Thursday, September 23, 2010

True Texas BBQ: Blacks

On the road again
Goin places that I’ve never been
Seeing things that I may never see again
I cant wait to get on the road again

Willie Nelson

Its 7:40. We stroll out to the car. It hand’t even had time to warm up. John looked at me and said “that could be the coolest place I’ve ever eaten”. I smiles and replied, “welcome to true BBQ, and True Texas BBQ takes that a step deeper, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Now lets get to the next place”

John and Martin couldn’t believe it. Yes we were really going to another BBQ place in less than an hour. Oh I would have like to stay at Kreuz longer, but time was running out. Blacks remained to be explored. Question rose, how do we get there. I had no idea…I said just go back that way…we drove about 30 seconds and there was a sign at the end of side street…faded by the many texas summers…BLACKS THIS WAY.

I didn’t need to know anything else. We parked right out front…the unassuming front and entrance meets every expectation I have of a BBQ place. We strolled in and somehow walked right past the entrance to the line. Somehow I was instantly intoxicated by the smell of post oak and rendering meat. It was creeping everywhere in this place. Everything about it was so unassuming and unpretecious. The pictures of the football teams on the wall. The pictures of the Black Family all over. Bottles of sauce and an unmistakable tinge to all the walls saying they cook bbq here. So, I found the line to get food, but like a salmon on its way to spawn, there I was paddling upsteam .

We were corrected quicky by the delicate Hispanic woman working behind the sides…we took a plate, piled on some beans and pickles and walked to the meat counter.

½ chicken…couple rings of cheddar jalapeno sausage…and a beef rib…yes one of those dinosaur bone beef ribs!

I asked the gentleman about his warming pits and he said that when we were done eating to stop by and he’d show us around. I introduced myself to David and thanked him and told him I’d be back to take him up on his offer.

So we sat there. John announces he doesn’t like sweet tea, but cannot imagine drinking anything else here. We stared at the walls, and sampled all the food. Both my guests are amazed at these places. That feeling of becoming overly full starts to set in. A relaxed feeling comes over us, almost like a couple beer buzz. Pleasanly content. At that instant everything was falling together…willie nelson on the radio…the family coming in for a bite, the workers getting ready to close up.

We finished our food and I went directly to David to take him up on taking a look around. He excused himself for a minute and came back with a slightly dejected look on his face.
He let me know that Mr. Black has just left and that he gives a much better story about the place than he could. David is beyond polite. Everything out of his mouth is full of respect and a genuine appreciation that we’re there at Black’s…”just like Mr. Black would want it”. Somehow, staring into David’s eyes, I believe him, his attitude and aura is an extension of the Black family.
We didn’t “see” much…a true Texas pit…a pile of post oak, lifted the lids of the pits, smoke billowed out and wrapped its tentacles around use, giving us a special taste of what makes Texas bbq so true before it assaulted the walls of this shrine or maybe sneaking through a crack in the wall on its way to connect this pit with a little piece of Heaven.

We walked out of the place, several minutes after closing, and Martin and John were just standing there. John uttered the words, "Now THAT is the coolest place I've ever eaten at...I'm taking my family here sometime soon. Thanks Joe."

Me - I thank so many people, Kelly, and DivaQ, and Chris, and Dave, Wayne, and Vencil, David and Kevin, all those people who truely understand BBQ...and who aren't afraid to share it.

True BBQ Revisited – 2 Years Later: Kruez

The following is a blog I wrote some time ago...taken a little while to get it up to the public's eye, but still worthy of pubishing. Take a read...Joey Mac

Hard to believe that almost 2 years ago we had that voyage to Taylor…Wayne Mueller’s story, Vencil Mayer’s steely eyes, Brian Bracewell’s family pride…all leaving such an indelible image in my memory…True BBQ…True Texas BBQ…

Well it happened again. This time it was in Lockhart TX…home of three of the most venerable BBQ shacks in Texas, the whole country for that matter. Spent the week in San Antonio for work. Putting in long hours making an engine work began to worry me that I wasn’t going to make it to Lockhart. So on Wednesday I simple stated to my colleagues, we’re going for BBQ tonight and we’ll need to leave here early enough to make it.

My guests on this trek need a little introduction:
Martin – a gentleman from Austria who is in Texas for the first time. An adventurous person, he fit right in.
John – a Texas transplant who hails from Michigan. He’s been in Texas for nearly two years and he admits it was time for him to experience some True Texas BBQ.

San Antonio traffic was a little heavier getting out of town than I cared for but oh well. Ms. GPS said we’d get to Lockhart by 6:45…plenty of time. So this hour + drive is filled with tales of college football, places to see in Europe, a little work, but my mind was flipping pages of Peace Love and BBQ, recalling conversations with Kevin from Kruez, reading through emails from Chris and Dave to set the tone of what to expect.

I could not have scripted the next part any better. Getting off the expressway, you get onto a nice 4 lane highway…that highway merges down to a wide 2 lane…the next left turn finds you on a rural highway, still paved, winding through fields of hay, milo, a little corn, and pastures with the venerable longhorn. Their majestic horns looking ominous and yet so perfect for what we going to do. The look on Martin’s face at the site of those cattle was exactly what I wanted. Yes, we do have some interesting creatures here in the States, and in Texas especially.

On the outskirts of town I was smacked in the face of a reality of the 21st century, you cannot escape the track home subdivisions. Here in this town off the beaten track was a series of ugly two story track homes that could have been anywhere…Chicago, Cleveland, San Jose. This isn’t what I needed to see. But about the time that thought was starting to illicit disappointment in my psyche, we passed up some marvelously looking homes…large homes, wooden homes, huge front porches, rocking chairs on the front porch, folks out watering flowers and chatting in the warm east Texas evening. Approaching town, it got even better…wooden sidewalks, 19th century gables on store fronts, dates on the front of houses…1901 etc. This is more like it. Turning left on to Commerce street we passed storefronts and pick ups. Made it through town…we were seemingly heading right out of town when we were stopped at the tracks by what had to be the slowest train EVER!! Clock now said 7:10, and I’m panicing…we have two BBQ shrines to see in 50 minutes. My friends don’t really know that, they just think we’re heading to Kruez.

In between train cars, you can see peeks of the crimson building that I’d only seen pictures of but know it was right. Train passes and there it stands, the back end of the place so many of my friends say define the epitome of Texas BBQ. We pull up, park amongst all the pick up trucks and a corvette. John’s BMW is a little out of place. I have to pause a moment to look around. Just take in the front of the place…walking on the wooden porch…the banging of the screen door…Louis Mueller’s come racing back into my mind…like a drug induced flashback, my pace quickens a bit. I open the door and let my guests in. The sign directing vegetarians into grocery store makes them chuckle. I gait down the hall. I find myself wishing I was here at noon…being able experience a line all the way out the door, but instead we make our way unabated. Then we walked into the meat room. I know my mouth was agape for at least 2 minutes. The sight of so many pits, real pits, real Texas pits, just dumbfounded me. Only a couple were going at this hour. The smell of post oak filled the room, going right to my brain. Walked up to the counter…realizing that I really didn’t know what the proper etiquette was…I hadn’t even looked at a menu, I hadn’t even seen a menu and to be honest with you, I’m not sure I ever really saw one. I felt like I was coming home (damn…listening to Robert Earl Keen singing…I’m coming home as im writing this). The Hispanic gentleman behind the counter looked tired and acted even more tired. Yet he was polite and to the point. I ordered up a pound of brisket, some fatty side and some flat side…and two rings of sausage…yes bread and crackers.

I’d envisioned having my food wrapped up in butcher paper so many times, that it didn’t phase me at all. My dinner guests were amazed…where’s the tray, where’s the plate, where’s the fork…I was having a hard time taking the next steps into the place. Something about this room gave me pause. Oh I knew full well that it is of relatively new contruction, they were in the process of creating history rather than perpetuating it. Because of that, the place gave me a feeling of being half in a museum, half in a Cracker Barrel, but some of the items and pictures in there were perfect and as I was explaining to my guests why we order the food the way we did, it became more clear to me. Part of this place is blazing a new historic trail for Texas BBQ, but there is a part of it that is preserving that purest form of BBQ delight. I was also realizing, again for what must be a thousand time, that as hard as we try to make BBQ be about food, its not. BBQ is so clearly about sharing. Here the Kreuz family preserving a piece of history that just cannot be recreated. Society won’t allow it. The communal nature of everyone ordering from the a common chopping block…getting their extras in a store…its just not the way people dine anymore. The fact that Kreuz preserves this tradition is worth the trip to this shrine anytime for anybody.

I admit, initially I was disappointed. The folks there were ready to go home it was obvious. But somewhere in my recollecting this visit it became more clear. There is so much more about Kreuz than the food, although I have to tell everyone, in my opinion, they have THE BEST SAUSAGE ever!!! Hands down, no questions asked. Everything about it was perfect, flavor, texture, casing…so not only is their BBQ good, their food is too.

Before we walked out I had to stroll back through that hall of pits again. I chatted with the counter help a little, I wasn’t meeting any owners today, they’d all gone home. I took one big breath in, closed my eyes and listened to the crackling fires, the banging lids and the knife assaulting the block. And yes, this was True Texas BBQ. Thank you Kreuz!

BBQ, sliced beef and bread
Ribs and sausage and a cold Big Red
Bbq make the whole world see ya
Bbq makes everybody someone
If you’re feeling puny. Don’t know what to do
Get yourself some meat
Eat some BBQ…

Robert Earl Keen…BBQ