This week Daniel Vaughn and Texas Monthly magazine have been releasing the top 50 via Twitter. Smitty’s in Lockhart was outright spanked, falling not just out of the top 5 but entirely out of the top 50!
It’s no surprise to me that Smitty’s fell off the list. Either the success had gone to their head or they just didn’t take as much pride as they had in the past, but my last couple of visits also brought disappointment. It wasn’t the sausage that failed, it was their brisket. It wasn’t tender and was tougher than any top joint should serve.
It looks like Daniel has a lot of input now that he is the Texas Monthly official BBQ editor, and I’ve read his recent reports of dry and tough brisket from there, and it mirrored my experience.
Kruez in Lockhart has the best sausage (jalapeno cheese) in my opinion and that seems reflected in a number of other BBQ aficionados as well. Austin area joints have risen up in the brisket wars and it looks like “Austin is the new Lockhart” will be in a number of blogs and articles for the next few years.
Black’s in Lockhart still is my personal favorite but in the next few weeks I’ll be putting that to the test with visits to Austin. Louie Mueller was a very close second for me, a virtual tie, but I need a revisit to Black’s to compare. I rate the sides as well, at least beans and potato salad and my favorite baked beans were at Fargo’s in College Station, and one of two trips to Yo Mamma’s had award winning potato salad. Consistency is critical in BBQ and unfortunately a second visit to Yo Mamma’s resulted in less than stellar potato salad so the winner is still in purgatory. For the record, mustard based potato salad is my favorite. Nothing terribly wrong with mayonnaise based but it just doesn’t compliment brisket and sausage properly.
Speaking of consistency in BBQ that seemed to be Smitty’s failure; it wasn’t top level every trip and based on what I’ve read from other bloggers it seemed to be on the dry side more often than not. When one visits Lockhart to sample BBQ you can hit the ‘big three’ quickly as they are very close to one another and there is little traffic to deal with. There are other joints in the city and I plan on trying them, but the big three are perennial favorites. The juxtaposition allows for proper tasting.
That is what I like about Lockhart. You can have a triple or even quadruple restaurant taste-off easily in an afternoon without much hassle. Yes on weekends the lines can take 10-15 minutes and sometimes a bit longer, but it is nothing like Franklin’s or even Louie Mueller. As Austin area joints get more publicity I expect the shift to continue.
In most of Texas comparable restaurants are too far apart to properly and fairly compare in a true side-by-side taste test. You can’t purchase hot BBQ, wrap it in foil, and then spend an hour or two driving to another location to sample side by side, the meat will continue to cook itself and begin to dry out which isn’t fair to the first location. In Austin the fever for good BBQ has reached a peak and the wait just to purchase it can be 2 hours at some locations. That’s out of control and in my opinion today I’d rather go to somewhere that I can buy and eat without the line even if the quality is fractionally lower. I don’t buy into hype, however I’m heading to Franklin’s to see for myself; maybe my opinion will change but honestly – 2 hours in line is ridiculous.
So let’s get back to Smitty’s and their new predicament with falling out of the top 50. Lockhart has 80 years of BBQ history in its back pocket. Black’s and Kruez are still top notch, but the gauntlet has been thrown by Austin with much younger upstarts who’ve only been in the business a handful of years. Four Austin restaurants appear the list for the first time. Austin also has plenty of older joints around that are moving up in the ranks. This weekend I intend on hitting both old and new, including Franklin’s and Opies. I hope Smitty’s takes this to heart and starts producing consistent and top shelf brisket but the reality is they will continue to get plenty of business as they are always part of any show regarding BBQ from Lockhart and they are part of the history there.
Austin is the new Lockhart. All hail the new BBQ capital of Texas.
Daniel’s blog is at http://fcg-bbq.blogspot.com/
Texas Monthly BBQ list http://www.texasmonthly.com/eat-my-words/list-top-50-barbecue-joints