Lockhart BBQ Trail

While on the subject of BBQ, I do need to go into a bit more detail on Lockhart, TX, which is worth a pilgrimage if your family is up for spending all day on an extended lunch. This lovely little town is the heart of Texas BBQ. Now, Texas BBQ means beef brisket. I am from Tennessee, where pork is primary; to me, “barbecue” means “pulled pork,” often eaten sandwiched between the halves of a hamburger bun. But if I’m going to eat brisket, the best in Texas — and, therefore, the best in the universe — is a good substitute.

Lockhart has four BBQ places. That’s right, just four. You get quality over quantity here. The set up for two of them is that there’s a BBQ-smithing facility where you order your meat, a bit like going to the butcher. You don’t order a “BBQ plate” or a “BBQ sandwich,” you just tell them how many pounds of what type of animal. Adjacent to that — in a totally separate part of the building — is something like a little market where you order your sides and drinks, if any. At one establishment, it seemed to me that the place probably began as an actual market that added some smokers in the back and then things took off. The other place that uses this method more resembles a temple of the ancient world dedicated to offering up devoutly prepared animal sacrifices to the god Baarb’khoo. The market portion that serves anything other than smoked meats, while well-stocked with a variety of goods, was probably a concession to consumer demand — but they don’t carry any sauce because their brisket doesn’t need it, so don’t ask for any.

Although the other two BBQ spots in Lockhart more closely resemble regular restaurants, the method described above begins to make more sense when you realize (as we finally did) that the meal is meant to be eaten picnic-style. Why else would they ask you if you want bread or crackers? Why else would a hunk of cheese be one of the first sides offered? Sure, they have tables for you to sit down and eat, but you’ll carry your food over to them wrapped up or in to-go containers. And when you get there, you’ll discover them to be either folding tables or outright picnic tables, even at places that have been in business since the thirties.

We managed to hit three out of the four by splitting about a quarter pound of brisket and a side between all of us, then moving on to the next place, and so on. Actually, while we started that small, we added  more sides and more varieties of meat until by the third stop, we just sat down and had dinner.

I’m pretty hungry now after having written all this. I think I’ll see what’s survived in our fridge while we were away…

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