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Thursday, December 26, 2013

“Take me back to Black’s," our first stop in Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas

Black's Barbecue
Editor's note: Barbecued Adventures will be relaunched in early 2014 with new posts about barbecue, pitmasters and related travel. This post dates back to Feb. 6, 2011. Thank you for reading and place come back often.

The sign outside Black’s Barbecue says they’re open “8 days a week.”

Back in February of 1965, the Beatles released a single of the same title. Thirty-three years earlier, Edgar Black Sr. and a partner opened a little meat market in Lockhart, Texas.

In those days before refrigeration, it became necessary to cook and sell already cut meat as barbecue.

According to their web site, Norma Black, daughter-in-law to the original owner, says of the sign outside the main entrance at 215 N. Main St., "If you're here as much as we are, you find a few extra days in that time ... It's easier to remember when we're closed -- Thanksgiving and Christmas -- than when we're open."

Today, we are thankful for that. Black’s remains as popular as ever and is the oldest barbecue restaurant that has been continuously operated by the same family in the state of Texas.

Step inside and as you wait in line, you’re immersed in the history of Black’s and, to some extent, Texas.

Fresh with a degree from Texas A&M, Edgar Black Jr. and his wife took over the place in 1949 after his father died suddenly. They were going to run it until they could find another family member to take it over.

You know you're in Texas in Black's dining room.
Pictures on the wall show their life together and introduce us to a family that is now operating the restaurant into its fourth generation, after 80 years.

Also up on the wall to your right are framed photos of local visiting celebrities. There are pictures of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and the 36th president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, who asked the Blacks to serve their sausage on the grounds of the U.S. Capital.

To your left are windows, where you jealously watch the fortunate ones who already are digging in.

When you reach the vegetables at the salad bar and steam table, you realize that you’re here for more than a history lesson. Deviled eggs. Pinto beans. Black-eyed peas. Cole slaw. Potato salad.

It’s all freshly made. Just like the brisket.

According to the Blacks, Edgar, Jr. was one of the first barbecue places in the country to exclusively use the brisket cut of beef. They say others copied them.

While I won’t enter that debate, I will say that Edgar Jr.’s recipe to cook briskets coated in a combination of black pepper, salt and spices, over oak logs for 24 hours, is delectable.

Next time, we’ll have to try the turkey. Or the chicken. Or the ham. The only blemish on our experience was my wife’s pork ribs, which were a little dry (but then this is Texas).

In recent years, in response to “a lot of people from the North,” Norma Black created a sauce for the meat, which I tried. A young barbecue aficionado from nearby Austin recommended that I also use the Ghost Chili sauce, which I did not find as hot as expected.

I first learned of Black’s Barbecue thanks to the Travel Channel’s “Barbecue Paradise” program. But it also has received considerable national recognition in outlets such as the New York Times, Texas Monthly, Bon Appetit and Gourmet (which it has outlasted). You’ll find all the video and articles online at their web site at

The bumper stickers say, “Take Me Back to Black’s.” I only wish it weren’t so far away from where we live, in Indiana.

Location we visited:
Black's Barbecue
215 North Main Street
Lockhart, Texas


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