Franklin Barbecue has been called the best barbecue in the known universe world. Being a foodie and loving barbecue in general, I read as much as I could about this place. However, I’m still surprise by the number of Americans, many loves barbecue, who have never heard of this place. I shouldn’t be allowed to review this place because this is a known quantity. Franklin barbecue is amazing, so make an effort to visit for all those who call themselves meat lovers. When Michelin awards three stars to a restaurant, it means “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey”. The bad news is, there is no Michelin guide for the city of Austin, so Franklin never got the 3-star; the good news is, you don’t have to fight all the crazy foodie tourists who clogged up every possible restaurant line like in New York and San Francisco. The line is already bad enough. Come prepared, and you shall receive. (I bought a Nintendo Switch in preparation for the wait but turns out the line wasn’t bad on a Wednesday in September. Who knew?)
Alright, the rules. President Obama not only visited it, but also became the only person who ever cut the line. The lines get very long on weekends and holidays, and they close on Mondays, so I would recommend coming on either Wednesday or Thursday. (Tuesday would have part of the Monday crowd who didn’t get to eat here) So, plan your dates accordingly! If you must come on a weekend, come extremely early. Austin traffic is terrible on Wednesday, I arrive at 9am even though I planned to be here by 8, ended up being 30th in line on a Wednesday. There isn’t much parking in the surrounding neighborhood of narrow streets. Then, the wait begins. Even though it is peak summer, the day is rather cool, and we are still in the shaded area of the restaurant. Bring a chair and a cushion, whatever you need to sit or stand for the next few hours. Being a barbecue joint in Texas, most people in line are just not that healthy, so don’t be ashamed if you are a diabetic or needing to use the bathroom. Even though Franklin does not serve until 11am, they are kind enough to open up the restaurant to use the bathroom or buy a drink. It became a culture to drink highly discounted local craft beer (sold by Franklin) while waiting in line for lunch. Talk about enjoying life to the fullest!
By the way, if you can’t wait in line, you can preorder and/or cut the line, only if you buy in bulk (think 5lbs++) (I think you can walkup but call them in advance). The Dallas lady in front plans to buy tray of brisket for dinner party later tonight; the couple behind flew in from Boston for a conference, and just like me, trying to check off as much restaurant as possible. There are many stories to be told in the line, but one thing is certain, everyone wants to dig into that beef. The excitement can be felt in the air, and the line doesn’t even move! (It wouldn’t for a while). I dug inside to check out the souvenirs. There are not expensive, but the selection is thinly spread. I am expecting more choices from the number of tourists who show up each day. Yes, most people in line are tourists even though there are many locals who line up on their day off.
Just because the restaurant opens at 11am does not mean I am served at 11:15. Even though the meat is done by the time Franklin is ready to serve, part of the Texas barbecue experience is the service. The butcher would chop in front of you, of whatever you want, and thus, becomes another time bottleneck. So, we inch slowly into the restaurant when 11am rolls around. This might be a more agonizing wait, because you can see, hear and even smell the excitement, yet, we are so far away from the actual tasting. Now is the time to focus and pay attention to the menu. I’m skipping the turkey and the sausage, even the pulled pork, and only getting the brisket and the ribs by pound. To compensate for the lack of variety, I plan to get the Tipsy Texan, which is a generous (it feels like half a pound of meat) portion of pulled pork and links. Brisket, by rule, should always be fatty, but I made the exception and got a slice of the lean brisket, just to taste the art of Franklin’s. And ding, times up and please place your order. The butcher tries his best to accommodate and get me on my merry way to serve the next hungry customer, and everyone is happy with this arrangement. (Though there are some who wants to chitchat and becomes friends with the butcher, for those, I would suggest maybe going to one that you might visit more often than once a lifetime?)
I end up sharing table with the Boston couples. The dining room never got busy because of the bottleneck, but we did not want to be sitting outside after enjoying cool air. Taste test – even the god damn lean brisket is moist. That shows me how much skill and effort Franklin and his crew had mastered the art of barbecue, as they took away the only reason not to eat lean brisket. The fatty brisket melts away in my mouth, but still have enough substance which reminded me that I’m not chewing on a piece of fat. Both briskets are extremely peppery, as seen on the skin of the brisket, and very smoky. Some might dip this legendary brisket with more sauce, but I’m sure that is just a waste. In my opinion, if the chef (or pit master) put in that much effort to give the flavor profile into the meat, why throw it away with a dip of another sauce? Save the sauce for something else, like a bun or bad barbecue, not here. I will note here that this is the best smoked brisket I ever had and is one of the best meats I ever ate. But alas, why listen to a nobody like me, just don’t come so I wouldn’t be envious.
Onto the side. The ribs are solid, but they aren’t the type that just fall off the bone even though they are very tender. These ribs lack the punch found in the brisket, but they are still legendary. The Tipsy Texan sandwich has buns, but the buns do nothing against the pulled pork and withered away. Instead, I eat the meat by themselves and they are both excellent. The only question I have is that, why would you order a sandwich if the only difference between a sandwich and a plate is just two pieces of crappy buns? (I still think the Tipsy Texan is much cheaper than ordering the meat by the pound, which made no sense) I had some of the Tipsy Texan sandwich leftovers the same night, and they taste as good as before. The flavor has already been locked in and did not escape overnight.
My lunch took a long time, but don’t worry, I plan for nothing on the day I visit Franklin. This is the main event and I enjoy every single moment. There are many times where anticipation kill the actual reveal, such as going to Old Faithful, or eating at Pat’s. There is none of it here at Franklin. One might argue that there is a better barbecue joint out there with better ribs or pulled pork, but I do not think anyone has ever been disappointed by the divine brisket. This transcended whatever I knew about brisket and barbecue, and I’ll forever know that there is better barbecue if I could just be waiting in line in Austin. I’m honored to have eaten here, and hopefully Franklin and crew continue to serve to the thousands who made the pilgrimage weekly. The wait is long, but you know the drill by now. Come early and wait in line, and you will be rewarded. By the time I leave, they were still serving food to new arrivals. Hopefully, there are some waiting for you when you make the trip.
Visited: Sep 25, 2019 at 11am for lunch
Address: 900 E 11th St.