My first knowledge of Franklin Barbecue came from Daniel Vaughn’s book, “The Prophets of Smoked Meat.” He tells of the ubiquitous three-hour wait as a precondition to savoring the legendary BBQ. Over the next few months, the Franklin Barbecue name kept popping up in conversation, especially once I got up to New York. Many foodies on the East coast had heard the tale of the barbecue megastar that started in a simple trailer in Austin, Texas, yet I lived right down the road and hadn’t heard of it. It’s shameful, I know, but I cut my teeth on classic Texas BBQ at the nearby joints in Lockhart and Luling. Franklin’s just wasn’t on my radar yet.
Aaron Franklin’s smoked meat has been drawing crowds since 2009 when he started slinging barbecue goodness out of a trailer. Word spread like wildfire and his brisket became legend – so good in fact that he has sold out EVERY day since he opened his brick and mortar just south of the Texas State Capitol. Daily, there is at least a two-hour wait – no exceptions. Well, unless you’re the President of the United States and in that case, you and your Secret Service agents can cut the line right to the front. For everybody else, including Kanye West, you gotta stand in line and do the time.
I arrived at 9:20 in the morning – late by Franklin’s standard. Luckily, I was meeting up with an old high school buddy who had arrived at 8:30 and had been posted up in line for nearly an hour. I carefully scanned the crowd for Devin and spotted him camped out in two, UT burnt-orange, folding chairs. Devin is a seasoned Franklin Barbecue vet, hence the two folding chairs, so clutch in a situation where one must wait in line for hours at a time. He even brought his lab, Cinder, to keep us company.
We had secured a nice spot, a mere 80 bodies between the door and us. As Devin and I chatted and caught up, the line began to slowly grow until it curled into the street. It was a Tuesday morning, yet there were a solid two hundred people waiting to partake in some of the most notorious barbecue in the country.
The doors finally opened at 11:00 am and the first few customers came spilling out with their arms loaded down with pre-orders. They duly received their fair share of mean looks from those of us praying there was plenty more. Luckily within another thirty minutes I was finally in the front door.
Well, let me tell you, that, was pure torture of another kind. I could now smell the deliciousness, but it was still out of reach. Another thirty-minute line lay before me, only this time, I was given a front row seat to watch other customers devour inhale their mounds of the legendary Franklin meat.
Finally when I arrived at the counter, I ordered some of everything.
Yeah, my eyes were bigger than my stomach but heck, I had just waited two hours and I wasn’t going to let something slip by me now.
I sampled a pound of brisket, a half-pound of sausage, and a half-pound of pulled pork. I accompanied this blowout with a side of coleslaw and a serving of potato salad. Devin slipped me one of his ribs for the final round out and after a quick photography session and a prayer, we dug in.
MY OPINION: Franklin Barbecue knocks it out of the park – it lives up to its reputation and all of the hype. Everything on the menu is amazing. The Franklin Brisket probably gets the most notoriety and rightfully so – its damn good. Melt in your mouth – good.
MY SUGGESTION: Don’t be deterred by the long lines and infamous wait, get your tail down to Franklin’s the next chance you get. Just about everyone is enjoying a libation of some sort and the Franklin staff sells a great selection of local Austin beers. My advice is to bring a folding chair, grab one of those Austin Beerworks Fire Eagles, and get to know your neighbors. It was worth the wait.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Bon Appetite, Texas Monthly, and Anthony Bourdain all sing Aaron Franklin’s praises, cause Aaron Franklin is the man.
- Aaron was awarded a James Beard Foundation award for best chef in the Southwest region.
- Located at 900 E. 11th Street, Austin Texas
- Closed on Mondays
- Opens at 11 am and closes when sold out
- Get in line around 8:30 am
- Bring a folding chair, cooler, and a friend or better yet, make a new one in line.
- Pick up a copy of Aaron’s book and if you’re lucky have him sign it.
If you feel I have been living under a rock and have missed another good place to eat, let me know because I love checking out new eats.