It’s raining in Austin again today so we plan to do a little driving and exploring. Sun is promised for tomorrow and so is the Texas Marathon. But today, brunch will be at 24 Diner. This hip eatery is busy on Saturday and parking is hard to obtain. Once inside the wait is 15 minutes. We are seated and order drinks and peruse the menu. The interior is not diner-like at all but more hipster/industrial.
The menu has all the diner classics but refined and many healthy non-dinerish options. I order the Pork Belly sandwich that is reminiscent of a bahn mi with cucumber, mint, serrano and pickled red onion. Sides are ordered separately and I was intrigued by the menu option: vegetable of the day. I expected the usual bland selection of broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Today’s veg was brussel sprouts sauteed in a skillet. Sign me up! I love sprouts. The sandwich was good, the baguette perfectly chewy and the pork belly surprisingly meaty. The mint, serrano and cucumber were not evident and that was a little disappointing. The sprouts were awesome! Charred and sweet.
Rob ordered a patty melt with fries. The melt came nontraditionally on sourdough, but it was perfectly toasted on the flat-top with the pre-requisite fried onions and swiss cheese, combining for a creamy, sweet, sharp foil for the burger. Rob’s a sucker for a patty melt.
After lunch we headed over to the nearby Whole Foods store, perchance to dream. This Austin location is the flagship store and well… as a someone who shops for food in Ottawa…completely depressing. The selection is amazing.
Kreuz Market (pronounced “KRITES”) in Lockhart has been on Rob’s radar for some time. It is one of the oldest and most traditional examples of Texas BBQ. We spent the afternoon cruising around in the inclement weather stopping here and there for a picture. Lockhart is about 40 minutes south of Austin and is considered a bit of a Mecca for BBQ enthusiasts. On the way to Lockhart, Rob informs me that he is not certain I’m going to like Kreuz. Why? Well…its hunks of meat and no sauce, and no forks. But there are sides right? Hmmm…crackers and pickles…maybe potato salad. Okay, I’m pretty sure I already hate this place. I don’t care about its iconic status. Oh well, I’ll grit my teeth and take one for the team.
Kreuz is huge. The woodlot out back is the size of your average supermarket garden center. When entering you are oddly accosted by several of those rip-off “claw and capture a stuffed animal” vending machines. Advance warning, parents. Further in the line up to order begins. Selection is small – two varieties of sausage, brisket, beef and pork ribs, smoked ham special today. Ordering is done at a central counter where you pay as well.
The ordering room contains several large smokers and open fires with hot burning logs. The clerk takes your meat orders only. She calls it out directly to the aproned, blackened cutter immediately behind her who slices your brisket and ribs. She weighs it and the cashier rings it up. It is bundled haphazardly with several slices of white bread in several layers of butcher paper and handed still open to you.
At this point you continue to the next ordering phase in the main dining hall. Here you have a few limited choices for sides including sauerkraut, German potatoes (roasted and steamed), mac and cheese, coleslaw and several pickle selections.
From here you find space at a table and spread out your meal. Kreuz also does not provide forks. Plastic spoons and knives and fingers. That’s it. We ordered the brisket (fat), pork ribs, a sausage, mac and cheese, sauerkraut and bread and butter pickles.
Normally we don’t order the brisket because it is too dry and strong tasting. This brisket however was amazing, moist, tender, flavourful, pull apart delicious with a delicate smoke. It was truly fantastic and I would never hesitate to order it. Like no brisket I’ve ever had. The pork ribs were good, very peppery, tender. and had a nice rosy deep smoke ring. They however could have benefited from a sweet Memphis BBQ sauce. Blasphemy, I know. Texas is about the meat but I am about the sauce. The sausage was very unseasoned and dull – perhaps because we were expecting a spiced Texas hot link and it turned out to be German-style sausage. Again, sauce would have rescued it. We ate most of the meal wrapping the juicy brisket in white bread with the crunchy sweet pickles. Heaven.
The sides are fine. Coleslaw is crunchy, creamy and tasty. The mac and cheese is overcooked pasta in day-glo orange cheese sauce and is awful in that perfect, excellent way. The thick ridge cut bread and butter pickles are the perfect foil to the fatty meat. On the whole Kreuz was an awesome Texas BBQ experience and well worth going out of your way to try.