It’s like an institution in Texas, only meatier. Barbecue is talked about with the kind of reverence given to ex-Presidents and football (American football, y’all…) but to be honest, our experience with it has been a little so-what, so far.
Our first taste of the barbecue was in a little restaurant somewhere in Arkansas. We stopped for a quick lunch and had pulled pork in a bun. But it came in a sweet sauce that made it quite overpowering and a little sickly: we soon tired of it and were quite surprised that this, the stuff of legend could be quite so, well, fast-food.
Then we tried to get some from one of the food trucks in Austin. This didn’t have the whole dripping-in-sweet-sauce thing going on, but had a really strong smoky flavour that definitely stuck around to say hello a couple of hours later. Not really very pleasant.
But, we decided to give it one last go. After a recommendation from Simon Majumdar to visit the barbecue capital of the US, Lockhart we decided to try it one more time. On the way out of Austin, Lockhart is legislated by the Texan government to be the place to eat barbecue so you might assume they might have honed their way with the coal to a tee.
And you’d assume right: we visited Black’s Barbecue – according to one of the chefs, the oldest smokehouse in the US owned by the same family. They’ve been hanging brisket above the fire since 1932, and they were proud to say that the fourth generation of the family is about to take the reins.
The way it works: when you enter the restaurant you grab a polystyrene plate and fill it with anything from the side-order cart. You then walk around and choose the meat you’d like from the helpful happy chefs. And you then pay for the meat by weight. Easy.
I decided to try the ribs, the brisket and a jalepeno-cheese sausage. Wow. Winner. The brisket was my favourite but the rib came close. It’s a fairly base, basic feeling you getting when gnawing on a rib and this place should fulfill any carnivorous urges. Full stop.
When we left, our faith was fully restored in America’s ability to take some meat, hang it over a fire for many hours and then serve it up as tender chewy goodness. And these guys even deliver next day anywhere in the US if you’re feeling the need for a meaty top-up!