Ah Texas. The Lone Star state. This is the land of wide open space and oh, by the way, great barbeque. Now although we flew into and out of Austin, I’m going to tell you that we didn’t really have any BBQ in the city of Austin. We travelled to Taylor, Lockhart, and Llano where we found some of the biggest names in BBQ. Louie Mueller is rated high in Zagat, Smitty’s and Kruetz are well known as the best places in Lockhart, and Cooper’s was well rated in the Texas top 50 of BBQ. In fact all four made the list. But what BBQ made us really feel good in the triple digit heat of the range? Well, let us tell you about it.
First, don’t ever go in summer. That is the best advice I can give. It was burning in the heart of Texas and so were we. Thankfully, cars are made with a wonderful invention called air conditioning and ours was no exception. After a brief stop at our hotel, we headed to Louie Mueller’s Barbeque. Now, many people will say that the look of Louie Mueller’s is one of real life smoke and an old classic barbeque joint. We are not with those people. To us, Louie Mueller looked old, grimy and was filled with bugs. Even the sauces looked disgusting. We have been to a few places like this and usually they are rated well for us (ex. LC’s in Kansas City). Heck, Zagat rated them a 29 out of 30 which is pretty awesome. So let’s see what we thought.
(Awesome-Great-Good-Average-Sucks the Big One)
|206 W. Second Street Taylor, TX 76574
|Eric: Pork Loin||Good||Al: Brisket||Great|
|Jalapeño Sausage||Great||Jalapeño Sausage||Great|
Overall, a big Eh, not an earth shattering experience worthy of a 29/30 Zagat score.
4200 S Interstate 35 Georgetown, TX 78626
Afterwards we had a lot of time to kill so we decided to go cave touring. Now would you think that Texas hosts any caves? Neither did we until we passed a sign for Innerspace Caves where we had a guide with a Texas twang and saw the wonders of the caves. Apparently caves are pretty common in Texas, but don’t take my word for it. Take a look for yourselves into the caves of wonder.
Now, there are not a lot of sports going on in the summer. Don’t get me wrong, Texas is filled with sports teams, but only baseball plays in the summer. Both the Rangers and the Astros were too long of a drive, so we decided to head to a local baseball team: The Round Rock Express. They are a triple A baseball organization affiliated with the Texas Rangers and we had a lot of fun. I highly encourage a visit to the park because of the fun we had. Due to the heat, Texas games are played in the afternoon/night, so the conditions were comfortable. If that doesn’t convince you, go for the seventh inning stretch and witness what can only be described as a hoedown after singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” which had people up and dancing. We saw a lot of scoring and the Express ended up winning so it was a good day all around and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next day’s adventure.
Lockhart is a small town located about 30 miles south of Austin. It is an easy trip to make. Lockhart self proclaims itself to be the BBQ Capital of Texas. This is good because there is not a whole lot to do in Lockhart besides BBQ. There are four main BBQ joints in town, but we are going to focus on the two best known. Smitty’s Market is the first of the two and is rated 27/30 by Zagat.We went in with high expectations. Here’s what we thought of it:
|208 South Commerce Street Lockhart, TX 78644
|Hot Links (Sausage)||Great||Hot Links||Great|
You actually order your meats from the smokemaster in the smokehouse and your sides and drinks in the dining room. They serve white bread and saltines with your food. Very little sauce is used and it is not really needed.
Overall, the brisket was truly spectacular and worth the effort to get to Lockhart.
3795 Dry Creek Rd., Lockhart, TX 78644
We headed to a shooting range a little ways away because I had never been and wanted to try it. The men there were very helpful and we were able to shoot some 45 cal and 22 cal handguns. I suggest it for a fun outing and you can keep as souvenirs any casings that you shoot and the shredded targets.
After that, wedecided to take in the (lack of) entertainment of Lockhart which included an afternoon snooze and a terrible Frisbee throwing session in the blazing heat.
By now, it was time for another helping of BBQ, so we decided on Kreutz Market which is also in Lockhart. Kreuz and Smitty’s actually have a history. There was a disagreement between the son and daughter of Edgar “Smitty” Schmidt which caused the original Kreuz to split into two. The brother took the name and moved his location to a place that looks like a big barn and is called Kreuz Market today. The sister kept the real estate on Lockhart’s famous square and changed the name to Smitty’s Market. She kept everything like it was in the old days and that is now Smitty’s. These two places do not like each other and often proclaim that they are the real BBQ joint in Lockhart. So, to solve this debate, we decided to try both places considering we were in the same town anyway. So Zagat rated Kreuz 25/30 which is two points underneath their competitor so let’s see what we thought:
619 North Colorado Street Lockhart, TX 78644
|Eric: Brisket||Good||Al: Brisket||Good|
|Prime Rib||Good||Prime Rib||Average|
|Spare Rib||Good||Spare Rib||Good|
|Mac and Cheese||Good||Mac and Cheese||Good|
Note: Every meat that we tried is very salty so make sure you get a drink. The increased saltiness did have an effect on our grades because the meat did not taste as good with all that salt.
Overall, we felt that the competition was fairly won by Smitty’s.
After a full dinner, we headed to the bridge of bats. You didn’t read that wrong. At sundown over Congress Bridge in Austin a horde of bats fly out from the bottom of the bridge and turn the sky dark. It is quite cool to see and I recommend checking YouTube for clips. The next day we got up early and prepared for our long trip through the hill country to Llano, Texas. In fact it is an hour and a half from Austin. Before we could even get started, we got screwed. Yep, our tire happened to come across a screw and was fatally wounded. After a tire change on the shoulder of a busy highway, we visited Hertz and got replacement wheels.So, after the detour, we began our trip to the small town of Llano where everyone is proud of their BBQ joint, Cooper’s. Even before you get inside there are a line of huge smokers under a tin roof. , You just tell the guy with the knife at the smoker what and how much you want and he will cut it up for you and put it into some butcher paper. Then you go inside, get in line and get your sides. As usual you get white bread and saltines which are placed at each table. Zagat rated Cooper’s 25/30 so let’s see what we thought:
|604 West Young Street Llano, TX 78643
|Eric: Brisket||Great||Al: Brisket||Great|
|Beef Rib||Awesome||Beef Rib||Awesome|
|Pork Rib||Awesome||Pork Rib||Great|
|Potato Salad||Great||Potato Salad||Great|
You may say, “Eric, after an hour and a half of traveling, you’d be ready to rate anything fantastic.” Well, I don’t buy it. It was a good bunch of food we had in Llano and I highly recommend a trip out there if only for the BBQ.
Overall, we loved Coopers, liked Smitty’s a lot and felt that Kreuz and Louie Mueller were pretty good, but nothing to write home about. Texas is a fun place. Not in the middle of summer with triple digit heat, but it is worth it to see the beautiful landscape, shoot a couple of pistols, see a great lot of bats fly around, and eat some Texas-style BBQ. Till next time fellow BBQ travelers, we bid you farewell.
-Al and Eric