Great Barbecues of Texas: Gonzales Food Market in Gonzales

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Great lamb ribs are one of Gonzales Food Market's eccentricities.

Founded in 1958 on the north side of Gonzales, Texas' courthouse square, Gonzales Food Market is still youthful in Texas barbecue years. Yet, in its relative obscurity and unreconstructed nature (the place still functions fully as a grocery store, the front well-stocked with boxed cereals, snacks, food staples, and cleaning supplies), it most perfectly illustrates how the Lone Star State's great barbecues evolved from food markets. Also, the barbecue is damn good, cheaper than usual, and you don't have to contend with the tourist hordes that haunt places like Kreuz Market and Louie Mueller's.

[This is the eighth installment of Great Barbecues of Texas. Read the entire series here.]

The exterior provides a rare wheelchair ramp.

The place has been run by three generations of the Lopez family (the grandfather came from Mexico), and the barbecue action is in the back, where a long warming counter is filled with 'cue displayed in metal tubs. Reflecting the diverse tastes of the community, which includes gringos, chicanos, African-Americans, and a whole lot of folks who are in between, the list of meats is long, from the unusual lamb ribs to the plebeian chopped brisket - a presentation rarely found in this part of Texas, but much more common in North Texas. There it's less expensive than sliced brisket, and often thought of as "poor man's 'cue."

Beef sausages are made in the way-back, according to an old family recipe, and between ordering counter and hidden kitchen is a dining room brightly lit and decorated with plastic red-checked tablecloths, with a few cactus-bearing landscapes on the wall, even though prickly pear is about the only kind of cactus one finds in these parts. I ate at Gonzales Food Market most recently in 2012, when my crew and I were on an extended afternoon barbecue run, making a big eastward arc from Austin to San Antonio that also included a couple of places in Lockhart, and City Market in Luling.

Gonzales' barbecue menu, with placards offering chopped brisket and hot lamb.

Next: the barbecue spread

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