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Heart-of-Texas Barbecue Belt

The barbecue belt of central Texas: east of I-35 and north of I-10 where brisket, prime rib, and beef sausage are cooked in the haze of oak smoke slow enough that they baste themselves. Going back to the early 20th century when butchers decided to smoke unsold and unwanted cuts of beef and serve them at makeshift tables in the back rooms of their meat markets, Texas barbecues are secret-seeming places where amenities are minimal. Order meat by the pound and sausage by the link. They are slapped down onto a sheet of pink butcher paper along with a stack of soft white bread. Plates are extraneous, as are forks. Barbecue sauce? Some places have it, some don't; in the best of them, sauce is inconsequential. Beef is what matters.

Black's Barbecue
Kreuz Market
City Market
Prause's Meat Market
Southside Market
Louie Mueller Barbecue
Black's Barbecue - Lockhart , TX
Black’s dining room actually has décor in the form of trophies and pictures of the high school football team on its knotty pine walls. These luxuries have no bearing on the superiority of Black’s pork ribs, sausage rings that burst with flavor, and brisket slices bisected by an ethereal ribbon of translucent fat.
Smitty's - Lockhart , TX
In the back room, logs still burn in the old pit, which turns out gorgeous sausage rings and big-flavored brisket. Order your food here, and it is presented to you on butcher paper, which you carry up front to one of the tables in the air conditioned dining room. Most people know to eat this meat with their hands. It’s too tender for utensils, and too nice not to touch.
Kreuz Market - Lockhart , TX
There is absolutely no denying that its slabs of pit-cooked prime rib are among the most carnivorously satisfying foodstuffs on earth. Brisket, sausage, and ribs are all superb. Despite its modern facilities, Kreuz has maintained pit-cook tradition: a limited menu that is meat, bread, and condiments; and tote-your-own service from a ferociously hot pit where meat is sliced to order and sold by the pound.
City Market - Luling , TX
Unlike many of the great, rough-around-the-edges barbecue restaurants in this region, the City Market is actually comfortable. Eat your meat plain or sauced. While sauce is generally not part of the equation of great barbecue in Texas, City Market does make significant barbecue sauce – a spice-speckled, dark orange emulsion that is coveted by customers.
Prause's Meat Market - LaGrange , TX
Order your meat by the pound or by the link. Slow-cooked beef is cut to order on the butcher block in the front room. Sausage links and sliced brisket are arranged on a thick cardboard plate; and both are so juicy that no barbecue sauce is required. On the side you get white bread and/or saltine crackers. After waiting in line to get this prize meal, you carry it yourself to the back room, stopping, if necessary, to grab some plastic silverware.
Southside Market - Elgin , TX
The sausage is spectacular – vividly spiced, taut, and moist beyond description; but don’t ignore the sliced beef; it too is luscious and flavorful, needing no companion other than a few slices of white bread just to mop its juices.
Louie Mueller Barbecue - Taylor , TX
Louie Mueller’s brisket is a thing of beauty. It is sliced relatively thick, salt-and-pepper crusted, its outside turned black from hours in the pit, its fat-laced interior moist and soft and veritably dripping flavor. It is served with a cup of sauce reminiscent of au jus. Also try the sausage that virtually explodes with juices once you sever the natural casing.

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