As soon as Austin was on the travel schedule, I immediately scoured blogs to find the best things to do in Austin. One thing showed up time and time again, regardless of whether it was a local blog or a travel blog: go to Franklin Barbecue. Each and every blog gave a nod to the ridiculous lines, but said that it was totally worth it and you need to check it out. And check it out we did. So the big question is: was Franklin Barbecue worth the wait?
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first:
- If you go to Austin, or Texas in general, and eat meat in any capacity at all…you have to try the barbecue. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
- As naive members of the barbecue community, Paul and I thought that barbecue would be a lunch or dinner thing. At big places like these, it is NOT. Chances of you showing up at dinner time and successfully procuring barbecue are very small.
So let’s make a case for Franklin Barbecue, shall we? (Somebody has been watching too much Making A Murderer. It’s me. I’ve been watching too much.)
Is Franklin Barbecue Worth the Wait?
Exhibit A: The Hours
The website, as well as Yelp, lists the hours for Franklin Barbecue as 11:00 am until whenever the food runs out. One might assume, then, that one can show up at 11:00 and get that tasty, tasty barbecue.
Warning: apparently, people get in line for Franklin Barbecue as early as SIX O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING. That’s FIVE HOURS of waiting before the place even opens. There are many fold-out chairs available for people to sit in while they wait in line. That’s worse than waiting at Six Flags for a roller coaster. If you are an impatient person, this might not be the spot for you. If you’re willing to wait for it, might I suggest bringing cards or relying heavily on the Head’s Up app? Are you susceptible to hanger? Bring beer breakfast.
Pro-tip: There’s actually a taco truck right nearby where you can fuel up for this adventure.
Exhibit B: The People
I have always been of the opinion that lines bring out the worst in people. But this place must have some magic spell on it, or I went on a great day. First of all, the employees do their best to come out and tell you how much time you are predicted to wait. They do their best to tell you how much food is left or when they run out of something. You’re not just blindly standing in line. And they’re nice and realistic about it too.
This is the kicker: they will be so honest with you that they tell you at which point you’re not guaranteed food anymore. Yes, my friends. You could potentially wait in line for hours and be rewarded with nothing. Sides. Not what you came for, huh? What they do is they designate somebody “The Last Man Standing” and everybody after that might not get any food. Rough.
I will say, though, the people-watching in this line is phenomenal. Because you know where “The Last Man Standing” is, it is hilarious to hear people debating whether they should stay or go. After each and every visit from an employee with an update on how many briskets they’ve got left, people calculate madly, trying to see if they’ve got a chance. If you’re a risk taker: Franklin Barbecue is for you.
Pro-tip: They actually let people in to see the smokers if you ask them really nicely! And maybe don’t ask when they’re super super busy…we went in at the end of the day.
Exhibit C: The Food
You could read numerous blogs, news articles, etc. A huge majority is going to say that Franklin Barbecue is the best barbecue in Austin. Texas Monthly rates it number one in all of Texas. Then Bon Appetit rates it number one in all of the United States. With numbers like that, people tend to make the jump to the sentiment that Franklin Barbecue is number one in the world for barbecue.
These people are not messing around with their food. And I can assure you: it is darn delicious.
Franklin Barbecue makes brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey, and sausage. You can get it by the pound or in sandwiches. They’ve also got some classic barbecue sides, your potato salad, slaw, or beans.
Pro-tip: If you are NOT willing to wait for it, you can pre-order vacuum sealed briskets that you can preheat at home. You miss out on the experience, but I’m sure it’s still pretty freaking delicious. Just don’t mess it up.
Paul and I did not visit Franklin Barbecue in the traditional way at all. For starters, we showed up at 12:30 in the afternoon. Paul is not one to get up early in the morning, not even for barbecue. Plus we stopped for a smoothie on the way there because I can get to be a hangry monster. We rolled up, excited to see that the line wasn’t as disastrous as we imagined. We excitedly hopped in line, already salivating at the barbecue smells.
Our spirits wavered as the employee came out, casually pointing out the Last Man Standing. “You see that guy up there in the red, white, and blue hat up there? That’s him.” Oh, we saw him alright. About a MINIMUM of 50 people in front of us. The employee continued, “You’re looking at about a two hour wait from this point. And we might not have enough food for you.” The people around us started the big debate. Parties began to split in two, kids began whining, and tensions were high. Paul and I looked at each other and shrugged, we were in it.
Time passed on, the line barely seeming to budge. People kept coming out with pounds and pounds of meat. Didn’t they know they were supposed to save some for us??
As we shuffled our way through the line, employees would periodically check in. The worst check-ins were food-related.
“We’re out of turkey now.” Whatever. I didn’t come to Austin to eat turkey. Thanksgiving was in two days anyway.
“No more pulled pork.” That one stung a little, but I shook it off.
And then. It happened. Only brisket and sausage remained. Paul and I glanced at each other. As long as we got some brisket, we were satisfied. By then, the last man standing was inside. Our spirits were high. When the employee came out the final time to give us the number of briskets remaining, our hearts clenched. We were right at the door to go in. The boy behind us in line frantically counted the people ahead of us, crunching numbers in his head. If each person in front of us got a 1/2 lb of brisket…we would be one of the very last people to get brisket. If anybody wavered from that pattern, we were out.
Once we were inside, we watched people order. Slowly we moved forward. At this point, we were at least getting the burnt ends of the brisket. Still better than any barbecue in Philadelphia. Our hopes soared as we got closer and closer. As we reached the spot to order, a huge smile spread across my face as the employee said, “Looks like you guys’ll be getting the last of the good brisket!” Victory was ours. We even ordered a little less so that the boy behind us would get some.
We ended up with brisket (hallelujah!) and sausage. And oh my GOODNESS. It was so freaking delicious. If you get lucky, don’t you DARE put any sauce on there. DO NOT DO IT.
We actually ended up sitting next to the Last Man Standing and his family as they finished up their food. They got there at 9:30 in the morning and were just now eating, at about 2 o’clock! We waited three hours less than they did and were eating at the same time. Sure, they had more food. But tell me which group’s adrenaline was higher?
So, for us, yes, absolutely is Franklin Barbecue worth the wait.
We have a secret.
We actually liked the brisket from La Barbecue better.
And now I'm starving.
Ready to take the barbecue plunge? Franklin Barbecue is located at 900 E. 11th Street in Austin, Texas. They do have some parking, as well as a place to lock up bikes. May the odds be ever in your favor!
- Have you ever had Texas Barbecue? Would you stand in line at Franklin Barbecue?
- What food that you love would you be willing to wait for?