SAN ANTONIO — SAN ANTONIO-The famed Texas BBQ Trail is far from smoke, mirrors and myths. It's actually smokey pits, exceptional meat and customers who have help cultivate these Central Texas cities as the hot spot for barbecue in Texas.
According to the locals, German and Czech settlers opened meat markets that evolved into barbecue joints. That story is true for most of the restaurants listed on the Texas BBQ Trail. At least two have a different origin.
Neighborhood Eats spent two days driving to the five cities (Luling, Lockhart, Elgin, Taylor and Bastrop) on the Texas BBQ Trail to sample the fare for our Great Grill Almighty Tour. Of course, there are other BBQ establishments in each city, but for this series of reports we followed the restaurants listed on the Texas BBQ Trail website.
If you want to know anything about the Luling City Market, ask manager Joe Capello. He walks around the restaurant in a gold helmet.
He said the restaurant got started by brothers Lanos and Howard Ellis in 1958. The family owned business is located at 633 E Davis Street.
"We do brisket. We do sausage and we do ribs," He said.
Capello is pretty sure City Market has the competition beat with their St. Louis style ribs. In fact, tourists make up a large share of their business.
"They drive from all over to just come get our ribs," He said.
Luling City Market is a cash-only business where customers order their sides in the front and the meat in the back of the place. Patrons have to pay for each separately.
Neighborhood Eats was provided with a sampler of brisket, crackers, sausage and cheese, potato salad, pinto beans and those famous ribs. The meat is smoked with post oak.
The sides are adequate for the meal. The smoked meat is the star from the house made sausage to the brisket. If you are a rib fan, this could be your place. Neighborhood Eats loved them! The BBQ sauce isn't too shabby either. Customers buy it by the gallon.
Ken Blevins family bought Luling Bar-B-Q. The business' history traces back to a grocery and meat market. They been at 709 E. Davis since 2003.
"We're the only one in the area that I know of that uses Mesquite as our wood smoke which gives it a unique stronger flavor," Blevins said.
He said the consolidation of the all restaurants on the BBQ trail and their accessibility makes them the hot bed of barbecue. Luling, in his opinion, may be one of the top sellers.
"The city of Luling may sell more BBQ per capita than any other place in the world," He said.
Their all-beef sausage is king, according to Blevins. They also do a jalapeno version where the pepper are blended in for continuity. The process prevents the dread from the burning hot spots in a sausage and the next bite having no jalapeno at all.
Luling Bar-B-Q also does brisket, ribs, pork chops (weekends only), pork loin, turkey breast with cracked pepper, chopped beef and seven sides.
Neighborhood Eats was provided a taste test of the sausage, ribs, turkey breast, brisket, beans and potato salad. All of it passed the taste test. However, for this taster, the smoked turkey rules the roost.
1323 S Colorado Street is where Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que is located. Owner Mike Capello said they are celebrating 40 years of smoking barbecue. His family bought the place in 2015.
"This is where the locals eat," Capello said. " So were are less of the tourist attraction and more of t he value attraction."
Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que boasts a hefty menu of nearly everything. It brings in customers from all over.
"Brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken, turkey, ham," Capello said. "You name it. We do it."
The meat is given a dry rub and slow cooked with post oak. The restaurant serves 18 sides and bakes bread in house. It's a cafeteria style setting that also comes with dessert.
"We sell more chicken than anyone else in town," He said. "But the fajitas? You can't get smoked fajitas anywhere."
The smoked fajitas are used to top a huge baked potato. Word is the combo is to die for.
Neighborhood Eats snagged a huge sampler of ribs, brisket, sausage and cheese, freshly baked bread, banana pudding and pecan pie. The food is good and so is the atmosphere.
Kreuz has been around since 1900. According to its history, the business started off as a grocery store and meat market. It's barbecue became a legitimate longstanding thing.
The business occupies a massive facility at 619 N. Colorado Street in Lockhart. It seats just over 700 people.
Pitmaster Roy Perez said Kreuz sticks to its successful tradition.
"We do the old fashioned blood, sweat and tears," Perez said.
He said there are no secret recipes. They use salt, pepper and a little cayenne.
"We don't inject. We don't marinade it overnight," He said. " We just season it and put it on."
Perez said in his 31 years at Kreuz he's seen customers come from all over the United States and as far away as England to try their product. In fact, he said 85 percent of their patrons come from out-of-town.
"That's why you have to always be on your toes," He said.
According to the Pitmaster, all the meat is good but the demand is for their huge pork chops, brisket (Cooked for just six hours), pork shoulder and prime rib. Of course, they also do house made sausage, beef ribs, pork ribs, pork belly, chicken, German potato salad, beans, coleslaw and corn.
Neighborhood Eats had the pork chop, ribs, brisket and sausage. The pork chop is phenomenal! Kreuz's brisket is slightly above awesome. The rest of the fare was good too.