Located only 30 minutes south of Austin, the state capital, Lockhart is a popular day-trip destination for barbecue enthusiasts who want to dine in the official barbecue capital of Texas.
But now, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs of all types are making their home in Lockhart. They’re restoring its historic buildings and opening businesses on the old town square.
Lockhart is experiencing a modern-day renaissance, and it’s not all about the smoked meat. Park your car and spend a day discovering all this small city in Central Texas has to offer.
The town square is anchored by the courthouse, a gorgeous edifice built in 1894 in the Second Empire style. The yellow-and-red sandstone, turrets, and tiles give it a bit of a Gothic feel.
Most of the building facades around the square are original. One of the most impressive is the Brock building at Main Street and San Antonio.
Here are just a few of the fun things to do in the barbecue capital of Texas.
Enjoy Live Music
It seems there’s some sort of live music event almost every weekend in Lockhart. While Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, Lockhart may be a runner-up very soon, since those same musical Austinites are finding their way to Lockhart. For all event information, check the Lockhart Chamber of Commerce’s website.
A sure bet for live music is The Pearl, located just off the square. The Pearl is housed in a building from 1896 and is full of Texas atmosphere. There’s a full bar, too.
I personally love Load Off Fanny’s outdoor patio, casual vibe, and delicious Angus beef burgers. They keep their website updated with live music options.
Visit A Gallery
The Commerce Gallery opened in Lockhart in 2019. The gallery showcases Texas artists and one out-of-state artist per year. Lockhart’s Christopher St. Leger used to work out of the gallery. A working artist for over 20 years, he has since moved to his own space, but his work is still represented at The Commerce Gallery. I highly recommend stopping by to see his work, which tells the story of his hometown.
Artist displays change every other month on the big wall, and every month on the smaller walls. Check the gallery’s website for upcoming shows and events.
Admire The Lockhart Library
The Dr. Eugene Clark Library is the oldest continuously operated library in Texas. When it opened, in 1900, it functioned as the cultural center of the community. The library also boasts the distinction of having once played host to President William Howard Taft. The building is architecturally and historically significant and still functions as a library for the community today.
Stop By The Unique Shops On The Square
I was amazed at how many nice shops were located around the square. Here are a few not to miss.
Flash Candy and Toys is colorful and fun! It will definitely inspire some nostalgia. The store sells everything from specialty candy to craft sodas and games. At the very least, walk by and check out the Ferris wheel in the window
Head to the 4H Hat Company for a gorgeous straw or felt hat (there are options for ladies and gents!). You’ll also find clothing and jewelry.
Take Care is a cute apothecary shop offering all things self-care, like organic soaps, teas, and herbs. I picked up some wonderful Turkish striped hand towels and some tea towels in pretty ice-cream colors.
Fiddler’s Green is a fantastic stop for all kinds of string instruments and bows. Violins, banjos, and mandolins line the walls of this below-street-level shop.
The Culinary Room is a great place to pick up a small gift for the foodie in your life or indulge in some of their famous banana pudding. I also loved the homemade toaster pastries. Try the fig flavor.
Check Out The Q
Long before Lockhart became the official barbecue capital of Texas, visitors traveled there to indulge at the three altars of smoked meat. That’s right — there are three top-notch barbecue restaurants in Lockhart. I’m not sure how to decide between them. Try one, or try them all. Just don’t try them all at once!
Black’s BBQ is the oldest barbecue joint in Texas still owned by the same family –– an important distinction! Try the beef brisket, homemade sausage, pork spare ribs, smoked turkey breast, chopped brisket, giant beef ribs, pork baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, or pork chops. Whew! The good news: Black’s will ship.
Smitty’s Market, housed in the old Kreuz Market building, has atmosphere in spades. There was a small fire burning as I found my way to the right line. An employee stood ready to chop some brisket (which you should definitely try, by the way — along with the sausages). I got a little lost in Smitty’s, so here’s my tip: Enter from the Commerce Street side.
Kreuz Market opened in Lockhart in the early 1900s as a true grocery market. In 1960, it transitioned to a full-time restaurant, and the market closed. By then, Kreuz already had a reputation for serving up some of the best barbecue in Central Texas. Today, Kreuz still makes barbecue according to the methods used 100 years ago. Don’t go to Kreuz and ask for a fork or barbecue sauce. Seriously. If you really must have those things, bring your own, but be discreet. Try the German sides, because you won’t find them anywhere else.
Check Out The Other Culinary Offerings
Chaparral Coffee is open seven days a week. Sit outside with a Mexican mocha or a golden milk tea. They also serve beer, wine, breakfast, and sandwiches.
Chef Parind Vora brings international flavors to Lockhart at the Lockhart Bistro. He has a modern approach to preparing dishes like steak tartare or paprika-rubbed pork tenderloin. You may know Vora for his Austin restaurant Jezebel, where he designed food and wine pairing menus on the fly. Even James Beard wanted Vora to cook for him! Lockhart Bistro is a sophisticated alternative to the barbecue joints in town.
Extend Your Stay At A Historic Home
Need a place to stay in Lockhart? You won’t find big hotels — or even small hotels, for that matter. If you want to stay close to town, the best place is Ellison House.
Ellison House was built in the 1860s by Colonel James Ellison, a cattle rancher and herder. Ellison made quite a bit of money, and the house was considered very upscale for the times. It had many owners over the years, but it eventually fell into a state of decline.
New owners restored Ellison House in 2016, maintaining many of the original features. The current owners purchased the house in 2020 and made some modifications of their own.
The main house has three bedrooms with king-size beds and en-suite bathrooms. There’s a fourth room with its own bathroom called the Christopher Suite. It’s attached to the main house via the kitchen. You can rent the Christopher Suite on its own if it’s available.
Ellison House is available for long- or short-term rental and will be adding a swimming pool.
Lockhart is still a little bit undiscovered. Go now and enjoy this rural Texas town with big-city sensibilities.