Sunday, February 3, 2013

Good Eats: Smitty's Meat Market, Lockhart, Texas

The only American food that I crave in the same manner that I crave Thai curry or other exotic foods is barbeque. So when I’m in Central Texas, I seek out traditional meat markets. Now, I’m not a BBQ snob who argues that Texas BBQ is better than Memphis BBQ or Kansas City BBQ or Carolina BBQ. If you like the BBQ you eat, then I’m happy. For me, though, I like traditional Texas smoked meat. I like a strong smoke flavor, and I usually prefer beef to other meats.

The last time we were in the Lockhart area – almost 3 years ago – we stopped in at Black’s Barbecue, the oldest of the three traditional meat markets in Lockhart, a town designated by the Texas Legislature as the BBQ capital of Texas. This time, our destination was Smitty’s Market, considered one of the top Texas BBQ joints year after year.

Smitty’s was originally called Kreuz Market. In 1948, Edgar A. "Smitty" Schmidt purchased the store and kept the name. However, about 1999, the property was divided among family members. One branch got the Kreuz name and moved to a new location a few blocks to the north of downtown, while the other branch got the building but had to get a new name. They selected the name Smitty’s in honor of Mr. Edgar A. "Smitty" Schmidt.

Smitty's today is owned by Nina Schmidt Sells, Smitty's daughter, and managed by her son, John Fullilove. The eatery has 2 entrances. The west entrance faces the square and enters through the dining room while the back entrance faces highway 183 across a gravel parking lot. We entered through the back, and that’s the way I recommend that everyone enter. As you walk through the door, you can smell the history and the years of smoke. In fact, you walk right past the smokers, and you're warmed by the oak fire.

Step up to the counter and order. I don’t know how others order, but when I’m in a traditional meat market, like Smitty's, I order by meat. For this trip, I ordered half a pound of brisket and 2 sausage rings for Donna and I to share. They don't carry much variety of meat. I don't think they have chicken or turkey, for example; just beef, pork, and sausage. The meat is slapped down on butcher paper, a couple of plastic knives are thrown in, and you get your choice of white bread or crackers. Don’t ask for forks – they don’t have any.

Step through the glass doors into the dining area. There is another counter where you can purchase drinks, cheese, jalapeno peppers, and other condiments. Tables are run together, so you’ll share a table with other folks. The place is loud and busy. The ambiance is part of the experience. Our total bill was just shy of $15.00.

I love that smoky flavor on the beef, and I really love the smoked sausage. A small part of my childhood was spent in Elgin, Texas, the home of Southside Market. When we lived there, Southside was located downtown in a smoky old building along the tracks, and the sausage I had at Smitty’s reminded me of that sausage from my childhood. Not everyone likes this type of sausage. It’s very juicy, and the casing will snap open when you cut into it.

I love these traditional old meat markets. I’m glad to see some places do not change, or if they do change, they do so grudgingly. Some of these old joints don’t even provide BBQ sauce, and others, like Smitty’s, don’t have forks. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Next time, I'll stop at the last of the big 3 in Lockhart, Kreuz Market. 

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