The Birthplace of Texas BBQ
Over the past century the ranch and farming community of Lockhart, Texas has steadily earned the reputation as the capital of smoked meat.
Lockhart sits off the beaten path in-between San Antonio and Austin but it’s a favored destination for barbecue fanatics and foodies from all over the world. They are attracted by the city’s storied barbecue restaurants.
Barbecue is haute cuisine in Lockhart. It’s serious business. The city’s pit masters are locked in a daily challenge to get the smoke just right.
Texas BBQ is Born
In 1875 Jesse Swearingen opened Lockhart’s first meat market. The term “meat market” referred to what we would call today a grocery store with a butcher on hand offering fresh meat.
Kreuz Family Era 1900-1948
In 1900 Charles Kreuz Sr. borrowed $200 and bought the market from Jesse.
$200 was a lot of money in rural Texas in 1900. Charles’ family, including his children, picked cotton to earn extra money to pay back the loan and buy new equipment for the market.
The Kreuz family’s sacrifice pad off. Kreuz Market quickly became known as the best grocery store in the area. Shoppers flocked to what was described as a modern, “progressive” grocery store.
Charles stocked his market with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other specialties previously unavailable to local shoppers.
Charles came from a family of German immigrants that made their way to Central Texas in the 18th Century. The Kreuz clan smoked meats like they did in the old country—German meat-market style.
He fused his German heritage with Texas raised cattle and pork smoked over native post oak wood.
Barbecue has humble beginnings. Butchers like Charles wanted to make use of an animal nose to tail with little waste.
Smoking scrap cuttings and the less desirable parts was a way to monetize the whole animal. Plus, it tasted good.
BBQ meat was also a working man’s food. It was often eaten at lunch time by cowboys, rough necks, ranch hands, and farmers looking for a quick, high protein meal to fuel long days of hard work.
A 1930 newspaper article from the Lockhart Post Register that describes the early Kreuz experience:
“The Kreuz Market at any time of the day will serve smoking hot barbecue on a piece of oiled paper with a supply of crackers and the customer may in addition supply himself with onions, tomatoes, coffee, soda water, near beer or even pies and cakes.
The meat and the cracker served on paper at the oven are taken by the purchaser to a table where a knife is chained and there the barbecue is cut and eaten.
Table knives, forks or dishes are not furnished.”
Lockhart Post Register June 30, 1930
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.
They tore down the market’s original metal building and built the brick building that still stands today.
Schmidt Family Era 1948-
Charles’ sons sold Kreuz Market in 1948 to Edgar Schmidt. Edgar had been the Kreuz Market butcher since 1936. He knew how to smoke meat and he knew the grocery business.
Edgar made changes and transitioned the food market into a restaurant.
He closed the grocery store section down entirely in the early 1960’s. From then on it functioned as a restaurant and was a market in name only.
In 1984 Edgar retired and sold the business to his sons Rick and Don Schmidt.
Edgar died in 1994 and left the Kreuz Market building to his daughter Nina Sells. His sons rented the building from their sister and continued to run the restaurant.
This division would set off a bitter family feud as the brothers argued with their sister about rent hikes and building improvements.
Don retired in 1997 and left Rick as the sole owner.
After years of legal battles with his sister, the pair settled and Rick built a new, larger restaurant in 1999 on nearby Colorado Street in Lockhart.
Rick’s sister Nina reopened in the old Kreuz building as “Smitty’s.”
This was a huge change in Lockhart. Kreuz had been open on Commerce Street for 99 years. It was a Lockhart landmark and tradition. Changing locations was a big risk.
Hundreds of Lockhart residents and dignitaries gathered in 1999 when Kreuz pit master Roy Perez dragged a metal bucket full of hot coals from the pits at the old location to the new one.
This ceremonial event helped comfort customers that were unsure about such a radical change.
The move proved successful. The newer building was able to serve the more customers and the flavor of the meat has stayed the same.
Rick retired in 2011 and sold the family business to his son Keith Schmidt.
Like his father, Keith grew up with BBQ in his blood. He spent his childhood in the pits and learned early the importance of traditions.
Today, Keith makes his sausage and smoked meats the same way his grandfather Edgar and Charles Kreuz Sr. did over a century ago.
Kreuz Market Timeline
Lockhart’s First BBQ Market
Jesse Swearingen opens Lockhart, Texas’ first meat market selling barbecued pork and beef in 1875.
Kreuz Market Opens for Business
Charles Kreuz Sr. purchases the store from Swearingen and renames it Kreuz Market.
Kreuz Sons Take Over
Charles Kreuz Sr. sells the market to his sons Theodore, Will, and Alvin.
Will Kreuz turns around and sells his shares to brother in-law Hugo Prove, husband of Amelia Kreuz.
Kreuz Market Rebuilt
The original metal building at 208 Commerce Street in downtown Lockhart was torn down and replaced with a brick building that still exists today.
The Schmidt Family Era
The Kreuz family sells the market to long time employee and butcher Edgar Schmidt.
Schmidt pioneers the BBQ food truck and begins catering picnics and events on site.
Schmidt Sons Buy Kreuz
Edgar Schmidt retires and sells the market to sons Rick and Don Schmidt.
Edgar Schmidt Passes Away
Edgar Schmidt, Kreuz owner for 36 years, passes away in Lockhart.
Edgar leaves the original Kreuz building at 208 S. Commerce St. to his daughter Nina Sells. His sons Rick and Don continue to own the business.
Don Schmidt Retires, Brother Rick Takes Over
Kreuz part owner Don Schmidt retires leaving brother Rick as the sole owner.
Kreuz Market Builds New Restaurant
After 99 years on Commerce St. in downtown Lockhart, owner Rick Schmidt moves Kreuz into a new, larger restaurant on Colorado Street.
Rick’s sister Nina Sells continues ownership of the original building and reopens as “Smitty’s.”
A New Generation Takes Over
Rick Schmidt retires and sells the restaurant to his son Keith.
Like many in his family, Keith grew up in the BBQ business in Lockhart.
After Rick retired he could often be found at Kreuz where Keith set him up with his own table.
Schmidt Family Opens New Restaurants
Kreuz owner Keith Schmidt partners with family members to open Schmidt Family Barbecue and Lockhart Smokeshouse restaurants around Texas.