In 1999, the year Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas, celebrated its 99th anniversary, Roy Perez shoveled several pounds of smoldering coals from the restaurant’s barbecue pit into a metal washtub. With a few media representatives in tow and a police escort to divert traffic, he and a coworker dragged the washtub down the road to the establishment’s new location, where he carefully emptied the coals into a brand-new pit.
The gesture was more than a photo op; this fire had been burning continuously for a century, and pit master Perez refused to allow it to go out on his watch. Superstition? Maybe, or maybe just efficiency: Kreuz’s hungry regulars expected barbecue even on moving day, and Perez, determined to serve them, needed a hot fire.
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Many years later, I made the trek to Kreuz Market on a quest for shoulder clod, a regional barbecue specialty.
The immensity of the place engulfed me as I passed through a cavernous concrete hallway toward the barbecue pit where the mutton-chopped Perez spends most days. The stripped plywood walls held a patchwork of antique signage, black-and-white photos, and rusted butcher’s tools. A menu above the counter offered promise: ribs, brisket, smoked ham, shoulder clod. Despite its magnitude, there was a warmth to the place, and wood-fire aromas perfumed the air.
I waited in line until I was called on to place my order, which I did with a mild fear of being recognized as the outsider I was. I ordered clod along with some sliced brisket and ribs, all in 1/2-pound increments. The cashier turned toward the pit and called out the order in a thick, rapid-fire patois that I struggled to understand.
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Perez speared the meat with a large carving fork and moved it from the pit to a chunky, round butcher block well-greased from years of slicing fatty meat. Post oak logs burned in shallow craters at the ends of the sooty brick pits, and sawdust covered the surrounding floor to sop up errant drips of fat. A young man wrapped my order neatly in paper, propped a stack of sliced white bread on top, and handed it over to me as the next customers, a pair of police officers, stepped up to the counter.
I made my way to the dining room and found a seat at one of the long, unfinished wood tables, where paper towels and bottles of spice mix were stationed every few feet.
I noticed a sign declaring “No Forks (They are at the end of your arm).” Empowered, I tore into the shoulder clod with my fingers, a little self-consciously at first but then with abandon as I surrendered to the primal pleasure of using my bare hands to eat meat—profoundly gratifying meat—that had been cooked over a century-old fire.
Barbecued Chuck RoastStep one: Find an easier substitute for a giant shoulder clod.
Photos courtesy of Kreuz Market