Shortly after dropping my bags at Dylan’s apartment, my lifelong friend and host for the weekend, we started running down the extensive list of dinner options. To his sheer dumbfounded amazement, I informed him that despite traveling all the way from Texas, I wanted barbecue for the first meal of the trip. Mockingly bemused, Dylan agreed, and to the subway we went. Nothing whets the appetite quite like the effervescent aroma of dank subway platform.
Though it may seem strange while in New York I wanted to get barbecue, if only for comparison sake. I wanted to see if a city that, perhaps arrogantly, claimed mastery of all forms of cooking, could match the muster of the Texas barbecue joints I have come to love so much. Hill Country Barbecue would prove the most apt choice for my trial, as they modeled themselves (quite literally) after the infamous Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, and claimed to proffer genuine Texas Barbecue.
You can read up on my previous visit to Kreuz Market here:
In short, I wanted to hate Hill Country NYC. I wanted to scoff mockingly at New York and their brash arrogance for thinking they could even attempt to pull off proper Texas Barbecue. I wanted to laugh haughtily at the pit master, kick his dog, and tell him there were gas stations in Texas that could smoke circles around him.
But then I tried it. And to my astonishment, it was actually pretty good. Not only passable, but actually decent by Texas standards. You can’t imagine how difficult those words are to type.
I’ll apologize in advance here for the picture quality. I forgot my usual camera on Thursday night and had to resort to the Iphone for documentation.
To be clear, it’s still not as good as the “Best” places in Texas, and I would still gladly prefer the floor scraps at the real Kreuz Market in Lockhart. From an experiential standpoint, there is no comparison to the open smokers and charred brick wall charm of small town Texas meat markets. But the fact that Hill Country was actually decent was far more than I had expected.
The sausage, which they claimed was actually flown in from Kreuz market in Lockhart, proved to be the genuine article. Naturally I opted for the jalapeno cheese variety, and while not quite as smoky, it was otherwise indistinguishable from what you find at Kreuz (pure sausage delight). The ribs were probably the most disappointing of the meal, as they lacked much smokiness and chewed a little hard for me. I don’t think they had spent enough time in the smoker. Finally, the brisket was excellent. It had a generous smoke ring, and a well formed bark. It could have been a bit smokier throughout, but still had notes of smoke and well rendered fat which told me that Hill Country pays more than lip service to proper smoking.
The atmosphere inside is modeled after, and eerily similar to Kreuz Market in Lockhart. Evidently the owner had spent some time in Lockhart, and wanted to recreate that experience for patrons in New York City. The ordering process is the same, as you order your meat at the “smoker” by the pound wrapped up in butcher paper, and then scurry over to another counter for your drinks and sides. They even offer Big Red and Shiner Beer. Finally, there are pictures of the actual Kreuz Market staff adorning the walls of Hill Country, along with old pictures of the Lockhart High School Football team tacked up in the walls of the restrooms.
In the end, it was interesting to fly halfway across the country and find the unique experience of rural Texas Barbecue in a metropolis like New York. While it certainly isn’t quite the same, the juxtaposition of a BBQ joint in a world metropolis is both interesting and tasty to say the least. It’s further proof of the old adage that “you can find anything in the world in New York”.
And I think it was just good enough to convince Dylan to make another pilgrimage down to the promised land to sample the real Kreuz Market first hand…
Thanks to my friend Dylan for putting up with my strange barbecue habits even in New York.
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