After enjoying some of the best things to do in Luling, Texas and seeing the Luling Watermelon Thump Festival, we made our way over to the World Famous Original City Market BBQ. Below is my review, plus tips for enjoying your meal, especially if you’re not familiar with BBQ traditions in small towns in Texas.
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Where to Stay in Luling
If you are planning to visit City Market BBQ as part of a weekend getaway in Luling, you’ll need a place to stay. There are a few options for hotels, ranging from one to three stars.
If you’re looking for something a little nicer, the three-star La Quinta by Wyndham Luling includes amenities like a swimming pool, fitness center, and continental breakfast. Newly remodeled! See prices and reviews.
The Luling hotel with the best reviews, the Best Western Plus Longhorn Inn & Suites is a three-star hotel featuring updated TVs, free wifi, an outdoor pool, and a modern fitness center. There are also services here including the ability to pay for laundry if you’re on a long journey. See prices and reviews.
Original City Market Review
Here we go…
Seating and Experience
This one is tough, because we had an unpleasant time ordering, but it was due to the absolutely blazing temperatures outside.
We were already getting overheated after walking the town for an hour, so spending time in the pit room to place our order, where the temperatures were much hotter than outside, was overwhelming. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I’d suggest calling ahead and placing your order for takeout. Or visiting when it’s not over one hundred degrees outside.
And it’s not like they don’t warn you. Their website clearly states:
It is recommended that you reserve the food prior to your visit as we run out of our popular items pretty quickly. You have the option to carry out as well.
The actual experience of ordering was a trip. If you don’t go to any Texas BBQ joints, you might not be familiar with places where you order your meat in the pit room and the rest of your meal at the counter. It can be confusing.
Here you need cash. Go in knowing what you want and your time will be easier. We weren’t quite sure what we wanted, and that made it a longer experience in the room as well.
Once we ordered the meat, I took Jordan to a booth and my mom ordered drinks and sides at the counter. By the time we got there, around four pm in the afternoon, many of the sides we wanted to try were out. But that is par for the course, so go earlier or reserve yours ahead of time!
The front counter is also where you order your barbecue sauce (which they are famous for). You can also order desserts, like pies and banana pudding. My mom picked up some jalapeno pecan brittle to bring home as a gift from Texas for my sister. If you love restaurant swag, there are also t-shirts and other City Market BBQ gear and souvenirs for sale. The BBQ sauce is a popular Luling souvenir!
Once back in our booth, we cooled down and dug in to the meal.
Overall, I found our first time eating here to be a bit chaotic and the weather really made it more difficult than it would have been otherwise. However, I know when we go back on our next trip to South Texas, it will be a smooth ride.
Original City Market BBQ Menu
City Market BBQ opened in 1958. Like the best barbeque joints, it’s a far more humble building and a much smaller menu than restaurants try to debut today. This is far and away part of the charm.
Boasting that they have “consistently been in the top 10 in the Texas Monthly for the past 60 years,” the humble building should not fool you. They know exactly who they are and what they do well. (Or, as they might remind you, better than everyone).
The pit room has had the same pit-master for over fifty years, so consistency here is the name of the game.
What We Drank: Nothing Too Fancy
For drinks, my mom ordered unsweetened tea and I got a Diet Coke. I know, I know. The tea got great reviews from my mom, and I love a place where you can get a can or bottle of Diet Coke instead of a fountain drink. Since we were midway through a ten-hour drive back to Oklahoma City, enjoying the full-service bar did not seem like a good idea!
What We Ate: Not Enough but A Good Introduction
For meats, you have the choice of beef brisket, ribs, and hot sausage. The pork ribs are a particular specialty, but we were in the mood for brisket, which came served on butcher paper. They also sell cold sausage to take home which comes in boxes or you can buy individually.
For sides, we got the potato salad and beans. They also have cheese, chips, banana pudding, and other desserts.
The beef brisket was excellent, with a delicious smoky flavor and a clearly discernable smoke ring. It was so tender it fell apart on my fork. We didn’t try the sauce (major oversite on our part), but the brisket didn’t need it. I wish I’d brought some back with us for chicken wings, but my brain was slightly addled from the heat exhaustion.
I also loved the potato salad, which was flavorful and had a great texture that paired well with the brisket. If you are looking for a good carbohydrate to go with your meat, this was an excellent side.
The beans weren’t my favorite, but I have to admit that I’m partial to Kansas City-style bar-b-q and its sweetness over the bold meat flavors of Central Texas. The question of which style is the best BBQ style is one for the ages, and my four years living in the KC metro have probably biased me to a point where I can never be an impartial juror.
I’m sure the beans were executed to perfection, they just aren’t my personal preference. However, I fully understand that this is my fault and no one else’s.
The bottom line: the meat was excellent, the potato salad was excellent, I was meh on the beans, and next time we will order early so we get the full City Market BBQ experience.
So Should You Eat at Original City Market BBQ?
Yes! Go expecting a crash-course in Cental Texas BBQ traditions, with no frills but tons of flavor. This is especially true if you are an easy day trip (say if you live in San Antonio, Austin, or even Houston), since you can easily come and enjoy the day in Luling and try out some of the best bbq in Texas.
If you want to go on a Texas BBQ Trail adventure, pair a stop in Luling with a visit to Smitty’s Market in Lockhart or the famous BBQ joints in Bastrop, Elgin, or Taylor.
If you’re driving through town, definitely stop by! It will make a much more exciting road trip memory than stopping, at say, a Pizza Hut!
Tips for Eating at City Market BBQ
First, bring cash. They do not take credit cards.
Second, order ahead if you can or come early in the day. They are only open from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm, so no late-night dates here!
Third, they do have free Wi-Fi if you need somewhere to connect while you eat!
Finally, if you need to get directions to the restaurant, it’s very easy to find! The address is 633 E Davis St, Luling, TX 78648, and it’s located right along Magnolia Avenue at the intersection of Magnolia and E Davis St, right around the corner from the “Welcome to Luling” mural. If you don’t have your own car to get to Luling, I have tips for renting a car below.
Where to Stay in Luling
Texas Travel Resources
What to Pack for Texas
Lonely Planet Texas so you have a guidebook with you on your trip. It’s not easy to find guidebooks once you’re on the ground, so I suggest picking one up ahead of time. They also have Kindle editions available.
A camera so you can take photos of the special moments from your trip. Whether you bring a point-and-shoot like my Sony ZV-1 or rely on your cell phone like my iPhone 12 Pro, make sure you have at least one camera (though I always travel with two)!
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2016, and I happily recommend them.
Getting coverage is important whenever you’re more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
Stephanie is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After living in Eastern Europe for four years, she has moved with her family back to Oklahoma to write about her favorite places growing up: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, & Route 66!