The Best BBQ in Lockhart, Texas

Our favorite places to eat smoked meats in Texas’ barbecue capital, ranked.
The Best BBQ in Lockhart, Texas image

photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

Lockhart is the official barbecue capital of Texas. And up until a few years ago, the lines at its handful of meat purveyors were so long, you’d have to dedicate a few hours of your precious weekend to get a plate. Nowadays, there are enough buzzy barbecue spots in Austin to keep most of the crowds away, but it’s still worth driving past the airport to explore Lockhart’s downtown and sink your teeth into a cheddar-jalapeño sausage. 

Lockhart has plenty to offer, like traditional pits that have probably been hot (literally and metaphorically) for a century straight, and newcomers bringing additions like lamb shanks and sides of neon green spaghetti into the fold. These are the absolute best barbecue spots in town, ranked.


photo credit: Nicolai McCrary



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If the name Terry Black sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve gone to town on brisket and ribs at their Austin location on Barton Springs. Terry Black’s is the first place you’ll see (and smell) on the drive into Lockhart, and it’s the best overall spot in town for brisket that melts in your mouth, tender and moist spare ribs, and snappy sausages.

And while the focus on excellent meat in Lockhart can mean sides are treated as an afterthought, that’s not the case here. The thick elbows of mac and cheese are glossy, and the creamed corn is a barbecue classics done right. There’s a pretty small indoor dining room if you want to enjoy some air conditioning, but the real action is outside, where you can watch the staff tuck briskets into the pits like they’re being put down for a gentle nap.

Both Black’s and Terry Black’s were started by the same family, but have since broken off into two different barbecue dynasties. Brisket is often praised as the end-all-be-all meat in Central Texas barbecue, but the ribs here deserve plenty of attention for their perfect amount of bite and smoke. The sausages are also great, and their jalapeño links have a prominent herby jalapeño flavor. The cozy space has lots of exposed wood walls and not a ton of natural light, so the dining room feels almost lost in time, but homey. The well-seasoned beans have been made from the same recipe since the 1930s, and you’ll find yourself shoveling them into your mouth between bites of sausage and beef ribs.

Central Texas barbecue traditions can largely be attributed to German and Czech butchers who immigrated to the state in the mid-1800s. So it makes sense that a German market that’s been smoking meat for more than a century would be a barbecue institution. The pits at Kreuz Market look like they haven’t been cold in a hundred years, and the pork chops are so moist and tender you can tear off a piece with just a fork. Once your meat is sliced and served on a paper-lined tray, you can head into the dining room where there are tons of large tables to spread out, plus a separate counter where you can grab some sides and a few bottles of Shiner. The sides here also stand out—you should definitely get some creamed corn with poblanos and baked potato casserole, or lean into the German roots and get a side of fennel-seed-flecked sauerkraut.

Walking through Smitty’s long hallway feels like entering the queue of a meat-themed Disney ride. The walls have a layer of smoke and soot, and the fires feeding the pits are just a few feet away from your ankles when you stand in line. The classically Central Texas brisket has a fragrant bark and plenty of moisture, and is perfectly balanced without tasting overly salty or smoky. It’s impossible to eat barbecue without a little mess, but your fingers are guaranteed to shine with beef fat, especially since there are no forks to be found here (just spoons and knives). Our only complaint is that the meat can be a little inconsistent across cuts—the pork ribs are a bit dry, especially when compared to the luscious brisket. 

Barb’s is the new kid on the block in Lockhart’s barbecue scene, and one of the few spots in town where you’ll find people waiting in folding chairs outside. They have classic cuts like brisket and pork ribs, but also inventive flavors and sides. Instead of potato salad or mac and cheese, you’ll find heaps of neon green spaghetti and a generous sprinkle of freshly grated lime zest on each plate. Everything here is good, but Barb’s neighbors are just more consistently great (to be fair, they’ve been at it for a few more decades). You should definitely still make the trek here to hang out on a late Saturday morning, since the camaraderie is reminiscent of the 6am crowds camping out for a pound of Franklin brisket.

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