Barbecue and Beyond

How the Historical BBQ City of Lockhart is Looking Forward
Smitty's Market uses the same pit as barbecue legend Edgar A. "Smitty" Schmidt used in 1948. Photo by Robert Gomez.

When Lockhart is mentioned,
mouths all across Texas begin to water.

Long synonymous with barbecue in the Lone Star State, Lockhart’s fame for all things smoked and delicious extends far beyond Texas. Any serious BBQ tourist knows that a visit to Lockhart is a vital part to any smoked meat bucket list. The city’s contribution to Texas ’cue was recognized officially by the Texas Legislature in 2003 when lawmakers designated Lockhart as the “Barbecue Capital of Texas.”

The Original Blacks Barbecue is the oldest joint in Texas owned by the same family.
Photo by Robert Gomez.

The history of barbecue in Lockhart goes as far back as we can trace the history of barbecue anywhere in Texas, and the legacies of the fine joints in Lockhart continue to this day. Barbecue will always be a part of Lockhart, and it is integral to its future—but coals of the pit aren’t the only embers burning brightly. Recent growth and development are ushering in an exciting new future for the town, ensuring that Lockhart will soon be as closely associated with business and culture as it is with barbecue.

Kreuz Market is Lockhart's oldest BBQ joint when Jessie Swearingen opened the meat market and began selling barbecue. Photo by Robert Gomez.
You can find the traditional "Texas Trinity" every day of the week at Kreuz Market. Photo by Robert Gomez.

Lockhart barbecue history begins way back in 1875, when Jessie Swearingen opened a meat market and began selling barbecue. This meat market was purchased by Charles Kreuz in 1900 and became Kreuz Market. Still in operation today, it is Lockhart’s oldest BBQ joint. Kreuz Market prides itself on smoking meat in the same method it always has. Traditions are important here—the joint didn’t even offer sauce or forks until 2017.

Kent Black, the pitmaster for Black's Barbecue, is the 3rd generation of the Black's family barbecue lineage. Photo by Robert Gomez.

Though not quite as old as Kreuz Market, the Original Black’s Barbecue is famous for being the oldest joint in Texas owned by the same family—four generations of Blacks have manned the pits since 1932. All the meat is marvelous at Black’s, but they are particularly famous for their smoked beef ribs.

Black's Barbecue is known for their enormous beef ribs. Photo by Robert Gomez.
Smitty's Market in the early morning on Lockhart square.
Photo by Robert Gomez.

Barbecue is often a family affair, and Smitty’s Market is no exception. Begun by the daughter of Lockhart barbecue legend Edgar A. “Smitty” Schmidt, Smitty’s Market is in the original location of Kreuz Market and uses the same pit her father smoked on since he bought the place in 1948 after working for the Kreuz Family since he was 13.

A relative newcomer in Lockhart, Chisholm Trail Barbecue has been around for a short, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 44 years. In a town where the new kid on the block has been serving quality ’cue for almost five decades, you know you’re in the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Serving a delightful assortment of meats, Chisholm Trail Barbecue bills itself as the place “where the locals eat. Another local spot is Riley’s Pit BBQ. Pitmaster Riley Salas has been in the BBQ biz since he sold firewood to joints as a teenager. Be sure to check out the BBQ Meatloaf Special every Wednesday.

Chisholm Trail bills itself as "where the locals eat" and you'll often find a line of cars in the drive thru.
Photo by Robert Gomez.
Beef ribs on one of the many smokers at Terry Black’s BBQ Lockhart.
The line starts early Saturday morning for Barbs-B-Q, the newest joint in Lockhart. Be sure to try their “green spaghetti,” for an exciting twist on BBQ sides.

Lockhart’s BBQ present is just as exciting as its storied past. Terry Black’s and Barbs-B-Q have brought their own unique twists on the BBQ game to bring even more options to Lockhart. Terry Black is of course of the famous Black BBQ family of Lockhart. The Barbs crew are all newcomers to Lockhart, but the pitmasters there have worked in some of the finest joints in Texas.

Barbecue plate at Chisholm Trail. Photo by Robert Gomez.

These six joints estimate that about 250,000 people a year make the pilgrimage to chow down on their famous selections of smoked meats. That’s quite a boon to the Lockhart economy, but with recent economic development, the city will soon be known for more than barbecue.

Mill Scale Metal Works creates barbecue smokers out of old propane tanks. Photo by Robert Gomez.
Welding the finishing touches on the new smoker for Kreuz Market.
Photo by Robert Gomez.
Each smoker is built on a trailer for mobility. Photo by Robert Gomez.

Mill Scale Metal Works, a maker of fine crafted smokers, is planning to build a manufacturing facility and retail storefront near Kreuz Market. The company has built smokers for multiple BBQ joints on the Texas Monthly top 50 list and would add to Lockhart’s historic BBQ legacy while bringing skilled jobs to town.

McElroy Metal, a Louisiana-based roofing manufacturer, expands its operations to Lockhart. Its distribution facility is under construction in the Lockhart Industrial Park III, located just off SH 130—a prime location for any industry looking to expand its reach to the Austin–San Antonio corridor.

The Ziegenfelder Company, the nation’s largest producer of Twin Pops, Monster Pops, and other seasonal popsicles, expands to Lockhart through its upcoming 100,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in the new SH 130 Industrial Park, along with creating over 90 well-paying jobs. McCoy’s Building Supply, one of the nation’s largest privately held building supply retailers, establishes its presence in Lockhart through its newest store.

Lockhart is the official "BBQ Capital of Texas." Photo by Robert Gomez.

New industry brings new residents to Lockhart. The town is experiencing unprecedented growth as folks have begun to flock to the charming town. As housing prices soar in big cities, more and more Texans are beginning to see how beautiful living in a smaller, more intimate community can be. Artists, musicians, and chefs have begun to call Lockhart home, enriching the already vibrant culture of the town.

Soak up some peace and maybe catch a fish at Lockhart City Park. Photo courtesy City of Lockhart
Hike, bike, swim, and even golf at Lockhart State Park.
Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department © 2022.

Barbecue is what brings many folks to Lockhart, but there’s more to do after having a great lunch. The shops around the square in Lockhart offer everything from vintage goods to antique items to musical instruments and western wear. In Lockhart’s City Park you’ll find an expansive green space with a beautiful pond. There visitors can take in the views of the ducks, and maybe even cast out a line to catch some fish.

Visitors who have a little extra time will want to check out Lockhart State Park. First built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, the park became a state park in 1948. The park offers camping, hiking, biking, a pool in the summer, and even has a golf course. This fantastic slice of nature is just outside Lockhart.

The beautiful Dr. Eugene Clark Library is the oldest continuously operating library in the State of Texas and is still housed in its original building, first erected in 1899. Photo courtesy City of Lockhart
Custom stained glass windows decorate the interior of the library. Photo courtesy Texas Highways Magazine

If you'd like to spend a little time indoors, Lockhart has just the location. Right off the square, take a step back in time at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, the oldest continuously operating library in the State of Texas. It's still housed in its original building, first erected in 1899. Visitors will note the library's distinctive deep-red brick and its stately dome. Once inside, it is impossible to not admire the library's beautiful stained glass windows and ornate iron spiral staircases.

Caldwell County Courthouse in downtown Lockhart. Photo by Robert Gomez.

Lockhart will always be the Barbecue Capital of Texas. After all, the Texas Legislature officially proclaimed its status as such—but Lockhart is rapidly becoming known for even more. Just as great food brings people together, so does a bustling cultural scene and an economy with an eye towards the future. Come for the historic BBQ, stay for the bright new future!

All photography by Robert Gomez except Iron Ox images.

Iron Ox photos were provided by Iron Ox.