Franklin Barbecue, Austin TX: this place has quickly become known as THE best barbecue... more potential customers arrive every day. I say potential, because some will not have the chance to get in. they sell out, every day, six days a week.
It's not a big place. and it came from even humbler beginnings.
just a few years ago (2009), Franklin opened for business out of this trailer.
Franklin, our first attempt....
they open at 11AM, we arrived at 11AM to find this line. about 10 minutes later, a Franklin girl gave us the bad news, they expect to sell out before they get this far back in line. we were 45 people behind the last man expected to get brisket.
we were better prepared our second attempt. we brought chairs, umbrellas, water, a book... and we arrived earlier, 9AM.
the staff at franklin did their best to make us comfortable. they wheeled out a big fan, a giant igloo cooler filled with ice water with paper cups. about every fifteen minutes somebody would come out and remind us "please stay hydrated, drink plenty of water and just come inside if you need to use the bathroom".
around 10:30 a girl came out to ask everybody what, and how much they planned to order. she was trying to caclulate the point should they cut the line off. to save the people at the back from waiting for NO brisket. we had made the cut! at this point, we may have been wilting in the August heat, but we knew we were getting Franklin barbecue.
and closer to 11, they started selling beer, top chico and bottled waters to people in line.
we watched as people that had large pre-orders haul out huge boxes of barbecue. pre orders have a 5 lb minimum and must be picked up before opening.
the line jumped forward when they opened. by 11:45 we were close to the front door. a good portion of people in line were repeat customers. clearly, people are willing to endure hardships for this barbecue. there was also a good portion of foodie tourists, out of state tags on cars and a hotel shuttle bus dropped people off.
by noon, we were enjoying the air conditioning. #1 son said "it smells SO GOOD IN HERE! I can smell the FOOD!"
12:15 and we were near the order/slicer guy. I observed many people ordering many pounds of brisket at a time, loading up coolers to haul out.
we got 1.5 lb of brisket, two ribs and a half lb of turkey.
I can say that was THE best rib from a restaurant I ever had. my wife said they were just as good as my ribs. I need to make that girl some ribs.
I have never had better brisket. I can't go as far to say it was the best I've ever had... I also like that brisket at Salt Lick and Rudy's. the girl next to us in line did not share my brisket opinion. she was confident that Franklin is better than Salt Lick or Rudy's, "when you get FRANKLIN, IT'S like Christmas!". really, that is what she said, drueling and spraying a bit as she spoke.
as I updated our progress via FB status, it was clear that some people blame Franklin for the line hardship to sample his smoked meats. the question I often received afterward, "was it worth the wait?"
I can't really answer that question. the price I paid Franklin for the meat was comparable to my other two favorite barbecue places. it's all the other people that want to get Franklin that caused the line. and the lines appear to be getting longer. several people in line said this was the longest line they'd ever seen. The positive press for Franklin seems to be increasing.
barbecue is not like other food and franklin doesn't consider himself a chef. smoked brisket is a laborious process. each brisket smokes for 18-20 hours. so each brisket takes a whole day. the space in each smoker is finite. he can't simply stuff more brisket into the smoker.
when they sell out each day, they are already prepping the briskets for the next. these smokers are wood fired and need constant supervision. one guy stays late, and then Aaron Franklin comes in at 1:45 AM to start his day.
when Franklin first made the leap from trailer to brick and mortar building, they stayed open till 4 pm. as their reputation grew, they started selling out earlier and earlier every day. the posted hours now read "open 11 AM till sold out". they always sell out.
Franklin has made good effort to keep up with demand, they doubled the size of their smoker in 2011. the new double capacity smoker is 20 ft long every day, there are about 37 Franklin briskets released into the world of foodies and barbecue fans. each brisket can feed 10-15 people. today, I got a chunk off one of 'em.
as the legend grows, and the positive press seems to continue to roll in, I expect the line situation will get worse before it gets better. I wonder if Mr. Aaron Franklin has looked at the old Artz Rib house location... that would be a larger location (and closer to me). I suspect they have their current facility operating at maximum capacity.
would I go back and do it again? not in August! maybe I'll be up for it again, in fall or winter. (UPDATE: I went back to Rudy’s and their brisket was nowhere near as good as Franklin)