Soon after 10am there are 100 people in front of me in the line at Franklin Barbecue. We’re waiting for the best smoked meat in Austin, Texas. They open at 11am but, whether you arrive at 8am or midday, you’re going to have to wait about three hours. That’s how it works here.
People have deckchairs. There’s country music on the stereo. Six-packs are being passed around—beer for breakfast before the brisket. The young couple in front of me has a case of Modelo (“It tastes like a warm taco!” she says). They’re here on vacation—they came straight from the airport and they’re talking about what else is on their Barbecue Bucket List (I immediately get these people). The older couple behind me are arguing over how much meat to order (“We need at least 2lb of brisket and 1lb of sausage,” he says). Staff come around
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regularly, letting you know how long the line is (“You’ll be eating around 1:30pm”), how much meat is left (“There’s plenty of brisket and turkey, no pulled pork, maybe some ribs, but no promises”), asking if we want to buy beers while we wait (of course we do).
The line is fun. People make friends. Every so often there’s a waft of intense smoke in the air. A sweetly woody smoke. It’s almost unbearable when you’re hungry and there’s still two hours until you will eat. As you get closer to the door, the smell is less of wood and more of meat. Incredible meat.
The three-hour wait is part of the experience of going to Franklin Barbecue. The excitement and anticipation grow while you’re there. Everyone else is in a good mood; they’re hungry and ready for great meat. And the meat is great. It’s incredible what can be done with just an amazing piece of meat, plus salt, pepper, smoke, and a lot of time. They also sell a dozen Austin craft beers to go with the food, which allows me to put Franklin Barbecue in this my blog. It’s the ultimate beer-and-barbecue experience, especially if you have a few breakfast beers in the line and a local IPA with your food—I love how the bitter citrus works with the big, senses-smouldering smoke.
My food bucket list and beer bucket list overlap and combine in most places I visit. I’m a flavor tourist, always wanting whatever’s local— and in Texas, that’s barbecue.
WHAT: Franklin Barbecue
HOW: Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am until they sell out, which is usually by 3pm (www.franklinbarbecue.com).
WHERE: 900 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas 78702, USA
As you can see it’s worth the wait, particularly when accompanied with a can of local IPA.
A strong Germany-inspired line up at Live Oak.
The Best of Austin, Texas
If you’ve gone all the way to Austin to drink beer (and eat barbecue, obviously), there are a few more must-visit stops in town. Live Oak Brewing (1615 Crozier Lane, Del Valle, Texas 78617) is set on 23 acres (9 hectares) of land, with outside seating for around 1,000 people and space to wander around. They brew straight-up, excellent versions of classic German beer styles—they are some of the best lagers and wheat beers I’ve had outside of Germany. I love their Pilz for its dry bitterness and lift of Saaz hops, plus the roundness of malt; the so of subtle caramelized sweetness that the more astute beer nerds will taste comes from the decoction mash Live Oak use. Their Big Bark Vienna lager is bready and biscuity with stone-fruit freshness. And their flagship Hefeweizen is smooth, creamy, dry, and refreshing—both are good antidotes to those who’ve drunk too many IPAs. It’s right by the airpo, so make it your first or last stop.
The ABGB—or Austin Beer Garden Brewery, although everyone just calls it by the acronym (1305 West Olto Street, Austin, Texas 78704)—is a cool, outside-inside space with a range of great lagers, as well as some ales. It’s a favorite spot with locals. All I need to say about Banger’s (79 Rainey Street, Austin, Texas 78701) is that is has 100 beers on tap, 30 different kinds of homemade sausages, and a huge beer garden. Nearby, and also on Rainey Street (at number 61), is Craft Pride, which has a Texas-only beer board and probably the best tap list in town.