Last weekend I went to Austin to try Franklin Barbecue, which is arguably the best barbecue in Texas. Which is a HUGE deal because if Texas is known for anything, it’s for cooking ridiculous amounts of brisket. Luckily our friend from Austin had been there before so he knew what to expect. But in case you’re in Austin and would like to try it out, here’s what you need to know:
- Going to Franklin Barbecue is definitely an experience. It opens at 11 AM Tuesday-Sunday and closes after they’ve sold out of all of the meat they’ve smoked for the day. BUT it’s such a cult favorite in Austin that people start lining up at 7 or 8 in the morning — we got there at 8:15 on Sunday and the line was already into the parking lot. So if you like to spontaneously decide to pick up some barbecue, this isn’t the place to do it. (Luckily there are lots of other really good barbecue places in Austin to fulfill any sudden barbecue cravings.)
- Come in a group. Since the lines are so long, it makes the experience much more fun if you go with friends. Plus, that way you can send one or two people to go pick up some Starbucks and breakfast tacos to tide you over until lunch.
- Come prepared. This wait will be long, so lawn chairs are essential. They have some available under the porch steps, but I think it’s better to bring your own. Also, bring a cooler of water, beer, and any other drinks you might want. Franklin is BYOB friendly, so people bring the coolers into the restaurant with them. It also really helps make the experience more fun if you’re sharing a drink with your friends while you wait. (Their bathrooms are available before 11, which is really nice.)
- Figure out what you’re going to order while you’re still in line. They sell everything by the pound, and they send a waitress around with a clipboard to tally up how much people are ordering. You can always change your mind once you’re inside, but it helps them judge how quickly they’ll sell out.
- Don’t try to guess when you’ll get to the front of the line. After the waitress tallies up everyone’s order, they’ll send someone out to tell you when you’ll probably be able to order. We were told to expect about 1:00, but when the doors first opened the line was moving so quickly we thought we might get there at 12:30 or 12:45. But after the first really big jump in line things slow down a lot, and so we ordered at exactly 1:00. They know exactly what they’re doing.
- Try a little of everything. Our group of six ordered 4 pounds of brisket, and a pound each of pulled pork, sausage, and smoked turkey and we all had plenty of leftovers (and that’s after the three guys ate at least 1 ½ pounds each). Brisket was the universal favorite, and the pulled pork was my second favorite. But everything is worth trying.
- Get the pickles. I’m sure the sides are good, but we just stuck to the meat, the Wonder bread they give you with your order, the bottles of barbecue sauce on the table, and the pickles by the drink station. Nothing fancy, but it really helps cut through the fattiness of the brisket.
- It’s not an eating competition. We saw a guy trying to eat 3 pounds of brisket all by himself and he looked absolutely miserable. They have plenty of to-go bags, so don’t feel like you have to eat everything because you will be sick to your stomach.
- The post-Franklin Barbecue food coma is no joke. After we left, we went back to our friend’s apartment and fell asleep for 2-4 hours. I wouldn’t make plans for later unless they’re for a lot later.
Whew! Hopefully that list wasn’t too intimidating! It really just takes a little planning beforehand so you can hang out with friends and enjoy the experience, because I’m pretty sure it’s the only barbecue place like it.
Have you been to Franklin Barbecue? Some of our friends couldn’t make it last weekend (ironically because they were at another barbecue event), so I think we’ll try to again sometime this summer. I’m excited!