After last weeks trip to Smitty's Market, I convinced my friend Eric that we needed to go to City Market in Luling, TX. City Market is the last one of Top 5 from Texas Monthly's 2008 BBQ Rankings, that I hadn't eaten at. So today after he got off work we headed out for Luling. It wasn't as far of a drive from Austin as I was expecting it to be. It was actually just under an hour for us to get there.
The store is right in front of the railroad tracks in the middle of town. It's sort of town squarish, but it's just a few blocks long and it's not centered around a courthouse. There wasn't any waiting in line outside here, instead the line snaked around the dining area. I'm not sure if this was because it was cold outside or just the way it works there. The line moved pretty quickly though. It seemed to have more locals in it, than most of the other places that we've tried lately. I didn't get the sense that there were any other BBQ bloggers or pilgrims in the dining area, but I also didn't ask anyone. The seating was wooden booths with upright backs, picnic style tables, and a few 4 top regular tables. Some of the booths tables were very well worn from constant eating at them. All around the dining room you see signs about not taking the sauce bottles from the table, I'm guessing that is to deter people from taking them home. It seems like a common trait in the Luling, Lockhart area to have the pit area and dining area inside, but segregated by a wall. The same practice of purchasing the meat separate from the sides and drinks is in effect here as well. I'm not sure that I like that, having to stand in two lines for one meal doesn't seem right. Throughout the course of our meal the main line stayed pretty constant at about 40ish people deep.
Once we reach the pit area where the meat is served, you are met by a sign warning to keep the door shut and a blast of warm air rushing out. The warming pit is to the right with it's vents open. There's a hanging sign that's browned listing the prices of meat. The cutters and pit masters are busy serving the customers as they order. It appeared that the cutters were pre-cutting the brisket and ribs and letting them lie on the cutting table until someone orders it.
As for the food itself, the brisket had a good smoke ring on it, but it was visibly dry. There wasn't much of a bark on the brisket at all. It tasted fine, but was not tender and was a bit chewy. Even a forceful pull with my hands wouldn't tear off a bit size piece. I had to use knife to make it manageable. I was thoroughly disappointed with the brisket. This is what Texas BBQ is all about, and this was mediocre at best. Eric even commented that this isn't something he would drive this far for again.
The beef sausage link was course ground, and was quite tasty. It was moist almost to the point of greasy though.
The highlight of the trip was the pork ribs. They were had a great smokey flavor. They weren't too tough and with a little tug of the teeth the meat came off. There was a sweet BBQ sauce glaze on them. I really wish I had gotten more of these and forgone the brisket.
City Market has a couple of sides as well which are paid for in a separate area than the meat. They include potato salad and pinto beans. Another highlight for me was having bottled Big Red soda. I'm not sure where my affinity for it comes from, but it sure is good. We had to ask for the BBQ sauce since it wasn't on the table. It was very good. A light orange color that had a sweet mustardy flavor to it, I would recommend it for sure. I had to use it to put some moisture back into the brisket.
My expectations for a Top 5 BBQ Joint were so high and the results were so low. I'm not sure if it is just my luck, or that quality has been sacrificed to keep up the demand generated from publicity. Overall, I'm truly disappointed in City Market.