It was one of those rare, late spring days in central Texas where the mid-morning temperature was still comfortable and a light Hill Country was rain falling on the windshield as we made our way from New Braunfels to the edge of downtown Austin. We came seeking the best there is. Barbecue made by a master in his prime. One of but a very few places to earn Six Stars from Full Custom Gospel.
Despite the drizzle there was already a line forming as we pulled in just after nine o'clock. This would probably be the best time to address this whole line deal. In case you are unfamiliar -- Austin is a great town that is chock full of proud hipsters. There are so many that one might think it odd that a 'cue joint could thrive in such a climate. But this is Texas and even most of the hipsters are carnivores here. Hell yes. But line waiters? That surprises me. To see the beanie and plaid facial hair-and-piercing crowd standing in line for hours for meat -- that can only mean one thing. This is very good meat.
Our buddy -- a Franklin Line veteran -- had arrived about 10 minutes earlier and was in line under the covered deck with his cousin who had been waiting for her chance to sample the legendary meat. And here we were. Fewer than 120 minutes separated our palates from some of the most hyped barbecue in the history of hype or barbecue.
We'd made it just in time because the line grew rapidly until it was across the length of the lot to the next street up. An employee made her way out the exit door to vend cold refreshment, sodas and beers, to anyone who might have been working up a thirst in the line. We were informed by our buddy that the line usually snakes down the wheelchair ramp in front of the door and then down the sidewalk -- but today they were allowing the early birds to park it under the roof on the patio so we might stay dry. No matter as the rain would soon give way to steamy sunshine and the line was out to its normal spot by the time we left. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
|In front of us|
|In back of us|
|Farther in back of us at around 10:40 a.m.|
|When this is your view of the sign -- you fi'in ta eat|
Three (long) minutes after 11 the door finally opened and they ushered in the 10 folks ahead of us. One guy was pulling briskets out of the hot box and unwrapping them from the butcher paper. They were black and the wondrous aroma washed over us and we eyed the counter with mouths watering. Finally it was us and our buddy suggested that they might hook us up with a few burnt ends -- a Franklin custom which they are only too glad to oblige (unlike KC they don't have to really save burnt ends here on account of most Texas brisket enthusiasts don't really know what they are -- the poor bastards).
The third time he asked us what it'd be we were able to shake it off and pull it together enough to mumble something about more burnt ends. Burnt end sandwich and pound of burnt ends to go. Sauce? No -- no sauce -- doesn't need it. Sides? No. Meat. Just meat.
At the table we had a chance to savor and even sample a few of the legendary Franklin hipster sauces. They are good and while we had only brisket on this visit we can imagine how that espresso sauce would be mighty tasty on some ribs. Our buddy had ribs -- big ol' spares. He says usually he just pulls the bone out with one hand although that didn't work on this visit. He actually had to pull a little showing that these ribs were not overcooked as they apparently usually are.
We washed down our sandwich with some of the requisite Big Red (official pop of BBQ, don'tcha know?) and really couldn't believe it. This place is the real deal. It is not that good -- it is better. Believe the hype, friends and neighbors. I would stand in line for four hours and pay twice as much for this stuff (Aaron -- please don't raise the prices).
If you're in or going to be in Austin -- go. Don't think about it. Just do it. Go and wait. You'll be glad you did. Who knows how much longer this guy can go before he burns out on the hours or doesn't show up anymore because of his celebrity or just expands into a large chain where the 'cue is good but not legendarily great.
It's your big chance. It is rare. Don't blow it.