The Best BBQ I've Ever Tasted In My Life!
Aaron Franklin has honed his craft and his 'Que is RIDICULOUSLY good!
The day started out early. Very damn early! Like 5:15 AM early. We had to get up and out of the house in San Antonio, TX and on the road by 5:45 AM for the roughly hour and a half drive to Austin, TX so we could get our asses in line for lunch! There was complaining. There was crankiness. I started to become a little worried. What if the food at Franklin Barbecue wasn't as good as I've heard? What if it was all hype? But there we were, four adults (my parent's, my wife Stacey, and myself) loaded up into a small Mustang, hitting the highway for the promised land of BBQ.
I had become aware of Franklin Barbecue through a handful of the BBQ forums I frequent. I had asked for recommendations for books on BBQ on a couple of the forums and several forum members pointed me towards Aaron Franklin's book; Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto. The book proved to be a great read, and Aaron Franklin's passion for BBQ showed on every page. Even better, Aaron's method for preparing smoked turkey breast, perfectly laid out in the book, has made me a hero with some friends during the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was after reading the book that Franklin Barbecue ran to the top of my bucket list of restaurants. I learned that Aaron Franklin had some pretty notable fans of his BBQ, including Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain, and that people came from around the world to sample his 'Que. It seemed like an item that was never going to get checked off that list however, as I live in Georgia, some 950 miles from Franklin Barbecue.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
The possibility of actually getting to eat at Franklin Barbecue started to become real when a relative in Texas was getting married. If we got into Texas a couple of days early, we could possibly eat at Franklin's. If we could get a car, we might actually make it there before they ran out of food. Through doing some research on what we'd need to do to be able to eat there, I learned that the earlier you get in line, the better of a chance you had on being served. Franklin Barbecue opens at 11:00 AM, and serves until all of the meat runs out for the day; typically around 2:00 to 3:00 PM. I also learned that once the line starts forming, it could stretch around the block. Getting there early was going to be important! I co-op'ed my parents into this mission and sold them on how good lunch was going to be.
We made it!
We hit the line at Franklin Barbecue around 7:15 AM, and the wait began! We had brought camp chairs, the game Cards Against Humanity, and most importantly we brought beer. We settled into the line, positioned 20th through 24th, waiting for meaty goodness. Ahead of us were a load of college kids "beer-bonging" anything with alcohol, including wine, for breakfast. Who was I to judge, as I opened my first of a billion beers around 7:30 AM?
The first twenty people stacked up in line at Franklin Barbecue.
The wait in line was actually a ton of fun! We sat around playing Cards Against Humanity, and I drank a ton of beer. The weather was beautiful and the people-watching helped pass the time along with some good conversation with my family. The line built and went up the block and wrapped around the building, out of sight. Franklin Barbecue staff came out and asked people what they were going to be ordering, getting a sense for how much of the crowd was going to be getting delicious food. At one point a staff member let us know the building was open if anybody needed to use the restroom (Yes, after all of the beer I had drank!) or to get a drink of water. And then, close to 11:00 AM, a staff member came out and started marshaling everybody up into a line that could make it into the building. Excitedly camp chairs, card game, and empty beer cans got chucked into my parents' Mustang. It was almost time to get some BBQ!
Yay! The line has started moving!
My family has suffered a long morning! Will it be worth it?
And we edge closer to the front of the line!
And eventually, it was our turn to order! I had two wants; fatty brisket (the most flavorful and moist of the brisket) and the beef sausage. My dad added ribs, and we threw some potato salad onto the order for good measure. Watching the brisket being sliced affirmed that the morning wasn't going to be a waste, the brisket jiggled as it landed on the cutting board and juices began to seep out as it was sliced. The smell in the air was intoxicating; a mixture of meat and smoke. We ordered a lot of meat, and I will say we didn't order enough. I could tell all of the brisket they had wasn't going to be enough!
Brisket standing by. Ribs being sliced for my father!
The brisket is next!
So how was it? I was nervous! What if it sucked? What if it was just okay? I watched as my mom took a bite of brisket, and the look on her face changed. She, who was the loudest complainer about getting up in morning, had a look of utter surprise on her face! I dug in, eating with my fingers, sampling a slice of fatty brisket. It had a nice pull to it; not dry at all, but not so broken down and loose that it fell apart under it's own weight. Once I tasted it though...
...my God it was good! It was phenomenally good! It was perfect! So rich in flavor; very beefy with a mild smoke flavor. Aaron Franklin uses a simple salt and pepper rub; it proved to add to the richness of the flavor, and contributes to the wonderfully flavored bark on Aaron's brisket. The fat, where a lot of flavor is, was perfectly rendered and the meat just melted in my mouth. It was beautiful! I may have turned to my wife and told her that I would punch my mom in the face for the opportunity to eat more of this brisket! My mom was not enthused with my enthusiasm, but indicated she understood. I was joking!!!
I'm not ashamed to admit that I ate my whole meal with my fingers.
The meat pulled nicely. Look at that smoke ring!
I'm not ashamed to say I ate with my finger!
And sadly, we eventually ran out of awesome brisket and flavorful sausage. It was time to leave, and the brisket would have to turn into a memory. A memory of one of the best tasting meals I have ever had in my forty years of living! There has not been a day since eating at Franklin Barbecue that I haven't thought of that brisket.
Would I replicate the whole experience again? Would I get up early, drive a ridiculously long distance, and wait in line for hours to eat lunch at Aaron Franklin's restaurant again? You bet your ass I would! But I have friends in Texas that swear they have eaten at places better than Franklin Barbecue, and that I need to visit and try these places with them. Hell yeah! Count me in!
I need this in my life again!