Sunday, April 19, 2009

'Cue A Palooza Fest, Part I

Recently I went on a bit of a barbecue pilgrimage. My reports from this excursion will be broken up into 3 parts. Vegetarians may want to skip this series of posts!

Part I

Having grown up in Texas, and having spent a lot of time visiting family in the Southeast, I’ve come to develop an appetite for barbecue. There are several different styles of barbecue in the Southeast (mostly pork), and Texas even has its own distinct types of barbecue (mostly beef). The type of barbecue that most people associate with Texas is the Central Texas style. Wikipedia describes Central Texas barbecue thusly (from the book Legends of Texas Barbecue by Robb Walsh):

Central Texas was settled by German and Czech settlers in the mid 1800s, and they brought with them European-style meat markets, which would smoke leftover cuts of pork and beef, often with high heat, using primarily native oak and pecan. The European settlers did not think of this meat as barbecue, but the Anglo farm workers who bought it started calling it such, and the name stuck. Traditionally, this barbecue is marinated but served without sauce, and with no sides other than saltine crackers, cucumber pickles, and onions. This style is found in the Barbecue Belt southeast of Austin, with Lockhart, Texas as its capital.

I can’t remember where I first heard about Lockhart, Texas and barbecue, but I had been dimly aware of it for quite a few years. Then a couple of years ago I came across this blog post, and my curiosity was piqued for good. I’ve wanted to go there ever since reading that blog post, and recently I had the perfect opportunity to do so since I was going to Austin for a concert.

I made a plan to hit 4 well-known barbecue places in Lockhart over the course of one weekend. After making the 4 hour trip on late Saturday afternoon, I arrived at my first stop, Kreuz Market.

Unfortunately I arrived with only about 20 minutes until closing time. They were out of brisket and out of jalapeno cheese sausage. I was a bit flustered, especially by the fact that I had my camera with me so I could photograph my food, so I panicked a bit and ordered too much food. I ended up with probably about a quarter pound of beef shoulder, one link of regular sausage, and for good measure I ordered a pork chop. They asked me if I wanted bread or crackers, and I went with bread. I guess since they were about to close they pretty much gave about a quarter loaf of Butter Krust bread, including the bag.

I’m very self-conscious about standing out from the crowd, so I was a bit nervous to whip out my camera and take some photos of the food since I needed to use the flash. But I knew I just had to have photos, so I pressed on ahead and took a couple of shots before digging in.

Kreuz Market takes great pride in the fact that they don’t provide forks. They only give you a knife. Being the dork that I am, I actually brought my own plastic fork. After a few minutes though, I realized that eating with your hands really isn’t that big a deal. So how was the food? The shoulder had a good amount of smoke flavor to it, and was pretty juicy. After eating a few bites I was struck by how salty it was though. The pork chop was pretty good. Much juicier than I’m used to, which was good. I ate the whole chop. The sausage was excellent. Not greasy, with a nice peppery kick and wonderful smoked flavor. The casing wasn’t too hard to cut through, and the meat was packed fairly densely. I ate all of that too.

I was quickly getting full, so I wrapped up the remaining bits of shoulder to take with me since I knew I would have a refrigerator in my hotel room. First impression? Yep, there’s something to this place!

All photos can be viewed larger by clicking on them.

OK, this photo is pretty much a rip-off of a shot from the dallasfood post. I think it should be thought of more as an homage.

This is not the original building. More on that in Part 2.

They've actually mellowed a bit. You can now use credit and get various side dishes.

My meal. You can tell how moist the shoulder and chop were. Good stuff. No sides for me (except bread)!

The sunset as I left the restaurant.

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