There are few places we love as much as the pit room at City Market. Entering the smoke-filled, glass-enclosed chamber at the back of the dining room is an experience you will remember for decades—a trip into an iconic, sacred space in the world of barbecue. Like Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market, in Lockhart, this joint has been a mainstay in our top tier for years, and while we’d still recommend a visit, the tough, tasteless brisket from repeated visits over a series of months (and the impressive quality from new joints) has moved it down a notch. Maybe the layer of unrendered fat and lack of smoke is the result of the short cooking time—six to eight hours—or maybe it’s the result of a lamentable new development at City Market. We didn’t want to believe this at first, but it seems that this venerable old partisan of wood-smoking has, of late, been using a gas-fired Southern Pride smoker on the weekends to help provide for the heavy crowds. To discover the intrusion of gas into one of the canonical Central Texas joints was sort of like finding out that Willie Nelson lip-synchs, and we took it as a very dark and ominous sign. Thankfully, the other meats still stand out. The pork ribs, which showed a half-inch smoke ring, were the best thing on the menu: semisweet, meaty, and flavorful, with a perfect salty exterior. And when we bit into the homemade beef sausage ring, the snap was audible. Inside, the meat was coarse and juicy, with good seasoning. Though anything would be great dipped in City Market’s thin mustard sauce, we were a little disappointed that we had to use it on the brisket.
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