A family feud has given barbecue lovers two top-notch options in Lockhart, Smitty's Market and Kreuz
Smitty's Market in Lockhart has a smoked-meat tradition that goes back more than 100 years, yet the funky barbecue legend is just over 5-years-old.
For 99 years the eatery half a block off the town square was known as Kreuz Market. A tenant-landlord dispute, which happened to be between a sister and brother, resulted in a split that gave barbecue lovers another choice in a town that already had more than its share of good eating.
The old market is a throwback to the origins of barbecue joints in small Texas towns. The brick walls are dark from a century of smoke and greasy hands. Patrons order their choice of meats, served on red butcher paper, directly from the pit in the back room. The dining room is the only air-conditioned room in the building, and the long tables can become elbow-to-elbow at lunchtime.
Charlie Kreuz opened his meat market in the front of the building at the turn of the last century. On weekends he would smoke meats to sell to the farmers and cowboys who came into town for market and church. By the time Edgar "Smitty" Schmidt bought the business in 1948, barbecue was outselling the other groceries.
A no-nonsense kind of guy who didn't suffer fools lightly, Schmidt was the same way about his restaurant. The meat was sold by the pound and came with saltine crackers or white bread, but no utensils. The side dishes were limited to pickle spears, onion slices, and jalapeño peppers washed down with cold beer, red soda pop, or sweetened tea. There was no barbecue sauce, potato salad, or deserts.
Even with the no-frills style of dining, the barbecue joint thrived. According to state comptroller figures, Texas boasts more than 2,100 barbecue establishments. Most towns, no matter how small, have a Dairy Queen and a barbecue joint of some kind. The crowning recognition for Kreuz Market came in 1990 when C. Paul Luongo, in his book America's Best 100, named the old meat market the best barbecue in the nation. Schmidt died that same year, and that is when the trouble started.
The family feud that made national headlines began when the elder Schmidt, in a King Solomon gesture, gave the business to his sons Rick and Don and the building to his daughter, Nina. The siblings worked and played well together until 1998 when the brothers began negotiating a new lease with their sister. Rather than pay her price, they moved Kreuz Market to a new building on the northern outskirts of town, and Nina and her family started a new business named after her father.
"We expanded the menu," says John Fullilove, Nina's son. The meat menu on the wall above the butcher's scale in the pit area hasn't changed much in 40 years. Hot off the grill you can get brisket, pork chops, pork ribs, prime rib, and a German-style smoked sausage that has a spicy bite. "The half-inch-thick pork chops are probably the biggest seller," he says.
Grandpa Schmidt would be amazed at the amount of work that goes into running the barbecue business these days. The meat is still served on butcher paper, but the guests have the option of adding a tangy barbecue sauce, potato salad, or beans to their order. "They're all handmade right here," he says.
The parking lot of Smitty's Market is on U.S. 183 as it goes through downtown Lockhart. The smoker is open Monday through Friday, 7am to 6pm; Saturday, 7am to 6:30pm; and Sunday, 9am to 3pm. To place an order, call 512/398-9344.
You'll have to decide for yourself which of the two Schmidt barbecue joints is best. The new Kreuz Market is on U.S. 183 on the northern edge of town. They have expanded their menu too, adding deserts, potato salad, beans, and more kinds of sausage. The doors are open Monday through Saturday, 10:30am to 8pm, and they are closed Sunday. For information, call 512/398-2361 or go to www.kreuzmarket.com.
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