For some time, Black's Barbecue (in Lockhart) had a great reputation for brisket. Many Chowhounds believed it was the best to be had anywhere. And, on the basis of my own experiences (often on a multi-joint comparative basis), I thought that reputation was deserved. Their brisket was consistently intensely flavored, well smoked, and ultra-tender, as fine a morsel as could be had in Lockhart (or *anywhere*).
So I was troubled by the recent Chowhound reports from credible sources (such as Greg Spence and Steve in Philly) that Black's had slipped--that, not only was it no longer the best, but was clearly inferior to the competition. Those reports led me to change my weekend plans and head to Lockhart to check it out.
Since the complaints focused on the flavor and texture of Black's sausage and brisket, that's what we ordered. (See picture below.) The sausage was very smoky, with balanced seasoning and a coarser grind than what we'd had at an earlier stop at Kreuz Market. But it was, as some of the complaints had indicated, more loosely packed than it's been in prior visits. I wouldn't go so far as to call it "mushy"--at least no more than City Market's standard. But, since I prefer a denser sausage, I can sympathize with the complaints.
The brisket had a much smokier flavor than that of the other places we tried on the same afternoon. But the slices we had were (again, echoing recent complaints) comparatively dry. When I say "comparatively," that's against the local competition, not against more pedestrian places where you often find biscotti-dry brisket. Criticisms at our table focused entirely on the brisket's moisture level. The exterior "creosote flavor" and interior blandness that some have reported were not evidenced in the cuts we had.
While the 'cue we got on this visit was not as bad as we might have expected based on some of the recent reports, I reluctantly admit that it looks like Black's might have slipped. Barbecue is notoriously finicky. And even the great places have better and worse days, making it unwise to judge based on a single visit. But since Black's brisket and sausage have been such consistent winners in my past experience, this day's performance--in light of the other reports--is disconcerting.
For more photos, details, and a comparison of Black's with Kreuz, Smitty's, and City Market last Saturday, go to the link below.
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