by Catherine Parker
Back when the Texas Legislature declared Lockhart the BBQ Capital of Texas, New York media hadn’t dialed into Texas beef and brisket. With a crowded field full of BBQ trailer start-ups and broken BBQ dynasties, seems like there’s a new Best BBQ place in every corner of the state.
In a town billed as the BBQ Capital, it offers more to savor than smoky meat. Find chef-driven menus in the shadow of the Caldwell County Courthouse. Ringing the town square, climb up a back stairs for an afternoon break and sip a boozy coffee. Or creep down a stairwell and enter a limestone-walled basement that concocts craft cocktails.
With an inventive streetside menu suggesting a mid-afternoon coffee break, don’t miss this jewel. Up the stairs off Main Street’s Brock Building, the Eldorado is as eclectic as Lockhart.
The Victorian interiors of the restored building still shine, especially the towering original windows overlooking the Caldwell County Courthouse. The limestone and sand stone Second Empire jewel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and anchors Lockhart’s downtown district.
Overhead the crystal bead chandeliers add glamour to the space. The blushing apricot wall color adds romance. The wall-sized art featuring a lounging Matisse-inspired lady adds sophistication. Though modernism peeks in with Eames seating.
The menu is diverse. Find brunchy quiches along with a smoked beet sandwich that intrigues. The barista recommended the signature coffee drink—the Eldorado, iced. Moments later, she sat down a sweet-and-spicy energy blast, thanks to the espresso, full-fat milk, honey and cinnamon. It had me pining for another.
Along with boozy coffee drinks find rosé, brut and a curated beer selection. Weekend brunchers will find mimosas and Bloody Marys at the ready.
Located at 101 E. San Antonio St. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. until late afternoon.
The Culinary Room
Stroll into the storefront and find your favorite gourmet ingredients from Texas and beyond. Along with musts for your pantry, grab a chef-prepared take-away perfect for a picnic at Lockhart State Park.
Though for many, the samples of banana pudding can’t be passed up. For those snacking, head to the covered parklet next to the entrance and enjoy a cup of the classic dessert.
Located at 101 E. San Antonio St. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Lockhart Bistro
For those craving a menu stacked with seafood classics, head into The Lockhart Bistro. Diverse offerings include shrimp, PEI mussels, salmon and red snapper along with an extensive wine and beer selection. And the patio is dog-friendly.
Located at 119 E. San Antonio St. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Loop and Lil’s Pizza
Grab a hand-tossed pizza for your crowd and find a menu packed with other Italian classics like Stromboli and Calzones. Salads and hot sandwiches round out the menu.
Located at 107 N. Main St. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sidle Up for a Sidecar and More
Lockhart serves up more than longneck beers now days. Mixologists offer unique takes on classic cocktails and curate brews and bubbles for every palette.
If dusk is peeping up at the corners of the horizon, head downstairs for an evening interlude. In the basement of the Brock Building, Little Trouble serves up craft cocktails and an inventive menu that blends local favorites with inspired ingredients. Sunday brings burger night with a you-never-know-what-they’ll-come-up-with creation.
Located at 101 E. San Antonio St. downstairs. Open from 6 p.m. until midnight everyday except Tuesday.
If this storefront looks vaguely familiar, blame on the H-E-B. One of those big Texas magazines popped it on a cover a while back.
Minutes after opening on a Wednesday, the barkeep had a crowd. A statement to his hospitality and capable hands. Find a mix of locals and friendly visitors with live music most Fridays.
Located at 110 N. Main St. Open Tuesday to Thursday from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Flavors of South Texas
Wafting on the wind, smell the tantalizing scent of fresh house-made tortillas. Lockhart’s Tex-Mex offerings are as good as its neighbor San Antonio.
Taking a tip from the sign boasting homemade tortillas, I stepped into La Cartera for a late breakfast. Inside, I found the place packed on a weekday with locals.
Taking a tip from the waitress, I ordered the Al Pastor tacos on corn tortillas. Just as good as anything I’ve sampled on the south side of San Antonio, tender pork with mild white onions and fresh cilantro. Also on the menu, find all your favorite combination plates.
Located at 119 E. Walnut St. Open daily at 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
La Ideal Bakery
In addition to Tex-Mex cafes, Lockhart offers a bakery serving traditional pan dulce, like conchas. In addition to sweets, it bakes up traditional bolillos, a must for torta sandwiches. Find cakes and cupcakes for dine-in or take-away.
Located at 114 S. Commerce St. and open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
BBQ Capital of Texas
The big names are still here. Some offer bus parking and others feature multiple locations in the major cities of Central Texas.
Though don’t march through Lockhart sampling brisket all weekend long. Even good things get old after a while.
Way before the TV crews arrived driving up brisket prices, BBQ as a given for family events.
Didn’t matter if you and yours were celebrating or mourning, you were eating brisket and beans. Back then, it was the easiest way to feed a crowd.
Walking through Smitty’s screen door feels like a family memory. This building has been smoking up meat for decades. Smitty’s is one of the few places in Texas boasting its original character and smoke-tinted walls. It’s that ambience that can’t be replicated.
If you have to choose one place, choose Smitty’s. From the wood pile out back to open fires, it’s as authentic as it gets. The sausage and brisket are tops and shouldn’t be missed. You’ll be eating off butcher paper and sitting at long tables with locals and visitors alike.
Located at 208 S. Commerce. Open Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Remember, this place still doesn’t take cards so bring a wad of cash.
With outlets in Austin, San Marcos and New Braunfels, the Black’s in Lockhart is the original location. Inside find knotty pine walls decorated with photos of former Texas presidents and a platinum-hued Texas governor.
The wood smoke lingers on the air like a memory of a good night. Overhead classic western swing bellows and puts you in an eatin’ mood. A knowing meat cutter slices off your choice of lean or moist brisket. Though for a multi-generational Texan with BBQ in her blood, the styrofoam clamshell that held my order felt wrong in my hands. Good brisket deserves butcher paper.
Located at 215 N. Main St. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
After moving away from downtown location over 20 years ago, Kreuz Market is still a draw. Find a large dining room and lots of parking. Though it’s missing the authenticity it once had at its downtown location. During my visit, the brisket slicing was haphazard at best.
Located at 619 N. Colorado St. Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.