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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Franklin Barbecue: The House That Brisket Built

by Chuck P

The city of Austin, Texas is known for many things. It’s eclectic music scene, the University of Texas, Austin City Limits, Matthew McConaughey, bats and SXSW name a few, but the one thing that Austin is definitely known for is BBQ.

You could probably stand on any corner in Austin, throw a rock and hit a BBQ shack or food truck. Out of the many local spots you could go to for some finger-lickin’ goodness, there’s one place that’s considered the Mecca for BBQ in all of Texas: Franklin Barbecue.

Our tray at Franklin Barbecue: Turkey, Sausage, Ribs and Brisket
Our tray at Franklin Barbecue: Turkey, Sausage, Ribs and Brisket


Aaron Franklin has created a cult following for his delicious meats and it all started out of a trailer in 2009. Franklin is probably the only place in the country that consistently has over a 2 hour wait for their food. Outside, in the elements, year-round, people get in line as early as 5am. As the line begins to spread out from the front door down the block and into neighborhoods you can see people setting up folding chairs and grabbing beers out of their tag-along ice chests.

People come from literally all around the world just to get a taste. When (not if) they run out of food,that’s it! There’s no dinner service so if you were one of the unlucky ones who stood in line all morning and braved the elements only to miss out, then it’s a return trip tomorrow to get back in line once again.

When Jay told the Bite & Booze team about our stops in Texas during our Gov’t Taco research trip, I was extremely excited to see Austin on the itinerary. I knew that we were going to be trying out tacos at all of our stops, but I made a vow to stand in line for some of that famous Franklin brisket.

When we arrived in Austin, Jay told us that Wednesday was our only day with nothing on the calendar. In that moment, the BBQ stars aligned. Although Jay had been to Franklin twice before, he agreed to come hang with me in line. We set our alarms that night to be there no later than 8:30am as I drifted off to sleep dreaming of the BBQ deliciousness that was to come.

After hitting snooze on my alarm about 4 times I woke up and realized it was now 9am! Jay mentioned that if the line was too long, he knew of some other great places we could go, but my heart was slowly breaking just thinking about missing the opportunity while we were in town. 

I had never felt so betrayed by a snooze button. 

To my suprise, as we made the turn off of East 11th St. onto Branch St. we saw there only about 30 people in line. The BBQ Gods do exist.

We decided to grab some coffee and made our way around the corner to get in line. We mingled with other customers there who were from out of town and who were also shocked by the short line. 

Pro Tip: We went on a Wednesday if you want to try your luck next time you’re in Austin 

After about 20 minutes one of the employes started making their way through the line taking orders from everyone. The minimum order is 5 pounds so we went with smoked turkey, ribs, sausage and of course, their world famous brisket.

Around 11am the doors opened and the line began to filter inside. Close to noon, we finally made our way through the doors and into Franklin. The aroma of smoked meats inside overwhelmed me. Tables began filling up with eager, hungry guests. I eyed each tray of food that passed making myself hungrier by the minute.

As we made our way closer to the counter I noticed the man himself, Aaron Franklin, was hanging out by the register just chatting with everyone and taking pictures with enamored guests.

Aaron Franklin, Jay and myself posing after a behind the scenes tour of Franklin Barbecue
Aaron Franklin, Jay and myself posing after a behind the scenes tour of Franklin Barbecue


That’s cool. Here’s a guy that could be at home, on a golf course or anywhere just letting the place run itself and not even worrying about showing up and yet there he was! To see him chilling in a t-shirt, shorts and Chuck Taylor’s just mingling with his clientele was very humbling.

After grabbing our order and some drinks we hit up the patio and got our grub on. I’m not gonna lie to you folks -- the turkey, ribs and sausage were nothing to write home about. They were straight up just ok BBQ. I enjoyed them, but I would not order those again if I went back. However, I would happily pay $100 for a whole brisket.

Brisket at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX
Brisket at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX


THIS IS THE BEST BRISKET I’VE EVER HAD! I don’t even know where to start... The perfect smoke ring, the juiciness of the meat, the incredible flavor of it all was too much to comprehend. It was like the best chocolate or the best steak or the best whatever is your favorite thing in the world times 100. I couldn’t get enough of it and was felt stupid for not ordering more. I ate until I was miserable.

After our meal we were able to go into the back of the restaurant and talk with Aaron Franklin. This guy was so down to earth and eager to talk with us and answer any questions we had for him. I also discovered that he was also a fellow drummer (!) and that we had similar taste in music. 

Killer brisket and he was a drummer?! Our wedding date is set and we’re registered on Amazon.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel and I realized 2 things: I need more than a couple of days to fully experience Austin and when I do get back most of that time will be spent eating brisket at Franklin.