The legend of the Texas BBQ is alive and well in Lockhart

In the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a US Senator (played by Jimmy Stewart) entertains a group of reporters with stories of real and embellished accomplishments. When he asks what they want to write about him, one of the reporters famously jokes, “It’s the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Though misquoted and misattributed over the years, the comment still applies today: Every story contains fact and fiction, and the fiction is usually more interesting than the fact.

Except when it comes to Texas Barbecue. I’m often asked why Texas Barbecue is so popular. From my experience, authenticity matters.

The alignment of facts and legends on the Texas BBQ is well underway at Lockhart.

Known as the “Barbecue Capital of Texas,” Lockhart’s popularity and influence has ebbed and flowed over the years. Of late, the Austin influence has become predominant, where grill destinations with retro-cool dining rooms, sleek barrel smokers and heavily marbled brisket are the media darlings of celebrities and influencers.

Sure, the best joints make for a great product and experience. But they’ve garnered some criticism for homogenizing Texas barbecue. In other words, they are the real deal, even though they lack the unique and sometimes chaotic myths and truths that only time can bestow.

208 S. Handel, Lockhart

Lockhart, on the other hand, is steeped in myth and legend. From the family feuds of the Schmidts and the Blacks to the time capsule atmosphere of Smitty’s Market, Texas barbecue history can be tasted and experienced.

Stepping into Smitty’s makes you feel like you’re back in the 1920’s when the building was built. If you go through the anteroom into a dimly lit mine room, you first come across an open fireplace next to the order counter; If you’re wearing shorts and get a little closer, you can feel the hair on your legs singe.

The smell of curdled fat and post-oak smoke creates a Pavlovian reaction, convenient as you approach the cutting block to place your order. You might find the dark-painted brick walls unusual (why black?) until you realize it’s a smoky patina from decades of cooking.

There are literal creosote stalactites hanging from the ceiling above the pits.

Place your order Meat Market-style (by the pound) and the orderer barks the details at the meat cutters standing at the worn chopping block behind. The meat is pulled from the pit, cut to order, wrapped in butcher paper and handed over after payment (cash only).