Monday, December 29, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008: Black's Barbecue (Lockhart, Texas)

Man Up’s first outing was back in August. A 3.5-hour round trip to Lockhart that brought us BBQ at Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market and cobbler a la mode at Chisholm Trail. The one place we didn’t visit was Black’s Barbecue, and I’ve been waiting for the chance to return to Lockhart and finish what we started.

One car of 7 and one car of 4 made the 30-mile drive to Lockhart. Our first lunch got off to a rip-roaring start when Travis asked the lady behind the self-serve counter whether this was an all-you-can-eat line. Classic. There are several hot and cold sides, plus brisket, sausage, ribs, pork loin, smoked turkey, and chicken. Bottles of Black’s barbecue sauce are on the tables. Good iced tea, and great crushed ice.

I enjoyed all of my order – brisket, turkey, pork loin, and pickles – but the turkey and pork were particularly good. Both were very tender and moist. Louie Mueller is probably the only place I’ve been that has better turkey, but the pork might have been the best yet. My thoughts on the brisket are the same as Bo’s (see below). Somehow, I didn’t notice that they serve chicken, so I missed out this time.

What pushed the visit from good to great, though, was the service. Outstanding. All of the staff were personable and attentive, especially co-owner Kent Black, who took the time to give us a personal behind-the-scenes tour of Black’s. Kent showed us, and talked us through the Xs and Os of, the meat-cutting area, the pit, and the wood-aging grounds out back. He was an absolutely wonderful host and a pleasure to meet. Be sure to try to meet him, if you stop in.

Russell, on the hospitality and the food: “Mr. Black taking the time to explain to our group the 50+ year legacy of his family's restaurant, from the original smokers to the original cutting blocks to explaining the aging of the oak and brisket, was just tremendously informative. Their place has a very warm, welcoming Texas feel to it. Pork loin: This was some of the juiciest, most flavorful pork I've ever had, and is my recommended item at Black's. Turkey: I'm not a huge turkey fan at a lot of BBQ joints; but theirs was very flavorful and moist. I would also recommend this highly. Pork ribs: Great flavor, but mine were a bit on the tough and crispy side. Beef brisket: It had nice flavor and was very tender, but I was a little disappointed in the stringy, sort of roast-beefish quality of the brisket on this day. Sausage (jalapeno and cheese): Very solid. Overall: Ranks highly mainly because of the hospitality and authentic TX BBQ joint feel.”

Bo’s thoughts on his first Man-Up meal: “From the moment the door cracks open and you first get the aroma of the BBQ the hospitality begins in true Texas Style. Beef brisket: The flavor of the brisket was top notch. However, texturally, it was a bit over marbelized for me. Turkey: No disappointments here. The turkey was smoked slow, which allowed it to retain its moisture and the flavor was definitely there. Sausage (jalapeno and cheese): I like spicy and this sausage did the trick. Just enough combination of sausage flavor, jalapeno, and cheese. Pork ribs: I must echo Russell's review on these. Like the brisket, the flavor was there, but texturally they were a bit crispy. Hospitality: There isn't a score high enough. Even before Mr. Black was there the staff allowed us to view the pits. Once Mr. Black arrived, he gladly took the time to explain the legacy of what makes his restaurant special. He spoke with the enthusiasm of a little kid explaining what he got for Christmas. His passion and love for the tradition and history of not only his own restaurant but the overall Texas BBQ experience greatly shines through in the atmosphere of Black's and the food.”

Todd chimes in: “With our recent visit to Black's, my tour of the 4 BBQ joints in Lockhart is now complete! Black's has a truly unique flavor and flair all its own. The set-up is a cross between the Kreuz/Smitty's style and the Chisholm Trail style. You load your plate full of sides first, and then head to the meat counter for the good stuff! My sides were great (see rankings) and were a nice compliment to the meat. I ordered pork ribs and brisket, mac 'n' cheese, and a roll. Before we left though, we were treated to a pit & kitchen tour by Kent Black (yup, it's still in the family over 70 years later). Kent gave some excellent commentary and history behind the pits, post oak wood, cutting blocks, and the local ‘wood cat.’ While the meat is not a new favorite of mine, the Mac 'n' Cheese and hospitality certainly warrant a second visit.”

Jason is short and sweet: “What a treat we got today at Black’s…one of the Blacks himself showing us around and teaching us about BBQ! That was awesome! Brisket was pretty solid. Turkey was sweet! Thick and juicy! Thickest slice I’ve ever been given and still moist! Pork rib was just ok, had a chemical taste that I don’t enjoy too much. Reminds me of Ruby’s pork rib.”

Fresh on the heels of gallivanting around Western Europe, Julianne gives us her thoughts: “Hospitality: Fabulous. Mr. Black’s tour made me want to join the family and the family business. The idea of tracing your history through a carving board was amazing. Chicken: I'm not a huge chicken fan at a lot of BBQ joints; but theirs was very flavorful and moist. This is some of the juiciest chicken I have had a BBQ joint. Pork ribs: Great flavor, very good. Beef brisket: It had nice flavor and was very tender, but I agree with Russell on the roast-beefy quality of the brisket. Overall: Ranks highly mainly because of the great hospitality and authentic old-time TX BBQ atmosphere.”

Russell’s scores – Brisket: 8.2; Pork loin: 9.9; Turkey: 9.25; Pork ribs: 8.5; Sausage (jalapeno and cheese): 8.8; Service: 12 (on a scale of 10); Overall experience: 9.85

Bo’s scores – Brisket 8.5; Turkey: 9; Sausage (jalapeno and cheese): 9.2; Pork ribs: 9; Overall experience: 9.2

Todd’s scores – Pork ribs: 8.25; Brisket: 8.65; Mac 'n' Cheese: 9.43; Roll: 7.5; Sweet tea: 8.78; Service: 9.8; Overall experience: 9

Jason’s scores – Brisket: 8.4; Turkey: 9; Overall experience: 8.5

Julianne’s scores – Brisket: 7.2; Pork ribs: 8.9; Chicken: 8.25; Service: 10; Overall experience: 9.65

Amber’s scores – Brisket: 8.5; Sausage (jalapeno and cheese): 9.44; Atmosphere: 9.6; Service: In the words of Usher, on a 1-to-10, a certified 20! Overall experience: 9.99

Drew’s scores – Brisket: 8.4; Turkey: 9.5; Pork loin: 9.85; Service: 10; Overall experience: 9.8

Brad’s scores – Pork ribs: 8; Turkey: 7.85; Chicken: 8.25; Sausage: 8.5; Brisket: 8; Ambiance: 8; Hospitality: 10; Overall experience: 9.5

Amir’s scores – Brisket: 8.25; Sausage: 8; Turkey: 9.5; Pork ribs: 8.5; Overall experience: 9.25

Overall Man-Up Score: 9.4156

Black's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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