208 S. Commerce
208 S. Commerce
Fire is hypnotic. Staring into it can be mesmerizing and may even alter your state of mind. Take the fire at Smitty’s Market for example. Just inside the back door, which is really the primary entrance, an open fire is the first thing you encounter. The flames lick their way beyond the edge of a towering brick wall. Beyond the wall, the space opens up into a large room with meat-filled brick pits. At a…
Smitty’s is just too good to dock it a star based on one mediocre visit, but this last one wasn’t up to the level I’m used to at Smitty’s. [After some poignant review of the last few visits, I must reconsider the high rating of five stars. Of four visits, three have been mediocre, including the last two. This is not a streak worthy of such a high rating.] While the sausage was well smoked…
Something about watching a man in a grease stained white jacket and a large knife portioning out my lunch, makes me crave it even more with every slice. Service is curt and efficient at this Lockhart legend, but the only niceties I need were piled on that butcher paper. An order of fatty brisket, lean shoulder clod, ribs, sausage and a large pork chop were tantalizing atop the greasy butcher paper. The sweet glaze on…
Don’t bother going in the front door. You’ll end up in the parking lot behind the boxy brick building anyway, doing the Smitty’s shuffle: At peak hours, the lines invariably stretch out the back door. Patiently, you inch your way forward, passing the waist-high brick pits and perusing the list of post oak–smoked meats (brisket, pork ribs and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, prime rib).
Salivating, you finally place your order for a pound or so of meat (in this ancient hall there are no platters or sandwiches). You pay with cash or check (here there is no debit or credit). You proceed to the high-ceilinged dining room, staring at the meats on your butcher paper (here there are no plates). Yet again you are made to stand in line, to order sides and drinks. At last, faint from hunger, you squeeze in at one of the long communal tables and tear into some of the finest barbecue in Texas.
Smitty’s began around 1900 as Kreuz Market, a German butcher shop that sold fresh meat during the week and smoked whatever was left over on the weekend. The Kreuz name endured even after Edgar “Smitty” Schmidt bought the business, in 1948. It was still in use in 1999, when a dust-up among the late Edgar’s three children caused his son Rick to take the Kreuz name to a new building down the road (see page 126). Fortunately, daughter Nina Schmidt Sells and her son, John Fullilove, kept the fires burning and reopened under the current name. They made a few concessions to modernity, such as repainting the dining room and offering sauce (you have to ask for it). Other than that, the place is still the proud bulwark of tradition it has always been. May it never change.