The luminaries of Texas barbecue are justly revered—from Lockhart's century old Kreuz Market, to Taylor's estimable Louie Mueller Barbecue to the ever-popular Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ in Llano. For the BBQ dabbler these names are familiar, but their pitmasters may as well be Hollywood celebrities to the smoked meat enthusiast. There is little more that can be added to their exaltation, but what about those hard working pitmasters whose toils aren’t lit by the same spotlight? Demand is so high for the offerings of the Texas all-stars that most of these towns have a few other joints to serve the hungry locals. These places may put out good, even drive-worthy barbecue, but they are destined to remain in the shadows, always obscured by the thousand-pound gorilla down the block. They are as Scottie Pippen was to Michael Jordan and Andre Agassi to Pete Sampras. But remember, Pippen and Agassi had game. Some of these joints have been recognized for their well-smoked meats, and most are known to the serious BBQ hound (as defined by his or her willingness to eat more than two lunches in a single day), but for average tourist these restaurants will rarely win out over their more famous counterpart in the same town. That’s too bad. My advice is, when BBQ-ing, to always consider multiple (small) meals in quick succession, and to make these particular joints your second or third stop while in any of these hallowed barbecue towns. Chisholm Trail, Lockhart "Starting a barbecue place here was like putting a ballpark across from Yankee Stadium." These are the words of owner Floyd Wilhelm on his decision to open Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que in Lockhart, home to three legendary joints, Kreuz Market, Smitty’s Market, and Black’s. Wilhelm worked at Black’s before opening the doors here, and over thirty years later his son Daniel does most of the cooking. They do many of the same things their more popular competitors do down the street like making their own succulent beef and pork sausage and smoking their meats in an all wood-fired smoker. They also change things up a bit by offering a wider menu of main courses and a large salad bar. This helps Chisholm Trail stay popular with the locals as evidenced by them winning the title of Best Barbecue in Caldwell County in a reader’s poll conducted by the local paper.
Articles by Daniel Vaughn
Oct 23, 2011 — By Daniel Vaughn
Editor’s Note: The Texas Monthly BBQ Festival is almost here! Each day until then, we’ll be talking to one of the featured pitmasters, with questions from TM staffers, esteemed BBQ experts, Twitter followers and you, the readers of this blog. Today we bring you Scott Morales, 45 and Vencil Mares, 87, of Taylor Café in Taylor. For more info, visit their page on TMBBQ.com. As far as your heat source, I assume you guys use all wood there? Scott: Yes. And what kind of wood? Scott: Post Oak Who did you learn your craft from? Did you previously work at another barbeque joint? Scott: I learned the majority from Vencil and then a little bit on my own, just barbecuing on weekends. How about you, Vencil? Vencil: From Southside Market in Elgin, Texas. And at your place do you have a meat that you consider a signature meat? Scott: Probably our turkey sausage. The turkey sausage and pretty much everything’s to die for. The turkey sausage, you guys make that in-house. Do you have another sausage? Scott: Yes. We also make our own beef sausage also. Is that like an Elgin "hot guts" style? Scott: No it’s pretty much a signature of Vencil’s. It’s always been.
Sep 7, 2011 — By Daniel Vaughn
Editor's Note: Daniel Vaughn, writing under the name BBQ Snob, runs the Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog and will also be writing about barbecue for Texas Monthly. This is his first column. Texas barbecue is having a moment. It seems like every time I turned around this summer, another national media outlet was stumbling over itself to name its own best BBQ joint in the state. Most of the adulation, of course, was pointed at Franklin Barbecue, the small Austin joint that has skyrocketed over the past two years from a humble little trailer on the side of I-35 to an eternally overcrowded restaurant that Bon Appétit declared, in July, to be the best BBQ joint in America. The incessant buzz (and incredibly long lines) even prompted a "Hitler reaction" parody, a sure sign that the joint's success has penetrated to the far corners of the popular imagination. But it hasn’t been all Franklin. USA Today bucked the trend by naming the Salt Lick the best of the Central Texas bunch, and CNN sang the praises of City Meat Market in Giddings. You will, by now, have noticed a common denominator. As is usual when the BBQ buzz machine starts running, most of the attention this summer has been on Austin and Central Texas. In the statewide discussion about smoked meats, there is one city whose offerings are routinely dismissed or derided, a city that, to judge from the attention it gets, you wouldn’t even know had any smoked meat within its limits. That city would be Dallas. That the BBQ of Big D has enjoyed little renown for some time is mostly warranted. Until recently, Dallas was afflicted with a smoked meat malaise that allowed subpar barbecue to be praised based on days long passed. As recently as five years ago, the city’s food critics were giving top BBQ nods to the likes of Sonny Bryan’s and Dickey’s—joints that were rightly praised in their decades ago heyday, but which currently don’t even try to compete with the big boys in the state. I am happy to report that change is afoot. In the past two years, almost while no one was looking, a full-fledged barbecue renaissance has taken root in neighborhoods all over Dallas. For the first time since Sonny Bryan was still manning his pits those many decades ago, Big D is making a bid to be taken seriously as a BBQ town. I’ve zeroed in on five restaurants as the torch bearers of this movement, which above all, is marked by a deeply traditional approach. Certain common themes bind these five joints together—they all use wood, not gas, and they all have prominent, thoughtful pitmasters. Their attention to detail and quality has bred a new population of connoisseurs, who, in turn, are raising expectations beyond good sauce and free soft serve.
Nov 11, 2010 — By Daniel Vaughn
This was the morning where instead of discovering another great barbecue joint in Texas, Smokemaster1 and I were taking my friend Rob to the heart of barbecue country to find out what all the fuss was about. A stop at Chisholm Trail for excellent sausage and brisket but no…
May 14, 2009 — By Daniel Vaughn
On two previous trips to Lockhart, Kreuz was solid, but it has never been otherworldly. I assumed this trip would be no different, but it turned out to be one of my best barbecue experiences. I’ve eaten mounds of barbecue in my time, but this day was different. Two companions and…