Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Road Trip: Kreuz Market - Lockhart, TX

Last weekend I traveled to Texas with my wife & son and her folks to see some family. We drove to Houston, then San Antonio and back to KC. We did all kinds of family stuff on our trip and even watched Finding Nemo in the car two dozen times (and that is not an exaggeration).

I made it a point to put Lockhart, Texas on our agenda and we were able to veer off Interstate 10 for a cool side trip that included a pretty damn good lunch on the way to San Antone.

A few years ago I caught a television program that profiled Kreuz Market. You can read the history of the place here. But there is a little more to the story…In 1999 the owner of the market passed away and left the business to his son, but he left the building to his daughter. They failed to work out an agreement and Kreuz Market moved to a new building. A new BBQ joint called Smitty’s sprung up in the original building, where Kreuz started in 1900.

Even though Smitty’s is housed in the old building, I wanted to try Kreuz. From all I’ve read, heard and seen, it’s the best in Texas.

We arrived at about 12:30pm on Saturday afternoon and the parking lot was full. The building is huge, and less than 10 years old – but it looks and feels like it has been there much longer.

We walked in and took our place in a line that stretched from the back of the building nearly to the entrance. While in line, we were able to look at the menu. It was pretty straight forward…brisket, shoulder clod and big pork chops along with ribs and sausage all sold by the pound.

At the end of the line were a set of double doors that opened up into a large room with 4 big brick pits heated by open fires, burning 100% Texas post oak. I should also mention that outside of the building, sat the largest collection of cut and stacked wood that I have ever seen. No gas pits here. A smokey haze lingered inside the building and out from the fires.

In front of the pits were two counters, each staffed by cashier, a pit man/meat slicer and scale operator. It must have been at least 110° inside that room…it was hotter than the temp outside and that was measuring 98 when we got there. I placed my order for brisket and sausage and watched the pit man lift up the heavy iron doors on the pit to get the sausage, then stab a whole brisket which he brought over to his cutting station, slicing off just the right amount. The scale operator threw it all on a few pieces of butcher paper and cashier rang it up.

We carried our lunch out of the pit room and into the dining hall where drinks and a limited number of sides (German potato salad, some peppers and ice cream...not much else) are sold separately. Two notable things you won't find anywhere in the building are forks and BBQ sauce. The reasoning...you don't need a fork to eat this food and you don't sauce to hide any mistakes. Fair enough.

The brisket was good. I thought it might be dry, as it was being held in a pit which I thought might cause it to continue to cook. But it was juicy and full of flavor. They do not season their briskets with a traditional rub, but rather a salt & pepper blend only...more salt than pepper. The brisket was very salty...but not too salty. But still much saltier than you'd find around KC. The highlight of the meal for me was the jalapeƱo cheese sausage. Man, that was good! We also got some regular sausage, which was just OK. Tasted like mediocre bratwurst.

Overall, the lunch was delicious and the atmosphere was awesome. It was well worth the side trip and definitely tops the list of the coolest places I have sat down to have a meal. I am working on a page to post more pictures of Kreuz Market. Until I get that done, here are just a few more.

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