Monday, November 29, 2010

Hardeman's BBQ

DALLAS: Hardeman's BBQ
618 S Westmoreland Rd.
Dallas, TX 75211
Open M-Thur 10-8, F-Sat 10-10

In my search around the city looking for BBQ in every nook and cranny of Dallas, I've come upon many a location that was once a Hardeman's, and a few shuttered location with faded Hardeman's signs. I was of the thought they were all gone until I stumbled upon a short review by The Hungry Texan from back in August. I added it to the list and headed there on a recent weekend to find it open, and smelling of good hickory smoke. The owners are part of the Hardeman family, and said a new location just opened within the last month in Cedar Hill. Based on this trip, I'll be headed there soon.

A sweetened smashed potato salad sat alongside smoky pinto beans. Brisket had good smokiness, but the meat was a bit dry and tough. The sauce helped it quite a bit, but this beef needed more smoker time. Ribs were still plenty moist. The tender meat pulled easily from the bone, and the fat within was nicely rendered. When the meat is presauced, it normally takes away considerably from the flavor of the meat, but it only complimented the ribs whose smokiness was bold enough to cut through the slightly sweet sauce. A tangy banana pudding finished things off. I think they may have included either whipped cream cheese or possibly creme fraiche, but the result was unexpected and addictive. I'm glad I found the place.

Rating ***
Hardeman's BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ole School BBQ

DALLAS: Ole School BBQ
9630 Lake June Road

Dallas, TX 75217


Open M 12-8, Tues-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

The sauce here is good, and probably homemade by the owner/ operators. The husband and wife team of Greg and Janet Clark are happy to serve you. They no longer have to tend to their second location in South Dallas which closed earlier this year due to slow traffic. Back to that sauce, it's deep red in color with plenty of sweetness that is twinged with vinegar. Luckily it's good because it covers every square millimeter of meat.

A side of black eyed peas were some of the best I've had anywhere. They were stewed very soft with plenty of smoked pork creating a gravy, great for dipping the crispy okra into. Brisket lacked smokiness and was a bit undercooked. Gobs of unrendered fat clung to each slice, but the meat in between was nicely seasoned and plenty moist. Ribs were better in the smoke department, but were a bit dry and chewy. Again, they were nicely seasoned, but both meats really rely on the sauce for flavor. I'm thinking a meal of those black eyed peas and a chopped beef sandwich might be the ticket here.

Rating **
Ole School BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Opie's BBQ

9504 E. Texas Hwy. 71
Spicewood, TX 78669


Open M-Tue 11-4, W-Sun 11-7

Update: Making it past the new sign outside, I entered into the dining room where I ordered a half rack of the sweet and spicy baby backs, a chunk of brisket and some jalapeno cheese sausage. The sausage had great spice and flavor. The meat was incredibly moist with good snap, and the pockets of cheese provided a good creamy counterpoint. While the baby backs aren't done in a traditional fashion, the combination of sticky sweetness in the rub along with the spicy glaze made for some addictive ribs. They've still got plenty of smoky goodness and the meat is nicely tender and moist. If they were offered in a smaller portion than a half rack, I'd have to order them every time.

During my meal, the owner and pitmaster Todd was making the rounds talking with regulars and welcoming new folks. He sat with me at my table and we talked about smoked meat and the history of the joint. He's a self taught pitmaster which keeps him open minded to change. Take the brisket for example. Since he opened he'd been cooking briskets directly over mesquite coals much like Cooper's. I didn't love the results on the past two visits, but the brisket on this trip was different than I remembered. Todd said he was now using an Oyler smoker, although at high heat, to cook his briskets. This imparts a smokier flavor and requires less seasoning. I prefer this new resulting brisket that retains the signature moistness but provides a much greater smoky flavor which compliments the black pepper rub.

On the bulletin board just inside the front door was a photo of a girl passed out on one of the meat carts in the pits. The owners don't know who she is, and would really like to make sure she's alright, so if anyone knows this girl please speak up.

I might not be willing to spend the night by these pits, but given the new and improved brisket along with all the other quality meats, Opie's has certainly established itself as a genuine destination for Texas BBQ.

Rating ****

2009: Two years ago, Opie's moved from their original location a block off of the highway to their new metal building right across busy Texas Highway 71 from a road sign that reads "Austin 34 (miles)". The smokers are front and center as you pull into the gravel parking lot, and the smell proved to be appetizing even after my lunchtime feast at the BBQ Crash Course in Austin. Just inside the doors is a large black pit with meat displayed just below the heavy lid. Ordering is done with fingers held just this far apart...a few inches of brisket...just this much sausage, and so on. For the sausage, just hope your fingers can spread far apart, because you'll want more than a few bites.

My options were limited due to the fact they were closing in less than an hour after I arrived. I ordered a thick slice of brisket, a big chunk of jalapeno sausage, and a large spare rib. I tried to get some of the sweet and spicy basted baby backs, but they're available only in half or full slabs, and my stomach would have seriously revolted at that request. As I sat down in the weighty chairs of knotty pine, I couldn't wait to tear into the wrapped up butcher paper. The brisket slice was extremely fatty, but I did get the last of the day's brisket. Once I picked off some of the fat, what was left was extremely smoky, tender meat reminiscent of the brisket at the Hard Eight. Salt and pepper clung heavily to the deep crust, and the flavor really packed a pleasing punch. Talk about punch, the jalapeno sausage is not timid with the spice. This link had a medium grind with excellent flavor and good snap. Fat dripped down my chin and onto the paper below with every delicious bite. The rib had deep red flesh below the smoky, well formed crust. The tender meat mingled with the rendered fat to create a moist and well balanced hunk of pork. Next time, I'll get there early enough to get my pick of the protein litter, but I certainly wasn't slighted by the end-of-the-day offerings.

Opie's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BBQ in the News: What's the Best BBQ City?

BBQ has been the recent subject of many magazine articles chronicling 'cue around the country. The one that should provide fodder for the most amount of arguments came from Travel + Leisure Magazine where they claim to have accurately listed them in order from 1-35. We're really only interested in the top 10. From a visitor's standpoint, Memphis and Kansas City take the 1 and 2 slot which is no surprise given they have a city specific style of BBQ. For Texas cities, the order seems to be correct with #3 Austin (if surrounding areas are included), #5 Houston, #7 San Antonio and #9 Dallas/Fort Worth. How Savannah, Georgia makes it in at #6 I'll never know, and the fact that Chicago is all the way down at #16 just below Salt Lake City makes the list suspect to me. Discuss.

If you plan to travel to do some double-checking on that list, then this guide to airport dining from Food & Wine will help you find the best places to eat around the nation's airports. BBQ options include Cousin's at DFW Airport, Corky's in Memphis, Salt Lick in Austin, Brookwood Farms BBQ in Charlotte.

The Austin based blogger "Donna Cooks" didn't need a flight to get to Franklin BBQ where she provides this review. The pictures are great and the writing better than any of my reviews. She also had the persistence to go back just to try the fatty brisket. That's my kind of BBQ fan.

If you want to learn so smoke like they do over at Franklin's, then you'll need to hone your skills at the BBQ Summer Camp. Foodways Texas brings this event to Texas A&M in June 2011.

Or you could just have El Smokeador smoke it for you. One half of the blog El Smokeador Y El Smokehopper has branched out to form a catering business.

If you'll be in Dallas in early January, then be sure to check out the opening of Lockhart Smokehouse. Follow their new twitter page to get the latest updates.

Finally, I came across this press release for "Hill Country Texas BBQ". From the fact that they want to "develop and design that segment that will compete nationally" makes it sounds like a Dickey's wannabe, but I've never heard of these folks, even with Dallas Cowboy great Jay Novacek as a spokesman. Claiming to be "without a doubt the best in Texas" on their website makes them sound a bit haughty. Has anyone heard of this company?

- BBQ Snob

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Laird's Bar-B-Q

LLANO: Laird's Bar-B-Q Pit
1600 Ford St. (Hwy 16)
Llano, TX 78643
Open W-Sun 11-7

Update: While they're officially open until 7:00 on Saturdays the Laird's were about to shut down for the day when I arrived at 2:30. They had a big catering job, and I didn't blame them since business wasn't exactly hopping. It was unfortunate that I was the only customer after having just left Cooper's a few blocks away which was still packed wall to wall with patrons. The menu was also sparse since everything was gone except a few slices of brisket and sausage.

The brisket was very similar to what I'd just eaten at Cooper's, which I later learned was due to the similar cooking method. Pitmaster Kenneth Laird once worked at Cooper's and his pit also uses direct heat from mesquite coals rather then indirect smoke. The rub has a high salt content, but is not overpowering. The meat could have been a bit more tender, but it was still moist and flavorful. The ribs I liked so well last time were not available so I went for the only other option which was sausage. I think it had been removed form the pit a bit soon since it was in need of some smoke, but the meat was well seasoned with just a hint of spice.

Out back, Kenneth showed me the pits and the firebox where the mesquite is cooked down to coals. He's a man of few words, so it was a mostly self guided tour, but he was happy to let me take photos of the whole operation. I'll make sure to make it back earlier next time so I can grab one of those ribs.

Rating ****

2006: Laird's has a steady church crowd on Sunday's, and they're packing them in for a reason. The smoker is right outside the door in order to wet your appetite with the smoke dancing on the breeze. The large spare ribs had a slight reddish crust which led to expectations of little flavor. Instead the tender meat and perfectly rendered fat were packed with deep smoke flavor. As my teeth teased the meat off the bone, I realized that it was a near perfect rib. Then I got to the brisket. These slices of meat also had little crust to speak of, but the smoke was incredibly intense. The pull-apart tender beef had excellent flavor throughout with a small strip of flavorful fat at the edge. Next time you're in Llano, detour from the famous place down the road, and stop in here for a deep breath of smoky air.

Laird's Barbeque & Catering on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

LLANO: Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
604 W. Young St. (Hwy 29)
Llano, TX 78643

Open Sun-Thur 10:30-8, F-Sat 10:30-9

Update: It had been some time since my last visit to Cooper's in Llano. This haven for bikers out on their Saturday stroll isn't on the way from Dallas to anywhere, so I made a special road trip of my own. There was some BBQ sampled along the way, but my true destination was Llano, and the original home of the Big Chop.

Although when I set out for the day I had plans of an all out gorge fest, but once I hit Llano I was four joints deep on the day and could only muster a measly order of brisket and a pork rib. I just couldn't bring myself to spring the $15 or so it would take for just a few bites of the Big Chop, but I ended up with quality over quantity. I've had my issues with oversalted and undersmoked meats at this and other Cooper's locations in the past, but the original was on their game for this visit.

The thick slice of brisket was perfectly cooked. The seasoning was intense, but the small surface area to meat ratio helped temper it a bit. A bit of fat clung to the end of this thick slice and it made for one happy mouthful. While this cowboy style of BBQ doesn't ever result in deeply smoky meat, there was at least a solid hint of smokiness in the meat. Pork ribs were also good, if not as tender. The seasoning is more subdued, and the smokiness shines a bit more on the ribs although don't expect a thick black bark.

The best item of the day was new for me at Cooper's. A nice bark had formed on this giant beef rib which I only got to taste after meeting a biker couple sitting opposite me at the picnic tables. Rosie was kind enough to share a few bites of this beefy rib, and the meat pulled easily from the bone. Each bite was infinitely moist, nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked. It was one of the better beef ribs I've eaten. The only Cooper's item that may equal it is the blackberry cobbler. This was simply exquisite, and a perfect ending to a great meal that further filled my already distended stomach.

Rating ****

2006: This is the most well known Cooper's BBQ, but it's not the best. Deer hunters come here in herds to order directly from the big pits just outside the front door. The meat all looked great, so we ordered goat ribs, pork ribs and brisket. The goat ribs were so thin on meat that they really just tasted like salt and pepper. The pork ribs had the same salt and pepper rub. They had little crust, and almost no smoke flavor. The ribs were nicely tender and moist, but the overall flavor was not intense. The brisket had a nice crust and smoke line, but again, it was lacking smoke flavor. All the flavor seemed to come from the salt and pepper rub, and it just needed more. I can't complain that their meat is bad, but this Cooper's does not deserve the accolades they have received in the past based on this visit.

Coopers Bar B Que Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Gage BBQ

311 N High St

San Saba, TX 76877


Open Tues-Sat 11-8, Sun 11-2

The drive through pecan country in Texas is one drive that you shouldn't miss. Well manicured forests of pecan trees are filled with green grass and happily grazing cows. Emerging from the shaded highway, I found myself driving through San Saba with no idea if they had a BBQ joint or not. Right in the middle of town along highway 16 sits Gage BBQ, so I pulled into the parking lot and immediately smelled smoke. Inside were a few families enjoying a late lunch as I waited for my to-go order of sliced brisket and ribs. I also picked up a package of spicy pecans on an impulse buy, but then I was in the pecan capital of the world.

Back outside on the trunk of the car, I unwrapped the foil package to reveal a few beautiful slices of beef and a couple of glazed ribs. The moist flavorful, smoky slices of brisket were near perfection. A ring of silky fat was left clinging to each slice along with a great crust and prominent smokering. I could have eaten a pound of this stuff on its own. Ribs were also plenty tender and moist, but I think they may have been wrapped early in the smoking process shielding them from the smoke. While missing some of the smokiness I prefer, the subtle but sweet glaze helped to provide a robust flavor to these otherwise nicely cooked ribs.

I headed back inside to meet this unknown pitmaster and learn his ways. I was struck dumb when David showed me his Southern Pride smoker in the back. Noticing my surprise, he explained that he uses a mixture of oak and hickory, and that he packs plenty of it in the fire box. No matter the cooking method, David knows how to put out some quality meat and I'll be back when I find myself anywhere near this joint. This was easily the best brisket I've had from a gas fired smoker.

Rating ****
Gage BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Daytripper Does Lockhart

KLRU in Austin is home to the Daytripper, Chet Garner. In a recent episode, Chet leads a tour through all four BBQ joints in Lockhart. He offers a nice introduction to each joint and provides some history for each as well. Smoked meat is the focus throughout, and Chet does an admirable job sampling plenty from every joint. Enjoy.

Watch the full episode. See more The Daytripper.

Now all I want to do is get back to Lockhart.

- BBQ Snob

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Mills County Bar-B-Que

GOLDTHWAITE: Mills County BBQ Company
606 Fisher St.

Goldthwaite, TX 76844


Open Tues 11-8:30, W 11-7, Thur 11-8:30, F 11-9, Sat 11-5

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2010: Drew Thornley of Man Up Texas BBQ is the mayor of Mills County BBQ, and not in the foursquare kind of way. Mention his name and the (smitten?) cashier smiles. Mention that you're headed to his house in a few hours, and a couple slices of turkey will be added to your to-go bag. It's no wonder when the guy basically 'discovered' the place for the rest of us, and proceeded to mention it in 17 posts on his blog to date. They've even framed a Man Up coozie and it hangs next to the register.

If it weren't for Drew, I wouldn't have any reason to detour to Goldthwaite, so I must thank him. To say the premanufactured metal building is humble is an understatement. The meat is the focus here. I went for a three meat plate of brisket, pork ribs and turkey.

I found the turkey that Drew loves so much a bit salty. The meat was cut from whole turkey breasts, and was nice and smoky, but the moisture in the meat is most likely from a healthy brine which also imparted too much salt for my tastes. The ribs were nicely seasoned. Smoky meat beneath a decent bark was satisfying and moist, if a bit tough. Brisket was anything but tough. Thick slices of beef were covered in a robust black crust. The meat was silky tender with rendered fat throughout each slice. The smoke and seasoning was heaviest with bites of crust, but this was some great brisket.

After the meal I was given free rein to a self-guided tour of the pits. This being mid-afternoon, the pits were shut down for the day, but the scene was no less picturesque. Who knows if I would have been able get that kind of access without knowing Drew.

Rating ****
Mills County BBQ Company on Urbanspoon

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Lazy T's Bar-B-Que

HAMILTON: Lazy T's Bar-B-Que
901 S Rice St
Hamilton, TX 76531

Open Tues-Sat 10-7

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2010: Rick Turner moved from a retail development on the north side of Hamilton to this location just south of town a few months ago. He's happier here than ever, maybe because he built it himself. I had just left the Smoke Shack which you can almost see from Lazy T's. Unlike the Smoke Shack, Rick uses mesquite wood, and the meat is deeply smoky.

I tried some ribs and sliced beef on one of two picnic tables out front. The brisket was great. The meat was tender, the fat well rendered, and the flavor was plenty smokey without the bitter flavor that mesquite can impart from oversmoking. The crust enveloped a well defined smokering, and every bite had great flavor and tenderness. Ribs had similar seasoning, and were very boldly flavored with plenty of black pepper. This meat too was plenty smokey, but it lacked the tenderness of the beef. Each bite was a bit of a battle to separate meat from bone, and the meat was in need of more smoker time.

Rick showed me the pits he uses for his operation. The main pit is a big one with two lids, and he had two briskets inside. One was wrapped and one unwrapped. Rick explained that some customers were complaining of too much smoke so he wrapped one midway through cooking and planned to offer both options during the day. That is a pitmaster who aims to please, and it's also the first time I've heard of any joint offering you options for smoke level. I was assured that I received the full smoke version, and I'm not sure why anyone would want anything less.

Rating ***
Lazy T's BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

BBQ Coming Soon

Dallas, specifically Oak Cliff, has a wealth of BBQ joints in the works. This area has a pretty low concentration of barbecue options, but that will all change within the next couple of months. The first one I came upon during yesterday's scouting mission was Lockhart Smokehouse on Davis St. in the Bishop Arts District. It's slated for a January 2011 opening and there was plenty of sawing and hammering on site as I walked by.

Lockhart Smokehouse

Luckie's Smokehouse is also on Davis St. west of Lockhart Smokehouse. This jobsite also had plenty of action going on, and I got to chat with the owner who said he'd gotten quite a few inspections out of the way, and hopes to have things completed for a mid-December opening. I was none too excited about my trip to their first location (since closed), but based on the samples I tried at the Oak Cliff BBQ competition a few months back, I'm hopeful about what might be coming out of this smokehouse.

Luckie's Smokehouse

Papa Joe's is just off Edgefield on the north side of Illinois. No word on the opening date, but I know they've had a certificate of occupancy since February. Looking through the windows it looks like the finishing touches are being put into place.

Papa Joe's Backyard BBQ

The one I know the least about is on Denley just north of Record's Bar-B-Que. There's nothing on the building to clue you in on an opening date, but I know it's going to be called D Jackson BBQ.

D Jackson BBQ

I'd be happy if anyone could help fill in any of the blanks. I know we all are hoping that these joints will bring some great 'cue to Dallas.

- BBQ Snob

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pigskin in Pursuit

On this beautiful football Saturday I want to bring your attention to a man with a mission that pairs two of my favorite things, BBQ and College Football. Jamin Hemenway has charted a course to cross this great country while sampling the finest BBQ and attending as many college football games that he can fit in along the way. You can follow his exploits on his blog Pigskin in Pursuit. Be warned that reading his blog will make you hungry and pissed of that you're on the couch rather than in the stands this afternoon.

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Smoke Shack Pit Bar-B-Q

HAMILTON: Smoke Shack Pit Bar-B-Q
702 S Rice St
Hamilton, TX 76531

Open M-F 10-4, Sat 10-2

Many times I had passed this joint on a Sunday while tooling up state highway 281, but the Sohms only operate from Monday through Saturday. On a recent Saturday, I decided to take the long route down to Austin, and hit 'em up. A call on Friday revealed the opening hour as 10:00 am, and I followed the owner inside the door as he unlocked it precisely at the designated time.

Doris and Butch Sohm run this joint. Doris has worked there for 38 years and took over from the former owners. Her husband Butch came along in 1995, and is now the pitmaster. They lamented the scant availability of good help that can be found in the area which is why they split all the duties between the two of them. In general they seemed frustrated with the hours of work that they must put in for such tiny profit margins. I further understood their plight after paying $4.50 for 1/4 pound of brisket, two ribs and a coke. Let's just say they could stand to raise those prices.

Back in the car, I unwrapped the foil pouch and took a bite into the nicely sized rib. This was no giant spare rib, but it wasn't full of fat and gristle either. It was a 3 1/2 and down rib (from racks that weight less than 3 1/2 pounds total) that was perfectly cooked. The meat came away from the bone easily, had great moisture and was nicely seasoned. They needed a bit more smoke to get a good bark and smoky flavor, but these were good ribs. Brisket was nearly identical save it was a bit dry. Most all of the fat was trimmed off, but what remained was nicely rendered with good flavor. The tender slices had great beefy flavor and had good seasoning, but also needed more time (perhaps unwrapped time) in the smoker to get a nice crust and smokiness. Something tells me Doris and Butch aren't going to change a thing no matter what this review says, but they've been doing just fine over four decades doing things their own way. No matter, it's certainly worth a stop if you're headed through town on any day but Sunday.

Rating ***
Smoke Shack on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black's Barbecue

LOCKHART: Black’s Barbecue
215 N. Main St.
Lockhart, TX 78644
Open Sun-Thur 10-8, F-Sat 10-8:30

Update: This was the morning where instead of discovering another great BBQ joint in Texas, Smokemaster1 and I were taking my friend Rob to the heart of BBQ country to find out what all the fuss was about. A stop at Chisholm Trail for excellent sausage and brisket, but no ribs was followed by a less than stellar trip to Smitty's. I was thinking to myself that Rob may now be questioning the Lockhart fuss altogether. That is until we stepped into Black's. This was my third visit, and I have yet to see where all the haters get their ammo. Sure there's a sad looking salad bar as you walk in, but the meat here is nothing short of fantastic.

The sausage here is an 85% beef and 15% pork mixture. The casings have a great snap, the meat is well seasoned, and the overall experience of a Black's sausage squirting hot fat into your mouth is something that demands a repeat performance. A recent addition to the menu was baby back ribs. The smokiness and bold flavoring from the rub was all there, but it needed more time on the smoker to reach another degree of tenderness.

I got to use my Q Card for just the second time. It feels good to save money.

A gargantuan beef rib (not pictured) was much better. The moist meat was eminently tender, and the smokiness embedded into the thick black crust was savory goodness. A rib of this size could make a modest meal for two.

Meat makes Rob happy.

After some great sausage and good ribs, Rob was looking satisfied enough. Then we divvied up the slices of brisket. As those tender slices were being passed and devoured I noticed a thick slice of fatty goodness straight from the end of the brisket flat. The surface area of smoky crust got me giddy, but I decided that although I discovered the slice, the newbie needed the experience more than myself. After some discussion, we cut it into three chunks and as if doing a ceremonial shot of tequila, we downed our bites in unison. At that point cracks formed in the ceiling as the roof opened up and sunlight poured into the space. Suddenly, angelic voices filled the room, and Rob was smiling. We were all smiling, as this will be logged into my memory as one of the finest bites of smoked beef that has ever passed these lips. It was that good, and I'm not exaggerating. If they could guarantee a bite like that with every order, I'd consider driving down on weeknights. Thank you Black's, for helping me turn Rob into a Texas BBQ believer.

Rating *****

2009: Some joints are well known for how well they do one meat or another, but Black's does them all well. Brisket, ribs, sausage and turkey were piled on top of our small plate, and they were all picture perfect.

The brisket had a dark crust and deep red smoke line. The meat was flavorful and smoky, but it could have used a little more time on the smoker to tenderize a bit. The ribs had a perfect cross section of deep red crust, well rendered fat, and red smoky meat. The light salt and pepper rub provided a good robust addition to the smokiness, but the ribs too could have been more tender. A link of beef sausage was good with plenty of fat and a coarse grind of good smoky meat. The big winner was the incredibly moist and tender turkey breast. There's no deli turkey in this joint, and the smokiness of the turkey was deeper than in other meats.

As we dined, Norma Black chatted with out table about the history of Black's. It turns out the she and Edgar took over the place in 1949 just after graduating college when Edgar's dad died suddenly. They were just going to run the place until they could find another family member to take over, but 60 years later they're still at it and doing a fine job. Norma was nice enough to arrange a tour of the pits in the back. They smoke with all oak, and try to cook everything at around 350 degrees.

As I was leaving, I noticed three generations of a local family enjoying a Sunday dinner at Black's. If I was a local, I'd probably be a regular here too.

Rating *****

2006: This is the longest continuously running family owned BBQ joint in Texas (76 years), and there's a reason. It's slightly off the beaten track in Lockhart, as all its competition is along the main highway. Like most joints in this region, you order your meat by the pound straight from the pit boss, and its delivered on butcher paper with a plastic knife. It was all I could do to keep from digging into this sweet smelling protein before I reached a booth. The ribs were large meaty spare ribs with a nice dark red crust. They were tender and flavorful, but the fat needed more rendering. The brisket had a beautiful crust with a slightly sweet flavor. The meat was tender and moist with smoke throughout. I tried to illicit a negative point about this brisket, but I could not. The jalapeno beef and pork sausage was great. It was slightly coarse and fatty, but it had excellent snap and robust flavor. Meat like this will keep this place running for many years to come.

Black's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.