Eating barbecue at Smitty’s is a biblical experience. When you enter streetside (as you should), you arrive a sinner. The hallway is long, dark, and smoke-stained with knives chained to wall-huddled tables on either side of your path. You hear muffled voices and see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s the fires of damnation you have to negotiate, somewhat welcoming in December but blistering in August. You turn right and shuffle into the darkened pit where you wipe the sweat from your brow and choose your flayed beast as hatchet-like knives slam against a wooden table the circumference of a felled redwood. Penance paid, you turn away from the fire and enter redemption–an air-conditioned, light-filled space where you order bean, avocado, and Big Red and sit with the saved to eat your sacrifice. You return to this mortal coil, back where you started on the street, eyes raised heavenward toward the cathedral courthouse, ready to meet the world anew and proselytize about your experience.
Back in the old days, some 10 years ago, you couldn’t get good cue in Austin. You had to venture to Llano or Lockhart. And although Austin cue now surpasses these hallowed grounds, the all-around best barbecue experience remains, in my not-so-humble opinion, at Smitty’s née Kreuz.
Smitty’s used to be Kreuz’ until a family disagreement after a patriarch’s death forced Kreuz to drag their fire to a somewhat antiseptic pole-barn on the north side of town. Still great barbecue, but sorely missing the 100 years of smoke staining old brick walls, the soul of the old place. Great barbecue has to be great barbecue, but the experience means something as well. So it was good news when Smitty’s delivered great barbecue in the old building just off the square.
If a visitor is looking for the Central Texas barbecue experience, we make the 40-minute drive to Lockhart to Smitty’s (TxDOT conveniently provides an 85-mph toll road to its doorstep). Lockhart is a quaint village worth a good wander in its own right. And if you’re still hungry, there are three other highly-rated barbecue joints in town!
web&where: interwebs; 208 south commerce, lockhart; (512) 398-9344
what’s the deal? best all-around barbecue experience in Texas; counter service
overall: ***** (food****; drink**; atmosphere*****; service***; instagrammability****)
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]