City Market: Luling, TX

by Matt Gross

City Market Luling, Texas

It was 2pm on a gorgeous January Friday. In Central Texas, January can still have days that approach 75°-80°. So, Chris (my cousin, more on him another time) and I decided to skip out on work and get some ‘cue (obviously).

Like any other day, we headed immediately to JMueller on South First. We were greeted by John Mueller and he had a slightly apologetic face. I knew he was out. My heart sank to my feet.

“Where have y’all been? Y’all gotta get here earlier”, John said with a slightly scolding tone. He was right. His bbq is becoming too popular for us to be waiting until 2pm. Damn damn damn.

Chris and I chatted with John long enough to tell him about our recent trip to Taylor to eat at Louie Mueller. More on that later :) (hint: John loved what we had to say.) Then Chris said “Well, I guess we have to go to Lockhart.” I’m not sure if John knew we were serious. But we needed a barbecue fix and by God no place in Austin would do.

So we jumped in Chris’ car, I called my wife and told her our plan (she said we are “gay” about barbecue), and we hit the road.

After about 20 minutes we decided we were going to make the trip to City Market in Luling, then stop at Chisolm Trail in Lockhart. We have been to Kreuz, Black’s and Smitty’s in Lockhart so our baseline for comparison has been established.

When we arrived in Luling (about an hour trip from South Austin) we were greeted by the smell of toxic oil. That smell penetrates the whole town and is frankly disturbing. To say I hate the smell there would be an understatement.

We pulled up to City Market and ran in as fast as we could. Once inside, our senses were taken over by the intoxicating smell of post oak. Oh, how glorious! I wish post oak smoke was a cologne. Bet your ass I’d wear it.

City Market is split into two parts: the back where you get your ‘cue, the front where you get the other stuff. Naturally Chris and I headed to the back where we entered the “IN” door.

The room is small and cramped and smokey and perfect. Brick pits line the wall, a few large men cut meat and everything is smokey as hell.

We ordered brisket, pork ribs and sausage (our standard “tasting” order). Something I don’t understand about barbecue joints is that they cut the bark off the brisket before they slice it. Maybe that’s standard, but when they tried to serve us that we had to correct it!

We requested pieces with the most bark and they were very accommodating, sending us off with basically the most barky pieces you can imagine. We grabbed a couple of onions then they folded it all up in butcher paper and sent us on our way.

Naturally, we sat at the closest possible table. Who has time for walking in a situation like this?! We grabbed a little jar of sauce and began.

First, the brisket, as is custom when doing a tasting. Gorgeous looking, good bark formation, decent smoke ring. Excellent beef flavor, tender and a tad sweet just like you’d expect. However, it lacked that really powerful post oak smoke flavor to the extent that Chris had to go to the back and make sure they actually did use post oak.

If this was the first real brisket you’d ever eaten, I’m guessing you’d fall over with excitement. As a seasoned barbecue eater and considering that City Market occupies a top 5 spot over at Texas Monthly, I was a tad disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it is great brisket; probably one of the 10 or 15 best I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.

Now the pork rib was up. They were legit looking ribs, definitely finished with a sauce. Moist, easy to pull of the bone. My God! The flavor! I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream! Yes! This is the rib I want to eat. Oh, it was just delicious. Quite possibly one of the two or three best ribs I’ve ever stuck in my mouth. You MUST eat one (or six).

Finally, the sausage. Chris was gushing and wide eyed over the sausage. He was trying to make coherent sentences as he ate it, but he was sausage drunk. I thought the sausage was a tad dry for my taste, but good nonetheless.

We had tasted all of the barbecue and almost simultaneously we looked at the sauce. It was sitting in what appeared to be a former Louisiana Hot Sauce bottle. It was yellowish-orange with black pepper and other spices floating around. Hmm. I don’t typically care about sauce, but we decided to try it.

Holy. Shit. Now THAT is a sauce. I can definitely say that this is the best sauce I’ve ever had. I know, I have promised I won’t proclaim a definitive winner in any category, but so what. This sauce is THE BOMB. I want to bathe in it. I want to eat it on everything, for every meal, forever. This sauce needs to be sold nationally. It needs to be elected President (would definitely do better than Obama). It needs its own tumblr site where it is just poured on things. citymarketsaucepouredonthings.tumblr.com. I can see it now :)

Quick recap: City Market, in Luling, has the best sauce, mind blowing pork ribs, solid brisket and decent sausage. If you are a serious barbecue eater you pretty much have to go here. Anyone will enjoy the trip to Luling, just beware the oil smell.

PS Out of curiosity, we walked over to Luling Bar-B-Q just a couple doors down from City Market. This is an establishment listed on the Top 50 by Texas Monthly. Puh-leese. I wouldn’t stick that ‘cue in my mouth if you paid me. Sorry guys, it just looked terrible.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ken Brown February 27, 2014 at 12:17 am

This is the best barbeque sauce I have ever tasted. I have friends who would get extra bread or crackers just to be able to mop it up and eat more of the sauce.

Years and years ago, when we had a family hunting camp, I would bring in a clean half gallon jar and buy the sauce to take to our camp. We kept in in the fridge and used it all season. As the family grew I began bringing a gallon jar to have filled.

Luling BBQ was great years ago under the original owner. After the original owner passed away and the family sold it everything went downhill.

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