City Market

633 E. Davis
Luling, TX 78648

Phone: 830-875-9019
Hours: Mon-€“Sat 7-€“6

Opened 1958
Pitmaster Joe Capello Sr. (since 1970)
Method Post oak; indirect-heat pit; gas-fired smoker
Pro Tip Take home some sauce.

TMBBQ Rating: 4

Texas Monthly BBQ Top 50

More Reviews

May 16, 2013

There are few places we love as much as the pit room at City Market. Entering the smoke-filled, glass-enclosed chamber at the back of the dining room is an experience you will remember for decades—a trip into an iconic, sacred space in the world of barbecue. Like Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market, in Lockhart, this joint has been a mainstay in our top tier for years, and while we’d still recommend a visit, the tough,…

May 16, 2010

Showing this joint to a friend for the first time is always fun, but the huge line can be daunting. Luckily we were stuffed, so waiting for a half hour or so wasn’t the worst that could have happened. Once inside the smoking room we were mesmerized by the smell and the view of these huge smokers. One of them was completely full of the popular beef links, which helped to create some room in…

May 21, 2008

You’ve come for wholeness, for satisfaction deep within your soul. Your searching has brought you here, to the company of fellow pilgrims in the snaking line. Slowly, you advance across the tile floor, past the knotty-pine walls, and up to the inner sanctum: a glass-enclosed chamber where a host of priests, in green apron vestments and orange hard hats, labor at a smoky altar. Aware of your unworthiness, you push open the swinging door. This…


December 13, 2012

There are many folks around the country that may have just been introduced to the existence of City Market, in Luling, earlier this year when Newsweek published their list of the “101 Best Places to Eat” around the world. I myself have joked at the dubious nature of most lists like this one, but as one of only fourteen restaurants in North America to make the list alongside such names as Husk, Daniel, and Momofuku, City Market was in good company. I too had sang the praises of this temple of Central Texas-style barbecue to anyone that would listen. “No barbecue trip to Lockhart is complete without a stop in Luling” was my normal line to smoked meat novices on a virgin Central Texas barbecue tour. It’s only a fifteen-minute drive after all. My first visit was after an early morning drive from San Antonio, where a religious experience was had with a breakfast of beef brisket smoked simply over post oak and a link of homemade sausage baptized in a golden sauce. I thought it would always be that good, but it is no longer. One of the mighty in Texas has fallen off a bit, and that sweet memory from years ago was strong enough to cloud my better judgment for a few years.

Over-trimmed and undercooked brisket

A visit here earlier this year was when the sad realization manifested itself. The brisket was tough, dry, and lacking in smoke and flavor. The ribs took too much effort to clean, and my jaw got quite a workout. The excellent beef link has never wavered, but the pleasure I took in eating the sausage occasionally dipped in sauce heightened the flaws of the other cuts (there are only three smoked meat menu items here). I was eating with my photographer Nick that day, who also agreed that this place just wasn’t living up to the best we’d been enjoying on the road. I scanned my meat memory bank to recall that two previous visits had also been lackluster, but this was still one of my favorite places (not just favorite barbecue joints) to eat in all of Texas, so I needed to be sure.

Joe Capello and the steel pit.


After that meal I strolled back to the alley behind the building and walked to the open door of the pit room. Pitmaster Joe Capello Sr. was there and greeted us warmly. He showed us the smallish steel pit and the wood pile that was just disorderly enough to know that somebody was actually using it. Joe didn’t explain much about their smoking process but did fill us in on some history of the Bar-E Ranch that was owned by the family that started City Market (the sign above City Market reads “Bar-E Barbeque & Sausage”). The ranch still exists north of town, but the briskets aren’t from the cattle at the ranch any longer. As I turned to leave I noticed a stainless steel Southern Pride rotisserie smoker in the corner. I tried to hide my disdain when asking Joe why it was there, hoping that it was just a joke, but Joe said they had to crank it up during busy weekends to keep up with demand. The smoker felt cold and hadn’t been fired up recently enough to cook the meat I ate on this day, but the fact that a recognized pillar of Texas barbecue tradition uses it at all is alarming.

A Southern Pride rotisserie smoker on the right, just inside the door. (Photograph by Nicholas McWhirter.)

Several months later we found ourselves back in Luling. It was early in the morning just like it had been on my first visit, that religious experience in 2007. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t fallen victim to the barbecue doldrums of mid-afternoon. I carefully guided the meat cutter to select a fresh brisket and cut liberally from both the fatty and the lean end to get a good sample. I selected pork ribs from both the short end and the center of the rack to keep from getting that one bad rib that might be lurking in the rack. Two links of sausage would also be needed because, well, I wasn’t going to share one.

The Texas Trinity from City Market.

We sat at a table in the side room, near the window to let the light in. I wanted it to be good—no—great. I wanted the brisket to sing but instead it was George Strait on the speakers that cut through the silence of the empty dining room with “He’s got a fool-hearted memory.” George was right. It was great only in my memory. Tough slices of brisket and tougher ribs were several hours from being done. The brisket slices could not easily be pulled apart, and the visibly unrendered fat along the edges was tough to chew through. They both had the smoke and the ribs got a flavor boost from a restrained sweet glaze.  Mind you, this was still good-tasting barbecue, but I’ve come to expect some of the best in the state from this joint. It wasn’t.

Dry meat and unrendered fat

Leaving a painful amount of meat on the butcher paper, we polished off the links of sausage and purchased a container of the best sauce in Texas. Maybe next time it will be perfect again and all will be right with the Central Texas barbecue world, but probably not.

(This review originally appeared on Full Custom Gospel BBQ.)



    Austin4Sharon says:

    Still my favorite BBQ in Texas!!

    Anonymous says:

    Made the trip here from San Antonio today hoping to satisfy a craving, and unfortunately I walked away somewhat disappointed. The ribs and sausage were delicious. The sausage had great snap and flavor. The ribs were moist, tender and smoky, with a slightly sweet taste. The brisket, however, was not up to their usual standard, or any standard for that matter. There were chunks of unrendered fat clinging to the slices, and the meat was tough and smokeless, basically no more than roast beef. I could have gotten better beef at pretty much any joint in San Antonio, including Bill Miller’s, and that’s saying a lot, because San Antonio BBQ, particularly Bill Miller’s, is sub-standard compared to other places in the state. Maybe next time I’ll just hit up The Smokehouse, or make the longer trek to Lockhart or Franklin’s.

    Anonymous says:

    Ate here on Saturday August 4 around lunchtime and enjoyed the conversation in the line, the rings, and the cold Dr Pepper…but not much. The ribs were dry without much meat and the brisket was dry on about half my order (half pound) and good but not smoky enough on all the order. Disappointing to say the least. I’ll plan my next trip around Schulenberg’s City Market (they were closed on my way back to Houston this weekend) and go out of my way to Kreutz and Black’s in Lockhart on my Houston to San Antonio and Austin runs. I’m about out of patience with Luling.

    PM Summer says:

    My most recent visit last month was a disappointment. The brisket was dry, but the ribs were good. Smoke flavor seemed distant. I wondered.

    casey says:

    I’ve been twice since summer 2008 and was underwhelmed both times except for the sausage. I guess I waited too late to try it.

    Anonymous says:

    Went on a BBQ tour in July 2011. Franklin’s, Snows, Kreuzs, City Market, and Smittys. I had never been to City Market and me and my brother were looking forward to it. We were both disappointed. Brisket was dry with little flavor, ribs were tough but had a nice crust. Sausage was outstanding with a good snap. However, I base a BBQ joint off the brisket. I figured we just hit a bad day but apparently not.

    Anonymous says:

    I agree with all of the comments. It is similar to the esperience we had in June 2011 on a BBQ tour. I am surprised the author still left it at 4 stars other than respect for the long lived legacy despite the underwhelming current experience.

    Anonymous says:

    Ribs were dry, overcooked, not much meat. The place across the street was much better.

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