“WHAT SETS KREUZ MARKET APART IS ITS MANIACAL DEVOTION TO TRADITION.”

– TexasMonthly

When Charles Kreuz Sr. opened a grocery store in 1900, he started smoking meats and sausage in brick barbecue pits and selling it to his customers on butcher paper. That’s how they did it in the old country at German meat-markets and that’s how we do it today. New barbecue joints are popping up all the time—some with ribs drowned in sauce, others with new fangled commercial smokers. You won’t find that stuff at Kreuz. We do it the old-fashioned way because here in the home of Texas barbecue, we know that original way is still the best way.

COOKING LOW AND SLOW

Over a century ago in Central Texas, folks like Charles Kreuz Sr. started spending hours smoking the likes of barbecue brisket, ribs and sausages in brick pits and serving up them up on butcher paper with no sauce and no forks.

Kreuz smoked meats like they did in the old country—German meat-market style, smoking in brick pits over post oak. Former owner Rick Schmidt remembers the day a German woman visited his market. “I want to tell you that your sausage is the only sauce that I’ve tasted here that reminds me of my hometown,” she said.

Here’s why, according to Rick: “We don’t use these auto pits, where you load some sticks in, set your thermometer, and come back in eight or nine hours. What we do takes attention. You’re constantly working the fire, and you need to know how the meat’s supposed to look and smell and sizzle. It’s all feel and sight.”

FROM 1900 TO NOW

WHERE ORIGINIAL TEXAS BARBECUE WAS BORN.

It all began in 1900 when Charles Kreuz Sr. opened a meat market and grocery story in Lockhart, Texas. Back then, smoking meats and sausages let folks keep quality meat around when refrigeration was nowhere near where it is today. Charles barbecued the fresh cuts of meat that he hadn’t sold in his store and used lesser cuts to make sausage.
And customers took to it like a fish to water. They bought their groceries and ate their barbecue off butcher paper with their hands—and without forks, knives or sauce.
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By 1924, the barbecue business had grown. The Kreuz Brothers sold one third of the company to their relative Hugo Prove, and all three worked together to construct a new building so folks could dine inside.

Charles’ sons and Prove ran Kreuz Market until 1948, when Edgar Schmidt, a faithful Kreuz employee since 1936, bought it. Edgar closed the grocery story in the sixties, but kept sides like crackers, bread, pickles, onions and cheese that had become crowd favorites. They’re still on the Kreuz Menu.

In 1984, Edgar sold the business to his sons, Rick and Don Schmidt after 2 years-worth of what’s come to be known as a family feud amongst the brothers and their sister Nina Sells of Smitty’s Market. The brothers worked together until Don’s retirement in 1997.

Two years later, Rick moved Kreuz Market to a bigger location down the street from the original one. The building’s new but the fire the brick pits is the same one that’s been burnin’ for 100 years. Pit Master Roy Perez and Lehman Schmidt drug the burning coals a quarter mile from the original location to make sure of it.

Along with the new location came some new items on the Kreuz menu, most notably: pork spare ribs, beans, German potato salad, sauerkraut, and a jalapeno cheese sausage that’s become a real crowd pleaser.

Rick sold the family business to his son Keith Schmidt in 2011 when he retired. Keith is keeping his father’s traditions, the same traditions his grandfather Edgar and Charles Kreuz Sr. himself, alive and well in Texas.

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Pit boss Roy Perez’ talent for smoking Kreuz meats to perfection day in and day out for more than a quarter century is about as legendary as his muttonchops. The reason for the chops: he loves Elvis—even has a granddaughter Presley who was born on the same day as The King himself.

 

Perez is the reason we can afford to cook low and slow here without making any compromises. Most people know the meat’s done when the thermometer tells them so; Roy knows by smell and sizzle alone. And how does Roy like Kreuz? “I’ll probably be here until they bury me in the ashes,” he says.

READ THE INTERVIEW

Get to know the man behind the muttonchops.