Restaurant Review: Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart, Texas

Friday, September 23, 2011.  The Roommate and I went out to the cemetery near by to put autumn flowers (and an apple for Mabon) out at my brother Robert’s grave.   After we were done, we were pulling back out on to the highway and we both looked at the road sign that said Lockhart was only 15 miles away.  Now since we’d been intending to go to the “Barbecue Capital of Texas” for a while now, we decided on a whim to drive out there and eat.  We took the long way (went up to Luling on 80 then across to Lockhart on 183), since that was the way I’d gone in the past to go through Lockhart, and that was fun, and in no time, we found our way to the town.  There are so many barbecue places there, and Kass had had food from Chisholm Trail before (catered to her former place of employment), but we decided that for our first time  actually eating in Lockhart, we’d try Black’s Barbecue, the Oldest BBQ place in Texas still owned by the same family.

Well, driving up the main highway in Lockhart with the windows rolled down was amazing.  You could smell barbecue everywhere!  And it all smelled good.  We followed the road down until we saw the big yellow umbrella then managed to find a parking place then off to the restaurant we went.

Black’s looks as much inside as you’d expect a Texas barbecue restaurant to look as the outside looks, greeting you with wooden walls outside and wooden walls inside that seem to grab the smokey aroma of meat and fire and hold onto them for…well, as the sign says…80 years and going strong.   The food is served buffet style — or at least, the sides are — and you grab a plate and pile on what you want.   In fact, if you take a gander at the menu page, you’ll find that they have a wide variety of sides to choose from: Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Cole Slaw, Pinto Beans, Green Beans, Black-Eyed Peas, Mashed Potatoes, Mexican Rice, Sweet Creamed Corn, Sweet Potato — essentially enough choices for anyone with any picky palate.  At the end of the short buffet line is where they keep the desserts (oh gods, the desserts!), which comes down to a variety of pies.  The menu online lists what they have, though it’s obvious that they change to suit the season.  When we were there, I saw the apple pie, pecan, pumpkin, and I saw the banana pudding, but I didn’t see any other pudding or cobbler.  Then again, I could have been so overwhelmed by the great smells and tempting fare that I just didn’t see everything.

Once you get to the end of the line and the counter where you pay, that’s where they ask you what kind of meat you want.  I asked for brisket and sausage, and Kass just got the brisket.  Next time, I want to get a sandwich combo…but anyhoo

We ordered two drinks with our meals, and they came in these great plastic cups that were keepers (they say Black’s), and then we went to find a table.   Now once you walk away from the line, that’s where you go to another counter to get your ice and drinks as well as free bread slices (I would have liked to have known that before I grabbed a roll, but that’s cool…live and learn, eh?), pickles, onions, peppers…typical bbq place…as well as a variety of sauces to choose from, though on the tables were salt, pepper, bbq sauce in squeeze bottles (bbq sauce that they make there every day) and toothpicks.   There are long tables with chairs and booths along the walls, the latter where we chose to sit, and both of us got ice and sweet tea.

The sweet tea was a little sweeter than either of us usually care for, but it still tasted damned good.  The food…oh the food was an experience.  I had the potato salad and green beans as sides as well as a few deviled eggs, the brisket and sausage and a slice of pecan pie.

Now, the only thing I could complain about on my plate were the deviled eggs.  They were good, don’t get me wrong, but they were a little bland.  I’m used to a pop of flavor when I make them, so these were very tame.  Very very tame.   The potato salad was some of the best I’ve had at a bbq establishment, and I could have easily eaten a bowl of just that.  My green beans were good, but then again, can someone really mess up green beans (the answer to that is, naturally, yes because people can mess up anything they cook).  The meat though…the meat was a religious experience.  The brisket was a perfect combination of smoke and seasoning that had been cooked into the beef along with the perfect beef flavor, and it was so damned tender that I barely had to chew it.  That’s one of my complaints about many bbq places — their brisket is tough as old leather and about as flavorful.  The sausage was also amazing, though I’ll admit that it was a bit crumbly once you cut into it.  Not that that detracted from the flavor at all — oh no!  I just probably should have picked the damned thing up in my fingers and just eaten it that way instead of fighting with a fork and knife on it since it just fell apart outside of the skin.  And the pecan pie?  I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a better slice of pecan pie heaven than what I bought there.   It was the perfect amount of sweetness with a buttery-nutty taste that made me think I could have eaten a whole pie right then and there and never regretted it.  Definitely two thumbs up.

Kass’ meal was pretty much the same — well, the brisket was — but she picked the black eyed peas and creamed corn, and she had the apple pie.  She said her black eyed peas were good, but she didn’t care for the creamed corn.  She said it wasn’t sweet like normal creamed corn is, and she said she thought it had onions, so that was a let down in the meal.  I’m not a creamed corn eater — I just don’t like it anyway, but after seeing David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, I never want to eat creamed corn again — so I couldn’t tell you exactly what was up with it, but suffice it to say that if Kass didn’t care for it, it was obviously a little too strange to consider.  Her pie…her big apple pie slice that had crumbles on the top instead of pie crust…was to die for.  The cinnamon and apple were the primary flavors, and for once, I didn’t mind the crumbles on top.

Definitely another two thumbs up, in spite of the creamed corn.

As far as the prices go, it’s pretty typical of most restaurants today, and I’d even say most barbecue joints.  What you’re paying for here, besides the fantastic food, is the history.  After all, what other bbq place can brag that it once catered a picnic at the White House under Lyndon B. Johnson’s term?   As quoted on the FAQ page, “Black’s Barbecue was selected by United States President Lyndon Baines Johnson to represent Texas barbecue at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Black’s Barbecue has been recognized by both the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives for their part in Texas History. The New York Times, Southern Living, Texas Monthly, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, The Food Network, Money Magazine, The Travel Channel and many others have all written about the Texas Legend – Black’s Barbecue. ”  So Black’s is a place with history behind it, and the food makes it well-worth the stop.

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