Smitty’s Market Barbecue

smitty's bbq

Someone had asked me how to get a lot of comments on a blog last week. So I answered that it was pretty simple: “Put up a recipe with corn syrup in it.” Since I’m in Texas, however, there’s another way to rile up the masses and that is to write up a barbecue joint. Honestly, there is nothing that divides Texans or Kansas City-folk more than the proper way to prepare and eat this most divisive of all foods. (Chili notwithstanding.)

Many cultures do ribs well. I’ve had lovely, tender ribs in Chinese, Vietnamese, Singaporean, and even Parisian restaurants. (Okay, they were in my apartment.) But you can’t get that velvety, drop-off-the-bone silkiness of ribs prepared by a qualified pit boss like you do at a place like Smitty’s.

bbq pit at smitty's burnt tip

Even better is when a friend, Matt Lee the “pit boss” of Tèo gelato, (or whatever the frozen dessert equivalent is), whisked me up from the curb of the airport and high-tailed me out to Lockhart.

Last time I was in town, he took me to Kreuz, which was indeed, pretty tasty. And many commenters came out to tell me either how great it was (which I already knew, but it was nice to get confirmation from locals), or how wrong I was and that there were better places. One person even pointed out that I had allegedly made an error by claiming that Kreuz had sauce, but I had photo proof of something red and liquid that closely resembled my definition of sauce, and the camera—nor I—does not lie.

smitty's market smitty's

But aside from grammatical (as in that last sentence) and saucy infractions, the ribs and brisket at Smitty’s were phenomenal. You line up, tell ’em what you want, and it all gets weighed then dumped in the middle of a few sheets of coarse butcher paper. It’s important to grab all four corners…making sure they’re completely secure as it would be a shame, and probably a little embarrassing as I’m sure that’s a sign of being a non-local to drop one single beefy morsel, and grab a seat at one of the long tables.

smitty's

Sides are available; my choices are always cole slaw, pickles, and the inevitable white bread which is used to make on-the-spot brisket sandwiches smeared with a few glugs of that spicy-sweet barbeque sauce. To say we ate well is the understatement of my trip and we picked and pulled at the tender beef until our fingers were as well-seasoned as their ribs were.

thumbs up

When I went to New York City back a spell, I wanted to try to burnt tips at a local joint that everyone directed me downtown to try. Unfortunately they were out of them that day and although they don’t call them by the same name at Smitty’s—at least not on the bare-bones menu, whatever those crunchy triangular pieces of beef were, they were worth taking the trip to Lockhart to try.

smitty's in Texas

Whether or not they had any kind of sweetener in the seasoning is a mystery to me. And frankly, I don’t care because I’m not eating ribs and brisket like this on a daily basis. Which is probably a good thing because I don’t think barbecue this good should be eaten regularly. (Which is why I don’t live in nearby Austin; it’s just too close for comfort.) And when we were chowing down on our bbq out in the boonies, I said to my friend, “I’m sometimes afraid of going to these places way out here in the sticks”, and he confirmed, “Well, we’re probably the only two people here who aren’t carrying guns.”

smitty's sauce brisket and bread

Fortunately I didn’t feel in any danger, even with the roaring flames of the barbecue pit or the massive mound of meat piled up between us. And we both made it back to Austin completely intact, after our hands were scrubbed and ready to go. The only remaining evidence were a couple of belts that needed to be loosed a notch, or two, speaking of comfort.

bbq sausage



Smitty’s Market, Inc.
208 South Commerce
Lockhart, Texas
(512) 398-9344



Related Links and Recipes

Rub BBQ

Ruby’s Barbecue

Kreuz Market

Hill Country Barbecue

Braised Short Ribs

Vietnamese Caramelized Ribs

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61 comments

  • January 18, 2011 5:30pm

    David, Kreuz is good and Smitty’s has those amazing pork chops.

    But overall, I’d say that City Market in Lockhart is the best. They have the best ribs and everything else is really good too. The sauce is spectacular.

    Make that your next stop when in the area and my hubby who is a BBQ afficionado and I will meet you. We are in SA and try and go once a year.

    Happy CM trails!!

  • Susan
    January 18, 2011 5:33pm

    Man, you HAVE been taking it for the team! We who are far from barbecue land salute and envy you!

  • January 18, 2011 5:41pm

    This reminds me of a restaurant my friends dragged me and my friend to in Montreal that only sold corned beef sandwiches. We decided most emphatically that it was a “man’s restaurant.” This is a man’s restaurant that I would love.

  • Shannon
    January 18, 2011 5:45pm

    I saw the title of this post and my mouth immediately watered! And then I thought, has he been to Kreuz? So relieved you have :) My family used to stop there all the time on the way in to Austin.

    In college I made a friend from Lockhart, and it turns out that Kreuz and Smitty’s were originally the same place, and there was a family feud, leading to the two separate places. People in Lockhart took sides, and it’s one of those things you have a preference on if you live there – you a Kreuz man or a Smitty’s man?

    My other favorite story is that Kreuz has had their fires going continuously since they opened. When they moved to a new, bigger location, there was a parade through the town with the flaming logs (doesn’t sound right :) to the new location, where they ceremoniously used them to build up the fire in the new place.

    I love Texas :) And thank you so much for going out in the sticks! Makes me happy.

  • January 18, 2011 6:08pm
    David Lebovitz

    Shannon: I like them both..in other words, I’ll stay out of the controversy!

    Heather: Ha! Just proves my point in the previous post—if you mention a place you like in Texas, folks around these parts will always tell you there’s somewhere better : )

    Perhaps will take you up on that next time so you can prove your point!

    Jaime: Must be Schwartz’s in Montreal, which is really great.

  • January 18, 2011 6:13pm

    This is one of the (many) reasons American cuisine deserves more respect than it often gets.

  • Stephanie
    January 18, 2011 6:17pm

    Now I really want a spicy, pork Barbecue sandwich. (Did you happen to see the Cowgirl chef today? She also mentions barbeque).

    I just did a search for Barbeque in Paris and not much luck. C’est la vie.

  • January 18, 2011 7:29pm

    Matt Lee of the Lee Brothers? As in my go-to cookbook for all things Southern and delicious?

  • January 18, 2011 7:32pm

    I have to say I’m a little more than underwhelmed with the BBQ in Colorado and am longing for some fabulous Texas BBQ like what you have here! It looks and sounds amazing…I can practically smell it!

  • January 18, 2011 8:22pm

    God that looks so damn good!

  • January 18, 2011 8:41pm

    We don’t see a lot of beef barbecue in the midwest, more often then not it’s pork spare ribs. However, like Texas and KC, loyalty runs strong among aficionados for our local places, and folks rarely try anywhere but their favorite.

  • January 18, 2011 9:18pm

    On my last trip to Austin, I hit all 3 (Smitty’s, Kreuz, City Mkt) and contracted meatalepsy. It was so good. But we also went to Snow’s (in Lexington, open only Saturday mornings until the meat runs out), and it was among the best brisket I’ve ever had. The relatively new Franklin’s (trailer in Austin) is getting rave reviews from my friends, but the only day I could go they were closed.

  • January 18, 2011 9:33pm

    There’s nothing like Texas bbq. I moved away from Texas a long time ago and still order smoked meats from New Braunfels Smokehouse and have it shipped to me. Soooooo good. I can taste it right now. Yum.

  • Jennifer
    January 18, 2011 9:56pm

    Honey, if you think Lockhart is the sticks, I’ve got some places in East Texas to show you. They make Lockhart look downright metropolitan.

  • Jenny
    January 18, 2011 10:04pm

    My family had a lakehouse for years in the Austin area and whenever we would go visit for the weekend we would stop at a place called Big John’s in Kingsland, TX. The best bbq, cole slaw, potato salad, beans — wonderful memories.

  • evy
    January 18, 2011 10:06pm

    I’m so sorry I missed seeing you in Austin!
    Love your blog!

  • January 18, 2011 10:13pm

    Send some of this BBQ my way.

  • LM
    January 18, 2011 10:45pm

    While sauce might be provided, very few of use it because the meat is so tasty! I grew up in Lockhart and this is the best there is – bar none! You should have tried the pork chops, they are amazing.

  • January 18, 2011 10:56pm

    Oh my lord, that looks delicious! I’ve been craving bbq sauce for the past week and this has amplified it by 100x.

  • January 18, 2011 11:54pm

    For anyone who doesn’t believe meat candy exists they haven’t had good barbeque! Especially the burnt ends! In my experience if the food is simple, and served in brown paper it is usually going to be good. Looks amazing David!

  • January 18, 2011 11:55pm

    Nothing beats meat cooked over an open fire. Except maybe chocolate. Which must be why the Mexicans came up with mole, come to think of it.

  • January 19, 2011 12:11am

    sweet charlotte david. you. kill. me.
    love love love this post.
    meat candy rules! lol

  • January 19, 2011 12:29am

    David,
    It was so nice meeting you in Austin and helping with your class. After class we had left over cake batter and caramelized white chocolate from your demo. So I did what I could to help us get out of dishwashing more ramekins, and I packed up the left overs and brought them home. I baked them in slightly larger baking dishes, and they were delicious. You can see how they turned out on my blog http://www.cookwithaview.com/what-catherines-reading/blogging-bread-and-david-lebovitz/

    Cat

  • courtneymunson
    January 19, 2011 12:39am

    YUM! Love that Texas BBQ!! I hardly ever eat red meat, but put some Texas BBQ ribs in front of me and I’m all over it!!

  • Betty
    January 19, 2011 1:25am

    How the heck do you stay so clean eating bbq? If it were me, most of my face would be smeared, not to mention my hands, my shirt (smart to wear dark btw), my pants, and the 10 napkins all crumpled up in front of me.

    No disrespect intended to the vegetarians out there but, for me, sometimes there’s just nothing like a good old hunk of meat roasted low and slow until it’s melt in your mouth delicious…yummy.

  • January 19, 2011 2:05am

    DL, I attended your previous cooking class at CM, I guess it was last year? Sorry I missed this one or I would have debated the pros and cons of each Texas BBQ joint with you personally…

    Please know that you have a standing offer to dine with me and my hubby who is a complete and utter BBQ (and food) snob. Because, honestly, City Market is where it’s at!! Though I am glad to know you are making the rounds…

    Safe travels and enjoy the Texas pecans. Can’t wait to see what you do with them.

  • January 19, 2011 3:14am

    One of my favorite articles on BBQ was written by Jeffrey Steingarten when he was asked to be a judge at a festival. At the end of the contest he had the “winning” BBQ FedEx’d to him in NYC. So…. can you get amazing American BBQ sent to you in Paris?

  • tina
    January 19, 2011 3:23am

    I just did a Central Texas BBQ tour a few months ago (Smitty’s, Kruez, Blacks, City Market, Lockharts) and I have to say after all the meat, smoke and driving, Smitty’s was the most worth it. We got the sauce, but hardly touched it..that’s when we knew we had found BBQ. Brisket is smokey and beefy; links are juicy; ribs are surprisingly sweet yet that’s okay; potato salad is exactly the taste of classic Americana and you finish it off with some hand scooped Blue Bell (not to be confused with Blue Bunny) ice cream.

  • Eileen
    January 19, 2011 3:28am

    Ahh, Smittys!! Nectar of the Gods on earth. So glad you made it to Austin and your class on Saturday was so much fun

  • January 19, 2011 4:15am

    Oh Lockhart! My family makes that our eating destination when traveling to Austin from south Texas. In fact, my first memory of the place was walking past the open fire on the floor as you head to the counter to order–I was only 5 at the time and it terrified me! I thought I was going to catch on fire–to me it was like a dungeon!
    And all the people in the dinning hall–scary. Now, I see it as one of those Texas treasures! Smitty’s when I was little, was actually called Kreuz, then I guess there was a rif in the family and the brother moved his business down the road. I think he actually kept a fire burning in a pot or something as he dragged it down the road to his new place.
    We always order the same thing (we have for the last 20 something years): pork chops, sausage and sliced brisket and a Big Red soda! No sides and NO SAUCE!! There’s something to be said about eating BBQ the simple way and a Big Red soda makes it go down mighty nice!
    Glad to hear you were in Texas!!

  • huebscher
    January 19, 2011 4:16am

    when you come back through austin, stop in at franklin’s bbq. it’s as good as anything in lockhart or luling … even better in my own opinion, because they operate put of a vintage turquoise trailer on the access road to i-35. and the owners — aaron & stacy franklin — are just about the nicest people in existence. (also — if they have pie on the menu, order it. you won’t regret it.)

  • kathleen
    January 19, 2011 4:24am

    Yesterday I had a bacon sandwich with ketchup. It didn’t cure my bbq craving completely. Your fabulous posting is making it worse! Great post on true American food!

  • January 19, 2011 4:27am

    David your photographs and words never cease to inspire. Australians love BBQs.

  • January 19, 2011 5:01am

    The first thing I thought upon reading this post was “gotta love the bog-standard white bread”, so I was amused when you mentioned it particularly as a side! Me, I think I’d steal all the pickles…

  • Rosemary
    January 19, 2011 5:05am

    A few more places to try…and really I think that “best” is a matter of preference but, the previously mentioned City Market (Luling not Lockhart), Salt Lick (Driftwood) and Coopers (in both Llano and Mason) YUM
    And I can’t believe I missed your CM class!

  • Jacqueline
    January 19, 2011 5:06am

    David, I’ve had so much fun with The Sweet Life in Paris. One night during a bout of insomnia, I remembered your section about language struggles and jam…les confitures…and I started convulsing with silent giggles that I could barely contain (and that awakened my snoozing husband)! Thanks so much for your work!

    I so wish you would have a segment on The Food Network; I’d love to watch your classes; I appreciate you. Again, thanks so very much.

  • January 19, 2011 5:11am

    I think that I need to take a trip to Texas real soon. Thank you for an inspiring post, even if it makes me really hungry.

  • January 19, 2011 7:04am

    The idea that there is one Best Place In The World to get barbecue is a bit nuts. My taste isn’t necessarily anything like yours. I like a deeply smoky meat and thin, spicy sauce. Some like a tender, mild meat and a molassasy sauce. They’re not wrong, they just don’t want the same thing I do. And the best part? There are about a million different BBQ joints around here so we can all be happy. So who cares if somebody says your BBQ place wasn’t the “best”? You liked it, and that’s all that matters.

  • January 19, 2011 8:12am

    This post reminded me of a date with a man who took me there. I did not think I would but surprisingly I really enjoyed the place and the food. Even if the place was out in the boonies. That was part of the charm.

  • January 19, 2011 8:51am

    mmm mmm mmm, david. that looks finger lickin’ good! there is really nothing better than “good” bbq! lucky you – appears to be the perfect transition from beach/sun/margaritas to an all american-authentic-texas bbq!

  • Maia
    January 19, 2011 12:26pm

    Oh my, I am located so far away from this kind of heaven. I have yet to find anything comparable to this American, meaty, rib goodness in Sweden. Thanks for sharing your little piece of heaven.

  • January 19, 2011 1:33pm

    These pictures are cruel! You can just tell by the bare-bones look of the place that they aren’t playin’ and the BBQ is gonna’ be good. .

  • January 19, 2011 1:42pm
    David Lebovitz

    Hannah: I do have to admit that the white bread, while traditional, isn’t my favorite part of the meal. I guess the spongy texture is good for sopping up juices, but I don’t like store-bought white bread.

    KosherCorvid: I like lots of different kinds of bbq and it’s always a little surprising to me how fiercely loyal folks get about certain places and foods. I think there’s a bit of “Texas pride” (justifiably..) over the best bbq and all I can say is that the folks who live there are lucky to have so many good choices!

    Jacqueline: Glad you liked the book and it gave you a few laughs..even at the expense of a little bit of sleep : )

  • January 19, 2011 2:41pm

    thanks for the pics!! Yummm
    Love the way you write, you share a part of you and your experiences and I am grateful. :-)

  • Jerry Levinson
    January 19, 2011 3:57pm

    David, Have you read the Calvin Trillin article in The New Yorker?
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/24/081124fa_fact_trillin?printable=true

  • January 19, 2011 4:58pm

    I jumped for joy when I saw the title of your post. But now I’m puzzled, after reading it. A long time ago, a very long time ago, I ate some bbq made by a friend. The sauce was called “Smitty’s”. But it was from a restaurant in Rochester, NY. Could it possibly be the same as yours? Would they have relocated? It was the best, and I mean THE BEST, bbq sauce I’ve ever eaten. I still long for it, to this day.

  • Stefan Winter
    January 19, 2011 5:21pm

    I’ll definitely try this out when I’m in Austin. Was ‘Little Boy Blue’ for dessert? I had planned to fly out to Austin to attend your class but couldn’t make it. I’m hoping to catch you on your next US gig.

  • January 20, 2011 12:13am

    That looks absolutely so tempting! I don’t think I get sick of having such a barbecued meat even if I eat everyday.

  • January 20, 2011 1:47am

    When I was a wee child my dad brought home barbecue from a place on the corner called the Copper Penny (in LA) and the flavor of that BBQ sauce has been my gold standard ever since. Unfortunately, the place closed many years ago and I’ve been searching for a similar barbecue sauce ever since and haven’t found it yet, close to 50 years later. It had a wonderfully smoky taste but I swear, nary a drop of sugar or sweetening in it. I’ve never tasted a more wonderful barbecue sauce since.

  • January 20, 2011 4:36am

    Whoaaaw! makes me want to get some barbecue!

  • John P
    January 20, 2011 9:52am

    @Gluten Free Diva – I can promise you this is not the same Smitty’s you are thinking of. Smitty’s is actually in the same family as the guys that run Kreuz Market, also in Lockhart. They’ve been there forever, and really, the sauce has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the meat.
    David, I do agree with you on bbq needing to be an excursion. Settling for a lesser version such as Bill Miller’s or Rudy’s just doesn’t cut it. I believe that Texas Monthly did a Texas Bucket List about a year ago. It has a place you might enjoy. Don’t remember the name, but it’s in the article.

  • January 20, 2011 3:35pm

    Bar-B-Que Wars: you failed to mention Memphis BarBQ! Smoked slowly all day long, fall-off-the-bone tender – on the list: Things That Make Life Worth Living!

  • January 20, 2011 4:08pm
    David Lebovitz

    T Hollis: They have Memphis bbq in Texas??

  • Karen Harris
    January 20, 2011 4:11pm

    So glad you made it to any of the multitude of fantastic bbq joints in central Texas. We love Kreuz Market so much that we would go visit every chance we got, grabbing our toddler daughter’s hand so that she wouldn’t fall into the unsecured fire pit in the middle of the floor of the old building. Ahhh, good times! Now, since the big feud we love to visit the nice new location everytime we get within 100 miles. Next time you are in this area travel down the road a piece and grab some ribs at Luling City Market. I’m not so fond of their sauce, but with ribs like those, who needs it.

  • January 21, 2011 6:00am

    Thanks for posting a photo-op of our Texas-style china. We use nothing but the finest, whether it be paper towel, butcher paper or our shirt sleeve.

    Kreuz or Smitty’s? Oh my! I ain’t taken sides on this one. Just do me a favor, partner, pass that loaf of white down this way, will ya?

    Muchas gracias!
    ;)

  • January 21, 2011 8:17am

    Speaking of citrus, have you ever had Persian sweet lemons? They are to die for!

  • January 21, 2011 10:57pm

    The time to worry is not when almost everyone has a gun. It’s when only one guy has a gun. :)

  • January 21, 2011 11:59pm

    I spent 14 lovely years in Austin and made the rounds of BBQ places. Actually my favorite was the brisket my boss did every year on his huge smoker for our annual picnic. New Braunfels, Lockhart, I loved ’em all, but probably Lockhart a tad more. I am mainly a brisket girl with some beef ribs on the side and a little slaw to sweeten things up. Guess I need to make a visit! Thanks David. Have some migas for me.

  • January 23, 2011 7:24am

    I can’t quite believe you made it so close to Austin, and I didn’t know! Where are you teaching or presenting next?

    Appearances are posted on my Schedule page. I also announce them in my newsletter, and on my Facebook and Twitter streams as well. -dl

  • January 29, 2011 8:22am

    A few months back I met the Mayor of Lockhart, Texas at a conference. We spoke about both Smitty’s and Kreuz and I have been dying to try both ever since. I live in Houston so it’s only a few hours drive. You have confirmed that I need to make the trip to Lockhart sooner than later!

  • February 2, 2011 3:43pm

    David, you are absolutely correct that nothing draws in the Texans AND the Kansas Cityians like a post on barbecue or a debate on who makes the best. Born and raised in KC, I could not resist, although seeing the pictures was a bit tragic (as I am quite far from the midwest these days).

    The burnt tips to which you refer are truly heaven (although we tend to call them burnt ends up in KC). Glad you enjoyed Austin!