Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There Are No Forks at Smitty’s Market, But You Have Fingers Don’t You?

The first time I visited Lockhart, Texas, I asked several people in the small town which one of the barbecue places was the best. As if every single person I asked had been prompted what to say by the local chamber of commerce, not a single one of them would recommend just one place. “They are all great,” and “try them all,” is what I heard most often. And, what I soon discovered is that this was not just town pride, it was good advice.

Lockhart, Texas, the county seat of Caldwell County, has been designated “The Barbecue Capital of Texas,” by both houses of the Texas legislature. It is little wonder why. Despite the fact that the town is really rather small, it has four outstanding barbecue restaurants, each with its own unique history and fan following. Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbeque, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market, are all very special, each in their own way, but I can’t write about all of them at one time. Therefore, I’ll focus on Smitty’s Market now, and get back to the others in due time.

The location of Smitty’s Market, used to be the location of Kreuz Market. All families have disagreements from time to time, and this disagreement, apparently, resulted in one part of the family moving Kreuz Market to a new Lockhart location, and the other part of the family staying behind at the original location. The part of the family now running the barbecue pits at the original location, now call it Smitty’s, in honor of the patriarch of the family, Edgar “Smitty” Schmidt, who first bought it from the Kreuz family in the 1940's.

The barbecue experience at Smitty’s, is, well, an experience. Walking in from the dusty unpaved parking lot out back, you immediately get into an ordering line which is uncomfortably close to an oak fire burning within just inches of your feet. The fire is one of a couple of them which fuel the barbecue pits. Whether you eat in, or are there for a take-out order, the ordering experience, right next to the open flames and smoke, will guarantee that your clothes will carry the scent of burning oak home with you.

Smitty’s, like most of the traditional barbecue places in Texas, focuses on meat. And, while a few items like cheese and pickles are available, barbecued meat is the reason people keep coming back, time and time again.

After ordering the beef brisket and sausage, or “hots,” as the sausage is called at Smitty’s, the meat is slapped onto pieces of butcher paper, and served with white bread, saltine crackers, and plastic knives to cut the meat. There is nothing fancy about Smitty’s, but the meat is very delicious. And, please don’t ask for any barbecue sauce or forks, Smitty’s has none to give you. Good meat does not need any sauce, and the meat is eaten with your fingers.

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