Everyone waits in line at Franklin Barbecue: Austinites making their weekly pilgrimages, daytrippers traveling along the Texas barbecue trail, even Anthony Bourdain. It’s an inglorious task, a tortuous crawl in which you’re taunted by the scent of smoldering oak and the sight of those lucky few already sucking the meat from a set of pork spare ribs. Those at the front of the line likely arrived no later than 8 A.M.–a full three hours before Franklin opens its doors.
But there’s community in the chaos. Blankets are unfurled, lawn chairs are unfolded and stories are shared. The camaraderie of the line is overwhelming, a testament to the pacifying power of Franklin’s otherworldly barbecue.
Brisket is what you want here. At the counter, Aaron Franklin (or perhaps his barbecue partner John Louis) will offer slices of either lean or fatty brisket. There’s no wrong choice, but you’ve waited too long not to indulge in those glorious fatty cuts. This is brisket at the point of sublimation, beef so perfectly and thoroughly smoked that it barely exists in solid form. Franklin’s pork spare ribs may also be some of the best you’ve ever tasted, thick slabs of meat that peel from the bone with unimaginable ease.
Still, rigid traditionalists might point you away from Franklin, maybe to Louie Mueller in Taylor, TX or some combination of Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX. Smitty’s has the history–a charming old building so blackened by barbecue that you can practically scrape the smoke off the walls–but Franklin has the goods. The sausage at Smitty’s is indeed excellent, yet nothing there truly approaches the ethereal barbecue at Franklin, a place that shatters even the most outsized expectations of Texas barbecue.