LONGTIME MEMBER PROFILE: City Meat Market, Giddings


Owner Gerald Birkelbach started working at City Meat Market in 1974. He’s there every day making sure his meat is just right without thermostats or thermometers. (Sarah Beal photo)

By Ed Crowell

    Step into City Meat Market in downtown Giddings and you instantly know this is the real thing when it comes to Texas barbecue.
    Pass the retail meat cases where fresh cuts of beef and pork are sold. Walk between the tables with bright plastic tablecloths to the pit area in the back, where you’ll line up to get your meat choices on butcher paper.
    Owner Gerald Birkelbach, who started working at the market’s processing plant in 1974 soon after he got out of Giddings High School, serves up his dry-rub, smoky fare without fancy airs. Sauce and a few fixings are available, but for Birkelbach it’s all about the taste, texture and aroma of the meat alone.
    Most days he also stops by the butchering and packing facility on U.S. 77 a mile south of the market. That’s where Bluebonnet has supplied power for more than half a century.
    Birkelbach knows exactly where his meat comes from because this is where cattle, hogs, goats and sheep are brought in from Lee County ranches.
    Area restaurants and families order custom processing from here. In an average week, about 6,000 pounds of meat also goes to the market at 101 W. Austin St. (U.S. 290) for barbecuing and counter sales.
    City Meat Market, which has been in business for some 70 years, reflects the simple style of mid-day barbecue eating favored by the area’s large population of residents with German or Czech heritage. The market, which closes at 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 4 p.m. Saturdays, even sells packages of Bohemian noodles to go with meat purchases. The noodles are made in Fayetteville by a Czech family.
    Birkelbach smokes his meat without a thermostat for the pits or a thermometer for the meat. He knows when his barbecue is ready and scoffs at some of the electronically controlled smokers that newer places use.
    “It’s not the hands-on thing, not the old-fashioned way that we do it,” he said.
    What among his barbecue selections is best?
    “I think my sliced pork is awesome. And the sausage recipe is very good (80 percent beef and 20 percent pork).”
    Lyle Lovett also likes Birkelbach’s barbecue. The musician stops often when he’s on the road. His photo and those of other notable Texans who know the real thing hang on the well-smoked walls.
    Every month in 2014, we will feature one of Bluebonnet’s earliest commercial accounts.

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