Franklin Barbecue has quickly gained a reputation as the best barbecue in Texas, which would make it a serious contender for the world heavyweight belt. What started as a food truck in an east Austin parking lot in 2009, run by a young guy named Aaron Franklin and his wife Stacy, has become the most in-demand brisket in America.
The line is long, and starts forming outside of Franklin’s new bricks-and-mortar location at least an hour before opening.
Did I mention the line is long? Seriously, it’s like waiting to get on Space Mountain. By the time we made it to the counter it had been a full hour, but I never regretted a second of it.
Aaron is still at the front lines, serving up every customer that passes through with a big smile and enthusiastic conversation, the kind you get from a guy who genuinely loves what he’s doing and is thrilled to have so many customers. Apparently he shows up every morning at 3:30am to light the smokers and prepare the food for the day, and it’s this passion for barbecue that really shows, one that he inherited from his parents, who also ran a stand for years in east Texas.
The menu is as it should be: extremely straight-forward. There is brisket, pulled pork, ribs and sausage, with beans, slaw and potato salad as side options. Franklin makes your meal well worth the wait: the two-meat plate pictured above with ribs, brisket, slaw and potato salad was a heaping mound of food, immediately intimidating despite the ample opportunity to build a huge appetite. Franklin pulls brisket after brisket out of the warmer - one for every half-dozen customers or so - until they run out.
Okay, so let’s talk about brisket. While prepared in a very similar fashion to pulled pork, it truly is a very different beast (pun intended.) While the pork traditionally stays juicier, the brisket builds a better bark (the perfect smoky blackness that develops around the meat after a long, slow day on the smoker) which is absolutely crucial to great barbecue.
Franklin’s brisket is absolutely better than any other I’ve ever tasted - and I should note that my father-in-law and I are pretty handy with the smoker ourselves. Not only is the bark perfect - crisp, rich and peppery - and the flavours unbelievably bold and smoky, but the meat itself is as juicy and tender as I’ve ever tasted in a brisket. It’s really, really, easy to dry out this cut of meat, but not here; Franklin’s brisket makes other restaurant’s pulled pork taste like leather. It’s a revelation.
The barbecue truly is ecstasy; even the sides are spot-on, down to the sweet tea. If you ever have the opportunity to give it a try, take it, but get there early: they close as soon as they run out of meat, which is usually by 1pm every day.