Sunday, May 12, 2013
City Market (Luling, TX)
Luling's City Market (not to be confused with the similarly-named Houston restaurant) is almost always ranked in "Top Ten" lists for Texas barbecue, and is one of the first stops on the unofficial Texas BBQ Trail. In fact, Newsweek has listed City Market in their "101 Best Places to Eat" in the world. When I had the opportunity to head to Luling for the day, I made certain that this master of smoked meat was part of our itinerary.
Even at 1:00, there was a huge line of customers that wrapped around the entire restaurant and continued right out the door. With this many people waiting for their grub, snagging a table is tricky. Basically, you have to keep an eye out for people leaving, then cast aside one member of your party to go reserve it while the rest stay in line. A line this size also meant that the door was almost always open, which in turn meant that the dining area was hot and full of flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. Yum. Another unfortunate byproduct of the long lines is a lackluster attitude amongst the City Market staff. It's clear that they aren't hurting for business, so the employees aren't all that concerned with how customers get treated. For every one person that gets unhappy and leaves, there are probably five more to take their place.
The layout at City Market is a bit unusual and confusing. Although there appears to be only one line, there are actually two separate lines/counters: the long main line for the meat counter, and a small separate line to the counter where drinks and side dishes are available. The drink/sides counter takes credit cards (at least I think it does), but the meat counter is cash only. Don't worry, you have plenty of time to use the available ATM while you're waiting in line for over 45 minutes.
The meat options are pretty limited here, but thankfully, it's the Texas Trinity: beef brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. I ended up with a link of sausage, 3 ribs, and a few slices of brisket. They had potato salad and beans available from the side dish counter, but that seemed like too much effort. I didn't stand in line for 45 minutes for vegetables, so I decided to let the carnivore in me take this one.
All three meats looked delicious scattered across the humble butcher paper plating. I had to pick one to start with, so I gave the honor to the sausage this time. It came in nice little rings, which were priced just right at $2.00 each. I enjoyed the crispness and the snap to the casings. It had a coarse grind, with plenty of pepper and seasonings mixed in. The meat was pink all the way through, and the smokiness was evident in each bite.
Next, I tried the brisket. My slices were a little too lean for my liking, but I'm not sure if fattier slices would have really solved things. The meat was just dry in general. It had a good crust and a hefty smoke ring running down both sides of the slices, but I couldn't really taste much smoke here. I also think the brisket could have used a little more seasoning.
I finished things off with the ribs. When I flipped them over to the meat side, I didn't find as much of a crust as I was hoping for. Even the crust that was there didn't seem very well seasoned. The ribs were tasty, and I could definitely find the smoke here. That being said, I wish there had been a little more pepper. The meat was tender, but also had good staying power. Only one or two bites were a tad dry.
City Market had good food, but I felt let down. Sadly, I've had better barbecue in Dallas, which is by no means a mecca for smoked meat. This was certainly not the legendary Texas barbecue that I was expecting. Perhaps one of the mighty has fallen from grace...
633 E. Davis St.
Luling, TX 78648