So….3.5 hour wait…was it worth it? Was the hype just hype , or truth? I guess you will have to find out and go to Austin for yourselves. LOL!!! Ok, I won’t leave you hanging…
Simply put, out of at least 10-15 Q joints I have eaten at over the years here in TX, Franklin’s is the real deal. If you watch his videos, he talks about a good piece of meat, simple rub, trimming and disciplined process to make smoke, with the right fire , and the main ingredient of time. It just seems too easy. It seems like there has to be some BBQ Guru special magic to it. Can simplicity yield something that people hail as some of the best BBQ in the world, in this once burned down shack, that has been rebuilt to a retro, but functional restaurant?
To start, the wait in the hot parking lot, early on a Sunday morning just seems like you are part of a cult of people, much like this group, people who love Q. You catch yourself thinking: “Is this even rational? To sit, sweat and starve, waiting to eat, for multiple hours, just to chow down for 15-20 minutes?” You start to question your love for BBQ and the fact that you took a weekend to tour places far from home, renting hotel rooms in questionable areas, paying for lots of gas criss crossing across Austin, trying to digest multiple stops for Q and Amy’s ice cream. Am I, and my friends nuts? Yes, yes we are……..
Once the first 2.5 hours pass and the doors open at the crack of 11am, you see the line start to move. Your excitement starts to build as you just want to get in the shade and not feel like a nuclear fall out has engulfed your entire body. The Franklin’s staff throughout the morning has touched base with the crowd and given instructions about order recommendations, bathroom availability and ice water if needed. They really seem to care about their customers….once you come
up the ramp, you know it’s going to happen……..you get to become part of the group that gets to open the door and be part of the cult, the air conditioned, “Franklin’s Q Heads” from everywhere! When you are at that door, you have been told it’s 30 minutes to “meat”!
You enter the air conditioned coolness, that everyone is relieved to feel. The unspoken rule of keeping the door closed, and not ajar, is heeded by everyone manning the door. Once inside, you notice a small dinning area, wood paneled walls like most TX joints, with cool key-lime green accent painted trim throughout. People are herded to a wood wall about waist high, that keeps the “haves” from the “have nots” of the dinning room. The division curves to the right, past the merchandise, which is not overdone, but just enough to grab a memento. There seems to be limited seating. You start to panic whether there will be anywhere to sit down and eat this BBQ you have been sweating to get! Then, you start thinking of tactical and logistical plans to hunker down over the post oak smoked meat you have been smelling in the parking lot. Irrationally, you start to plot who you can take down with your sharpened shive spork for a seat. Just normal everyday office worker kind of thoughts….The weak, have no chance here. There is meat involved and carnivores salivating…l’ll spork you, man…
As you calm down and notice that the tables appear to be churning over at a good clip, and the unspoken respect that the clients of this BBQ Mecca seem to exude for each other, by not lingering at the tables, you calmly put your spork back in your pocket. Crisis averted. Heart rate back to resting state.
After eating BBQ for the previous two meals at some #1 places (Snow’s & Salt Lick) you really are doubting you will be able to eat more Q, or that this place will outdo those other places. You will be corrected in your wayward thinking shortly.
The wait is over! You make it to the counter. The meat cutting master has laid out bits of cubed brisket for samples…you are lucky to get one. When you finally do, and get a glimpse of what is ahead, you quickly calculate how to
mortgage everything you own, sell your car in the parking lot to the guy on the corner, or trade your fellow humans into dish washing indentured servitude, to buy every last pound of this magical meat! So much tastiness ahead. Get ready!
Brisket-we ordered 1.25 lbs. primarily flat, but also 1/4 lb of point. To describe the flavor in words to you will be difficult. But imagine a wonderful burgundy, caramelized bark, with a slight saltiness and a hit of softened black pepper. The meat is moist and tender, with the standard post oak smoke ring, but it has more to say to your taste buds. The first full bite of a slice of this brisket invoked a feeling of euphoria and one of pure amazement. The caramelized perfection produced a chocolate like richness in flavor I never suspected. There was a sweet smokiness with all of the complexity of the other elements, and moist soft texture along with it. You feel the smoke flavor encapsulate your sinus cavity and your tongue simply dances around your mouth exploring the flavor of this meat that your brain can’t comprehend, is just brisket. It is a spiritual culinary awakening that you have to experience to understand. You feel temporarily stunned and speechless. No one at the table speaks. You dare not interrupt the manic feeding frenzy that has now gone full force.
Ribs-similar to the Brisket, the flavors of the salt, pepper smoke and sweetness of the carmelized pork make you want to consume massive quantities of this meat candy. You begin to feel enormous guilt while eating these sticky sweet sticks of meat, because you promised the Brisket you would never leave it for another meat, just moments ago. You even threatened the pulled pork with your spork to keep it away from your dear Brisket that was expertly sliced by the Samurai meat cutting master behind the counter. But you find yourself in a coveted relationship with the pork candy, and let the meat melt in your mouth, with pork fat greasy fingers in an abandoned state of slickness.
So, was it worth the travel, wait in the heat, pounds of meat eaten and dollars spent? You will have to judge for yourselves, but BubbaLou will say this: you will never have anything this good, that will take you up and down the culinary roller coaster of emotions I experienced today! How can you still have the sweet smoky taste in your mouth nearly 7 hours later??? This has given me a new holy grail of BBQ to challenge myself to create. I have been using Franklins methods on my cooks for over a year now, and to finally taste what I have studied from afar, does not match what I thought I knew….it was simply wonderful.