In Texas, we’re familiar with the Holy Trinity of barbecue meats: brisket, ribs and sausage.
How about the Holy Trinity of Texas BBQ joints?
For consistent quality and longevity, there’s little argument, at least according to the Bible of Smoked Meat in the Lone Star State. Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Kreuz Market in Lockhart and City Market in Luling are the only places to be on every one of Texas Monthly’s top-joint lists since they debuted in 1973.
We owe a huge debt to BBQ Bryan over at the Texas BBQ Treasure Hunt blog for providing the inspiration that led to this post. In August 2015, Bryan did a wonderful item analyzing the evolution of Texas Monthly’s list over the years.
At that point, Louie Mueller, Kreuz and City Market were the only joints to make all five of TM’s lists. This year, all three made it again.
The first Texas Monthly list (Top 20) came out in 1973, then Top 50 lists in 1997, 2003, 2008, 2013 and this year.
Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins and I have been to Louie Mueller recently and agree with Texas Monthly that it’s solidly among the Top 10 places in the state. But we hadn’t been to Kreuz or City Market in a while. So, on a recent Friday, we took a short tour south and east of Austin to sample two of the Holy Trinity of Texas BBQ joints.
Based just on atmosphere, City Market certainly belongs on anyone’s Top joint list. Wilkins, a long-time photographer and editor, raved about the lighting inside the place, especially in the pit-serving room where the walls are covered in smoke. Wilkins called it Rembrandt lighting, soft, textured, full of nice shadows.
Some prices, too, might belong more in Rembrandt’s time. Brisket was $13 a pound. We recently paid $30 a pound at Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland.
The food, however, left us wanting. The brisket was tough. The pork ribs tiny.
“I gotta say that when it showed up on Texas Monthly’s list again, I was a little surprised,” Wilkins said of City Market.
On food alone, we’d both put Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood and The Slow Bone in Dallas among the Top 50 before City Market.
Kreuz, though, was every bit as good as we remembered from previous trips, including the first time we went there in 2009. That’s when Wilkins coined the Posse motto: “Let the meat speak for itself.”
We did just that.
“There’s no comparison in the brisket,” I said of Kreuz vs. City Market. “This has everything: moistness, taste, smoke, bark, flavor.”
“Agreed,” Wilkins said, busy chewing.
We both liked the beef rib, but expected a bit more flavor. And we thought the pork ribs could have benefited from another hour on the smoker. Just a bit too much tug needed to get the meat from the bone.
Still, Kreuz remains one of the top joints we’ve ever visited and brought back pleasant memories.
“We were sitting right there,” Wilkins said, pointing at a nearby table, “and Libby (Gagne) ordered that jalapeño sausage. I had never tasted anything like it before.”
Thanks again to BBQ Bryan for the inspiration for this post about the Holy Trinity of Texas BBQ joints.