Lockhart is Texas’ barbecue capital, and if that sounds like a modest claim, you have not had the good fortune to eat barbecue in Texas. There are four renowned barbecue joints in this small town, the most picturesque being Smitty’s Market, so that’s where we visited.
With its combination of intense heat, smoking flesh and open furnaces, Smitty’s has a faint whiff of the underworld about it. The place is huge and dark, a vast barn with blackened walls and ceilings, filled with delicious smoke and customers contentedly working through gargantuan helpings of barbecued meat.
Dining here is elemental rather than elegant, with the meat (primarily beef, this is Texas after all) sliced to order and slapped down on butcher’s paper, the corners of which are turned up to form an ad hoc tray. Cutlery is plastic, bread is sliced white, and extras are ordered in a cafeteria-style room to the side. Conversation is minimal, with due reverence accorded to the meat, and the careful mopping-up of grease from face and hands.
On our midweek lunchtime visit Smitty’s was reasonably lively, although it’s hard to conceive of anyone arriving when the doors open at 7am. Weekends see the place packed out, with nearby Blacks, Kreuz and Chisholm Trail also doing good business, none of which may bring cheer to the cattle of Texas but can only be good news for the rest of us.