when it comes to brisket.

Having had their Que recently, I can honestly say that you're pretty much spot on with your assessment and it might be time to rank them as they really are.

Again I'm not saying that they're bad but they don't seem to be as good as they used to be...IMO.

Broderick Chesterfield III said...

yeah, last time I was at Smitty's during the summer, the brisket was inedible. Tough, dry and leathery. I just collected it in the butcher paper and tossed it. It's time to start docking it some stars and stop perpetuating the Smitty's myth.

BBQ Snob said...

Readers - Thanks for keeping me straight. This past trip makes for two mediocre visits in a row. A 5 star rating is undeserved, and I have updated it.

Anonymous said...

I also ate at Smitty's on Tuesday about 1:30pm on my way home from the coast. The brisket was flavorful but very tough and the fat was not well rendered. The ribs were underwhelming. They were cooked properly but the meat had an odd taste like it was old or maybe a touch of freezer burn. All in all it was VERY disappointing and not even close to the brisket and ribs I enjoyed at City Market in Luling on Saturday afternnon on my trip down.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like success has spoiled Smitty's! How sad to hear, including the hospitality part. Have they forgotten they're in Texas?

Don O. said...

I'm glad it's not just me! In the 3 times I have been there we only got good brisket once. Maybe you need to go in there with an entourage and a camera crew to get the good stuff.

Season said...

I've been to Smitty's three times; Lockhart isn't that far from Austin, plus it's on the drive to the coast. The brisket was inedible it was so tough...all three times. I couldn't bite through it and threw most of it away. A Lockhart friend introduced me to Chisholm Trail, which has Smitty's beat, hands down. Smitty's doesn't deserve the 4 stars you gave it, and is certainly not in the league with Chisholm Trail, which DOES deserve all 4 of its stars (if not that 5th).

Tim said...

Well, I'll disagree. I eat at Smitty's fairly often...probably 10 or more times in the last year. It is consistently the best brisket and best sausage around, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I rank Smitty's #1 day in day out I love their Sausage and the shoulder is normally excellent I have to admit their Brisket is normally a disappointment They are always friendly and make us feel welcome

Anonymous said...

Went to Smitty's for the fourth time in two years, about a week ago (June 2011), on the same day that we visited City Market in Luling, Louie Mueller in Taylor, Prause Market in La Grange, and Zimmerhanzel's in Smithville. Smitty's sausage was by far the best of the day, as was the brisket (the only brisket we had on this day that was moist, tender and flavorful; some of the other places had two of these three things). Luling City Market had moist, tender but relatively flavorless brisket, but the best spare ribs I have ever had. The other places blow Dallas away but were a notch or two down, including an astonishingly dry meal at Mueller's. I have to say Smitty's has always had good brisket, good sausage and great prime rib the times I have been there. I have never had a bad meal there. I do agree the customer service is, shall we say, passive aggressive.


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.