The "BBQ Capital of Texas" Is a Single Street, Miles from a City
And while every city, town and hitching post within smelling distance of a BBQ joint would like to lay claim to the best meat in Texas, one thing is clear: Lockhart is a town with some deep barbecue history. There seem to be a disproportionate number of places smoking brisket, links and ribs in the area, and they’re all, more or less, in one straight shot around Main Street.
I don’t know how they got there, or why they’re all within walking distance of each other. But something happened here about a hundred years ago—some mysterious spark of BBQ magic—and people have been chasing the BBQ dream here ever since. On a recent trip to Austin organized by Chevrolet, I wanted to get out of the city, so I drove my Tahoe out to Hill Country to poke around.
In addition to meals measured in smoky pounds, each BBQ place in Lockhart boasts its own eccentricities. Many of the dining halls are covered with memorabilia of the sort that is collected by hoarders and armchair historians—decades of college football ephemera, crumbling business cards and dollar bills, taxidermied animals real and imaginary (I saw a Jackalope!), smoked-stained pictures of people that nobody remembers.
This barbecue path represents over a century of meaty history—the oldest place in town was founded in 1900. Next time you’re in Austin, it’s worth taking the time to explore these living museums and their shrines to Central Texas BBQ. Here's what I found along the way. —Hannah Walhout
Founded in 1900, this restaurant had to give up its original building in the late ‘90s due to a family dispute. Also, as an FYI: Do NOT pronounce it “cruise.” In Texas, it’s pronounced krites (like kites) or kroitz.
What to order: Perfectly fatty, salty brisket—and the smoked ham, which is an unusual addition to the menu.
Fun fact: No forks allowed.
Founded in 1932, is the kind of joint with George Strait blasting, even in the bathroom. The vibe is more intimate than other spots in Lockhart, and the walls of the cozy, eclectic space are covered with family photos and heirlooms.
What to order: Great brisket, but the baby back ribs might have been the star of the show.
Fun fact: The sides bar at Black’s is insane—pile your plate for just $1.59.
The people at Smitty’s claim the place has been open since 1948, but it’s complicated. Feuding siblings led to a now-legendary split between Kreuz and Smitty’s in 1999. Kreuz kept the original name...but Smitty’s kept the building.
What to order: The Jalapeño sausage has a perfect snap. And everyone here was drinking Big Red, so you should pop one of those too.
Fun fact: Need groceries? There’s still a working meat market attached.
Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que
Since opening in 1978, Chisholm Trail has developed a reputation as more of a “hidden gem”—the website proudly declares that it’s “where the locals eat,” and many contend its superiority over the town’s (more expensive) tourist favorites.
What to order: Locals love the classics, but it’s also worth checking unorthodox options like fajitas with fresh tortillas or a family meal of chicken fried steak.
Fun fact: Short on time? You’re in luck—this spot boasts the only BBQ drive through in town.
This newcomer to the scene has a literal BBQmobile, feeding hungry regulars during the day and driving around town for catering and events with their self-contained barbecue trailer. Judging from their growing list of local BBQ awards Thumper’s is holding its own against Lockhart’s barbecue behemoths.
What to order: The $6 pulled pork sandwich plate—make sure to add jalapeños, onion and pickles.
Worth investigating: The BBQ Baked Potato, piled with meaty goodness.
Fun fact: Most days, you’ll find the team slinging BBQ out of their trailer parked between a used car lot and a gas station.