Always Bet On BLACK’s…

Oh my, yesterday was quite a day!  I was feeling a little better in the morning and Jeff was as excited as a girl scout the night before camp!  Yesterday was the day we headed to Lockhart, Texas…..”What’s in Lockhart?” you ask…..

What else?  BBQ.  Now before I get started I should tell you my husband LLLLLOOOOVVVVVEEEEESSSSS BBQ and I, well I eat it every now and again because I LLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE my husband. And sometimes I even “mess with it” – I add an Asian flair to the sauce or something similar that Jeff considers utterly ridiculous to do to BBQ.  But yesterday my thinking was changed.

We left San Antonio promptly at 9:00 a.m. so that we could be in Lockhart by 10:00 a.m., which for most of the world (myself included) seems too early for BBQ….but Black’s BBQ – our first stop of the day – opens at 10:00 a.m. and Jeff did not want to be late!

We pulled onto the main drag in Lockhart at 10:00 and were walking in the door at Black’s BBQ by 10:05 after a short, but pleasant conversation with a local woman out front.

Having never had the Texas BBQ experience, I was a little taken aback by how things work at Black’s.  At the beginning of the line are side dishes and desserts, which are a set price for a 5 oz. serving (but you serve yourself and you have no idea how much your serving weighs).

Then you turn the corner and select the BBQ you want – a smoky, charred (but in a great way) array of meats including beef brisket, sausage (several types), beef ribs, chicken, pork ribs, turkey breast, pork chops, etc.  Again, the serving is by weight so you can have as much or as little as you’d like.

Jeff ordered cole slaw, creamed corn (which is nothing like the creamed corn we are used to in the North….it is way better tasting and probably way worse in terms of calories and fat), a Fred Flintstone-sized beef rib, the blackest cuts of beef brisket he could see and a sweet tea.

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I ordered creamed corn, banana pudding (in honor of my dear friends Beverly and Mark), beef brisket, Hatch’s chili sausage and a sweet tea. We paid for our meals and made our way to the dining room.

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If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you know I love a gourmet meal.  You also I know I appreciate a crisply ironed tablecloth, fine manners, ambiance – including the flicker of candlelight (which makes all women look more beautiful), exceptional service and the list goes on.

I DO appreciate those things; but fortunately for me and my stomach, I also appreciate a down-home, Texas joint – plastic coverings on picnic-style tables, rolls of paper towels and squeeze bottles of BBQ sauce on the tables, and fingers so greasy they leave stains on your iPhone because you couldn’t resist posting pics of the food you were eating so your friends back home would get jealous!!!!  And Black’s BBQ delivered just that…and then some.

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To say that Jeff and I enjoyed our food would be a gross understatement….we oooh’d and ahhh’d and went so far as to fit into Jeff’s and Andy’s category of “audible eating!”  Each and every thing we tried at Black’s was amazing! The meat was sooo incredibly tender I can’t even describe it…..I’ve never had meat that just melted in my mouth like the brisket did…..it was a thing of beauty.  And the Hatch’s chili sausage done in the pit was terrific – so moist and tender – completely unlike any other sausage experience I’ve had.

Part way through our meal Jeff said, “you have to try the sauce.”  It’s funny, the sauce is usually the first thing I reach for when I’m eating BBQ, but at Black’s the meat was so good on its own that it didn’t need anything else – or so I thought…..but the sauce was just the right complement to the meat.  It didn’t cover anything up, it just added a little spice to enhance it.

Now, a word of caution about sweet tea.  I make what I consider to be a really good sweet tea from my mother-in-law’s recipe.  But the folks in the South are not messing around when they call it SWEET tea….in fact, I think there might actually be a diabetes warning on every cup!!!  It was soooo sweet that I had to add a lot more ice and some unsweetened tea to it in order to be able to drink it.  The ironic thing is that my handsome hubby (who drinks his coffee with no sugar and only a drip and a half of cream) LOVED the sweet tea, while I (who uses coffee as a milk and sugar delivery system) thought it was RRREEEAAALLLLLLYYY sweet…..ah well….potato/potahhhhhto!

After we ate, Steve (one of Black’s personable employees) struck up a conversation with us asking us how we liked everything, where we were from, etc.  He shared some history about Black’s with us and some information about the kind of wood they use, how long they smoke their meats, etc……Black’s has been in business for 82 years and it shows……they know their way around BBQ!  The BBQ pit/smoker they’re currently using was built in 1949 – yep, 65 years ago – and holds up to 500 pounds of meat at one time.  And the wood they use for smoking????  Post Oak.  Not just any oak….but Post Oak, which is native to Texas and grows so straight that it was often used for fence POSTS.

Not only did Steve tell us about Black’s; but he also gave me a rare opportunity, for which I will be forever grateful.  An opportunity better than backstage passes at a favorite concert……he took me in “the back” to see the pit!  I am amazed that the folks at Black’s can do so much in such a small space, but they sure do!

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Now, to be fair to all Texas BBQ, Jeff and I thought we should give Black’s competition a try too, just to compare.  So, we packed up some left-overs (not that we didn’t want to keep eating our food at Black’s, but we wanted to try Kreuz Market too), ribbed Steve a little – letting him know that we were going to sample the competition and drove a few blocks to give Kreuz Market a whirl.

When you walk in the door at Kreuz’s you see a sign that reads (and you see this on their webpage too): “NO BARBECUE SAUCE, NO FORKS, NO KIDDING.”  And there is no barbecue sauce and there are no forks and there are no plates.  The meat is served on butcher paper, which is expertly folded so nothing falls out.

The set up at Kreuz Market is a little different in that you first go into a super HOT area to select your meats – it’s super hot because the BBQ pits are right there for all to see (which is pretty cool). Then, after you pay for your meats, you go into a smaller (air-conditioned – ahhhhh) dining room where you can order sides, desserts and drinks.

Now I know there is a huge BBQ rivalry and what I write next may spark some serious debate, but that’s the beauty of writing a blog – you get to write YOUR opinion for all to see.  I have to tell you in my opinion there is NO COMPETITION……hands down Black’s is the BBQ winner!!!

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While the BBQ at Kreuz Market was good, it did not have the same intensity of flavor that Black’s BBQ did!  Although it was really cool to be able to see the pits in action, the set up at Kreuz’s was reminiscent of a cafeteria, while Black’s was more of a let-it-all-hang-out JOINT – less commercialized than Kreuz’s.  While Kreuz Market claims they serve no barbecue sauce because they have nothing to hide; in my opinion, I would have preferred some sauce with their Q.  It was at Black’s that I could have happily gone without sauce.  In terms of “kitschiness,” I give Kreuz Market the upper hand…there’s something about the no forks/no plates and having the meats folded in the butcher paper that seems like an authentic Texas BBQ experience.  And they have some seriously funny signs throughout the building!

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that Kreuz Market wasn’t good (if you’ve only ever had BBQ from the North then you’ll likely love Kreuz’s).  What I am saying is that if you stack it next to Black’s BBQ there’s no comparison!

After we wrapped our leftovers at Kreuz’s Market we just had to drive back to Black’s to tell Steve the results (and to pick up a bottle of BBQ sauce)!

With full bellies and greasy fingers, our BBQ adventure was behind us and the open road before us.  We spent the next six hours driving through the beautiful Texas countryside.  Jeff had a route mapped out and we followed it – more or less – enjoying the scenery, the sunshine and one another’s company.

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Finally, after about an hour driving in some pretty intense rain, we arrived at our home-away-from-home for the next two nights…..the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa (or should I say “spahhhhhh?”).

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Stay tuned for details….if you find yourself in Texas, you don’t want to miss this place!

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A final word about BBQ….Lockhart, Texas is THE place to go if you want some really kick-ass BBQ!  And if you find yourself in Lockhart, DO NOT MISS Black’s BBQ. When I asked Steve from Black’s if BBQ was a science or an art, I think he summed it up best by replying that it’s a delicate balance of both.

“Well, let me give you a little advice: ALWAYS BET ON BLACK’S!!!”

 

And, of course, a special thanks to Steve from Black’s BBQ for his Southern hospitality and for making our visit to Black’s a memorable one!!!!

Monday HaHaHa: The Shed

Did you know that laughter is good for your health?  We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.”  It’s true.   According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, laugher can:

  • Enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air
  • Stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles
  • Increase the endorphins released by your brain
  • Activate and relieve your stress response
  • Sooth tension
  • Improve your immune system
  • Relieve pain
  • Increase personal satisfaction
  • Improve your mood

With that in mind, I must be one REALLY healthy gal!!! Why?  Because last night I had not only the Monday MmmMmmMmm, but I also had the Monday HaHaHa!

You see, Jeff and I were invited to attend a reunion of team members from the missions trip Jeff went on in May of 2012 to Biloxi, Mississippi.  I was not part of the team; however as a spouse of a team member I was honored to attend and to “eavesdrop” on the reminiscing!

Andy, one of the team members, and his wife, Maureen, hosted the group.  The reason for the get-together was the debut of the new food network show, The Shed.  The Shed is a BBQ and Blues joint in Ocean Springs, MS and was one of the stops on the missions team’s itinerary during their trip.  In honor of the debut, Andy and Maureen served some rockin’ Q with some sauces from Central PA and from The Shed.

In addition the beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs, they also served macaroni and cheese, chips and dip, and baked beans.  Being an “outsider,” I came with food in hand to earn my place – I made a new coleslaw recipe.

After a great prayer to kick off the evening, we dug into the food.  There’s something great about the atmosphere created when you serve BBQ and beer.  People seem to roll up their sleeves and automatically relax.  The group talked and laughed and ate and ate and ate.  Once you’ve bonded with folks on a missions trip, it seems you’re no longer self-conscious about eating heartily or shy about taking the last of anything!

Before the 10:00 PM kickoff of the shed, we watched the sneak preview aired by food network on Sunday.  Not only was it a great intro to the show, it was really neat for me to watch the group interact and remember the funky place they had been.  The team members recognized folks on the show, talked about what they ate when they visited The Shed, and laughed about the time they shared as though it was just yesterday.

After the sneak preview, there was still time before the kickoff show aired, so Andy broke out his journal from the trip.  Each team member (and even us non team members) who attended last night’s reunion was interested in hearing Andy’s recorded memories.  It was cool for me to learn that Andy is quite sentimental at heart.  He saved pamphlets and menus and other documents from the trip and carefully shared them with the group.  The following are scanned images of The Shed menu Andy saved:

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Of course, those who were not in attendance were remembered as well! Not only were they fondly remembered, but they were also lovingly teased as well – please remember, I wrote ‘LOVINGLY’!  They were not the only ones who were mocked for their eccentricities – those in attendance took their share of ribbing too!

At 10:00, when Andy tuned into the show, a hush fell over the crowd and all eyes were glued to the television set.  We watched the show and had a lot of laughs.  The Shed (the place) seems like a fun place to work and it seems like the family who runs it is living their passion.  The Shed (the show) on food network is kind of like Duck Dynasty, but with a loose focus on food.  I couldn’t help but think it would be great fun to assemble the group every Monday night to watch the show, but real life will prevent that from happening.

Jobs and kids and commitments will get in the way; but for one night the group got to reassemble and remember – and I was honored to have been a part of it. When Jeff returned home from his trip and told me what an amazing group of people he travelled with, I believed him but had no frame of reference.  Since the trip, I’ve gotten to know some of the team members better and had a little better understanding.  But last night, seeing them in action, I got a first-hand look at how well the team had bonded.

Take a look at some photos of the night:

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It’s interesting that I find myself writing about a place I’ve never visited and that makes food I’ve never tasted (well, that’s not EXACTLY true, I DO have a bottle of Shed Sauce in my fridge).  Typically I write reviews about places I HAVE eaten.

I cannot comment on the food, but I can tell you that the group shared a term with me that they coined at The Shed – ‘audible eating.’  Audible eating would probably give Emily Post nightmares if she were still among the living.  Audible eating comes from using no silverware and eating amazing food – it’s the sound of finger-licking and mmm’ing and slurping.  Perhaps it is the sound of utter culinary satisfaction!

And I can also tell you that the group I hung with last night included many “ShedHeds.”  In fact, this group and other groups from Daybreak Church who have been to The Shed have been known to mail-order Shed Sauce.  Fortunately, it’s now available in our area so that’s no longer necessary.

So I can tell you for certain that if I ever find myself in Ocean Springs, MS, I WILL visit The Shed.  And I can tell you for certain that having a Monday HaHaHa does for the soul what having a Monday MmmMmmMmm does for the stomach.  I hope you have a group of folks with whom you can simply laugh – those rich, deep belly-laughs that will improve your health!

Share a laugh with others…what’s your favorite joke?