Our trip to Austin last month was completely unplanned, and as such we had absolutely no agenda or itinerary. We both had to work the majority of the time we were there, and other than spending time with my awesome Austinite cousin, we didn’t expect to get a whole lot of touristing accomplished. Eating is always one of our top travel priorities, but with such limited time we didn’t dream that we’d have time to visit Franklin BBQ – one of the most lauded barbecue restaurants in the country, famous for its slow and low brisket and long, long lines.
And yet, we happened to find ourselves in the area during our lunch break Thursday afternoon after grabbing some essentials at a nearby CVS and thought “What the hell? Let’s check it out.”
I honestly assumed that the line would be snaking around the block, or that the shop would be closed for the day because all of the meats were sold out. Miraculously, we walked in the front door to a line about twenty deep and started doing ridiculous happy BBQ dances at our luck.
It was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and the place was bustling. The savory smells wafting around the dining room were tantalizing. We stood in line with fingers crossed that we’d reach the front before everything sold out.
Since it was getting on toward the end of the day, they were indeed sold out of the ribs, pulled pork and turkey – leaving only the options of brisket and sausage. No matter, because we came for the brisket. The sausage was tempting, but we’d had sausage the night before (we eat so healthy when we travel) and figured we’d go all out on the beef.
We ordered a pound of brisket, half fatty half lean, with pinto beans and potato salad as our sides, along with a few sliced of bread. Pickles and onions are free, so we loaded up on those as well to make DIY sandwiches.
Those who show up early are treated to fresh slices of brisket right out of the smoker, but even as stragglers we fell in love at first bite.
Of all the different types of barbecued meats, I’m pickiest about brisket. But this was hands down the best I’ve ever had (second place goes to Hard Eight in Dallas, and third goes to my mom’s). The meat was fall-apart tender and so flavorful I was shocked to learn it is only seasoned with salt and pepper. The oak used in the fire pit takes both the flavor and the aroma to the next level. Burnt ends and fatty pieces are truly a work of art, and we preferred the leaner slices in a sandwich with a little vinegar-based BBQ sauce, pickles and onions.
It was, and I say this free of hyperbole, a transcendental dining experience. The food was so good that we could have been treated like dirt as patrons and still enjoyed every moment, but each employee we encountered was cheerful, helpful and courteous from start to finish. There’s a reason this place is so popular.
To further illustrate how lucky we were in our timing: shortly after sat down, the last slices of brisket were sold, the dining room began to clear out and the “Sold Out” sign was posted on the front door. I can’t help thinking that the BBQ gods were shining down on us that day.
I can only be thankful I don’t live in Austin, as I’m sure if I did I would be spending hours and hours of my life in line for that brisket, and my cholesterol would never be the same. If you’re visiting Austin and find yourself wondering if Franklin BBQ is worth the wait, the answer is hell yes. (Two hells in one post, so you know I’m serious.)