Thursday, April 7, 2011

Franklin's BBQ in Austin: Legend in the Making?

I make about 15 trips a year to my former college stomping grounds in Austin, so I like to stay plugged-in on what’s going on around town.  Recently I have been hearing lots of chatter about Franklin’s BBQ, with almost unanimous consent from reviewers that the brisket rivals the Central Texas BBQ powers in Lockhart, Luling and Lexington.  Having opened in 2009, they were too late to catch the last Texas Monthly BBQ issue so I didn’t have that as a data point.  I have driven out of my way to sample 4 of the top 5 on the list and was somewhat skeptical that a newcomer could enter this elite class so quickly.  However, after somewhat begrudgingly waiting in line for over an hour it turns out I was wrong to doubt.

The brisket was some of the best I’ve ever eaten.  The first thing you notice when you walk up to the counter is how the outside of the brisket has a perfectly black bark all the way around.  Each slice is removed effortlessly exposing a juicy interior with an obvious smoke ring.  The first bite confirmed that the brisket tasted as good as it looked.  Each bite was moist and tender and had a rich smoky flavor combined with the well-seasoned bark.  In my opinion it would have been a sin to put sauce on this brisket it was so good.  

Now to the difficult question of where Franklin’s brisket ranks among the aforementioned Top 5 according to Texas Monthly.  In my opinion it definitely has a couple of them beat such as Smitty’s and City Market.  I think Franklin’s does a better job of fat trimming to create a nice bark without leaving so much the brisket becomes a greasy mess.  When it comes to Snow’s, the reigning #1, I just can’t say without having the two side by side.  At this point we’re splitting hairs though…the fact that Franklin’s is in the same conversation with Snow’s tells you how well they smoke a brisket.

As for the rest of the meat, I thought the ribs and pulled pork were done very nicely.  The ribs were large, seasoned well, and fell apart when you picked them up.  I thought they might have been a little too fatty though.  The pulled pork was really tender and was great on its own or as slapped on some white bread for a sandwich.  As for the sausage, from the outside it looked to be really legitimate but it turned out to be a real disappointment.  I had the internal consistency of a hot dog and about the same amount of flavor.  

On the side I really enjoyed the coleslaw which had a nice blend of both regular and red cabbage.  It was crunchy and flavorful with the right amount of dressing.  The beans seemed bland at first but they had spice aftertaste which somewhat redeemed them.  Of all the sides the potato salad was the big loser.  It had a single consistency which resembled mashed potatoes and had no real discernable flavors.

One last comment I want to leave you with is in regards to the service.  Franklin’s has very recently opened a new location after they quickly outgrew the trailer they previously operated out of.  The popularity has resulted in what appear to be some growing pains as they struggle to keep up with the high demand.  When we arrived shortly before the 11 AM opening we found an hour long line awaiting us.  Finally at the front I noticed the Franklin’s staff was very friendly and gave each customer’s BBQ order personal attention.  It did seem though that they could have improved the efficiency of their serving process a bit to move things faster.  However, I seemed to be in the minority as the naturally Austin residents patiently waited in good spirits.  So when all you uptight Houstonians visit Austin to try this delicious BBQ remember to bring your patience along with your appetite!

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