Why would a barbecue joint fly a white flag sporting a black star above a 19th century cannon atop the slogan “Come and Take It” at their entrance?
Texans who know their history need no explanation. The rest of us can quickly figure it out via an Internet search.
The flag is modeled after a hand-drawn flag used by Texas colonists in their first fight for independence from Mexico in 1835. Ironically, the cannon was given to them by the Mexican government for defense against Comanche raids. When colonial rebellion was in the air, the Mexican government demanded that the cannon be returned. Hence, the defiant, “Come and take it.”
Entering the Dallas barbecue scene with the name Lockhart Smokehouse is not an act of rebellion, but it is bold and bodacious.
Jill Grobowsky Bergus, Lockhart Smokehouse co-owner, along with husband Jeff and chef Tim McLaughlin, has bodaciousness and then some. A substantial part of the “then some” is Jill’s barbecue pedigree. She was raised in Temple, Texas, but spent a lot of time visiting relatives in Lockhart, Texas, during childhood and thereafter.
Her grandfather Edgar “Papa” Schmidt bought Kreuz Market in Lockhart from the Kreuz family in 1948 and grew it into one of the most beloved smokehouses in America.
To barbecue lovers, Lockhart is the epicenter of Texas barbecue. All four barbecue joints in the town of 13,000 people have loyal fans. Kreuz Market, Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Q and Smitty’s Market serve barbecue that is so fantastic, the Texas House of Representatives declared Lockhart “The Barbecue Capital of Texas” in 1999. The Texas Senate affirmed the House action in 2003.
The basic no-frills Lockhart Smokehouse formula is wood, fire, meat and beer. Meats are lightly seasoned with pepper, salt and smoke. No injections; no candied mops or complex blends of herbs and spices, wet or dry. And like the non-negotiable protocol at Kreuz Market, you eat meat with your hands, your plate is butcher paper and to ask for sauce would imply that you think the meat isn’t good enough by itself. Don’t ask.
The Lockhart Smokehouse team adapted to metro Dallas’ open pit barbecue regulations by smoking with Bewley pits, resulting in post oak smoke magic that is true to the Lockhart tradition.
They first opened on West Davis in Dallas’ arts district four years ago, followed later with the Plano smokehouse, where barbecue buddies Howard Taylor, Gary Bronkema and I paid a recent visit.
My tasting notes:
▪ Clod (beef shoulder): lean, dense, with hint of smoke; remarkably tender for this cut of meat.
▪ Brisket: thick, juicy, smoky, tender slices of pure Texas barbecue.
▪ Wagyu belly: fall apart tender full-flavored fat and smoky meat feast.
▪ Spareribs: traditional cut, tender, juicy, hint of smoke.
▪ Devil’s Eggs: light on smoke, big on flavor; more tempting than the apple in Eden.
▪ Mac-n-Cheese: creamy, rich, wow!
Lockhart Smokehouse offers an excellent selection of standard and craft beers. Santos on tap, served in a canning jar, was a perfect complement.
Put Lockhart Smokehouse in Plano or Dallas in your GPS, along with 18th & Vine, when planning your next trip to metro Dallas.
Meanwhile, for true stick burner barbecue in the tradition of central Texas, head to Chow Town’s Slap’s on Strawberry Hill. Their sausage is remarkably similar to the Kreuz sausage served at Lockhart Smokehouse. Go and take it.
Lockhart Smokehouse-Plano is at 1026 E. 15th St. in Plano, Texas. Its telephone number is 972-516-8900.
Lockhart Smokehouse-Dallas is at 400 W. Davis St. in Dallas. Its telephone number is 214-944-5521.
Lockhart Smokehouse can be found on the Internet at lockhartsmokehouse.com
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent releases are America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk, and Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style .