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Why is Franklin Barbecue so popular?
Aaron Franklin opened his barbecue first in a trailer in nearly ten years ago in 2009 and eventually moved to their first brick and mortar location in 2011. Serving barbecue classics including ribs, pulled pork, and turkey, rumor has it that Franklin Bbq has sold out of their brisket every single day since opening. The incredible brisket is the reason many attribute the great success of Franklin Bbq in such a short amount of time and consider it to be the best bbq in Austin. The quality of Aaron Franklin’s methods and product spread by word of mouth like fire and before long everyone was waiting their turn for a taste of young Aaron Franklin’s brisket. Since then he has received several awards and acclaims including a 2015 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef (and the first ever specializing in bbq to receive this award), winner of Texas Monthly’s Best Barbecue Joint in Texas award, winner of Bon Appetit’s Best Barbecue Joint in America award, and praise from thought leaders in the food industry including Anthony Bourdain who described the brisket from Franklin Bbq saying, “It is the best. It is the finest brisket I’ve ever had.” If you’re familiar with barbecue culture at all, brisket is typically the meat that most judge a pit master by, mostly because it’s the most difficult to smoke properly. With so much national attention and people waiting in line for hours, it’s no wonder that everyone is talking about Franklin Bbq.
How do you get into Franklin Bbq?
After talking among other foodies in Austin and doing research online, we gathered that the wait times during the week at Franklin Barbecue were typically 2-3 hours and on weekends closer to 4 or 5 hours. The idea is that you position yourself close enough to the front of the line so that when the restaurant officially opens at 11:00 a.m. you aren’t waiting for the people in front of you to order and eat for very long. Because we weren’t able to go on a weekday (if you have this option it will definitely save some time!), we decided to brave the weekend line, suck it up, and ended up waiting SIX HOURS in line from start to finish when we had our lunch on a tray in front of us. It is truly crazy to see what people will do to get a taste of the best bbq in Austin. Regardless of whether you’re going during the week or on a weekend, however, the short and sweet answer on how to get into Franklin Bbq is simply to be willing to spend the better part of your day (or at least the first half) waiting in line and making an experience out of it. Please note that Franklin Bbq is not open on Mondays, Holidays, and they close each summer for an annual holiday (2018 dates are July 30- August 8).
What should I bring with me while I’m waiting in line?
It’s crucial that once you commit to waiting in line for the best bbq in Austin, you come prepared. Here’s our list of things to bring with you to Franklin Barbecue:
- Lawn Chairs- they do have loaner chairs that you can use but we decided that if for whatever reason they would have run out how terrible it would have been to wait for hours standing up. Make a Walmart run the night before like we did and invest in some lawn chairs (the cheapest we found were about $7/chair).
- Umbrella- If you’re going in the summer the best thing you can do is show up extra early to ensure you won’t be in the sunlight (more on this below), but it wouldn’t hurt to bring an umbrella. I was 9 months pregnant while we waited in line and even though the weather was really nice and mostly overcast, toward the end there were a few increments of really sunny weather and I definitely wished I had brought an umbrella.
- Drinks and Cooler- Cody and I compared the whole experience to tailgating. Everyone we met was really friendly and most people had coolers filled with icy cold drinks, snacks (hello, if you’re waiting for 6 hours you definitely will need to pre-game it), and what have you. We also saw a few young kids who brought footballs to play catch with on the street just beside Franklin Bbq.
- Books/Journal- It’s always hard for me to find time to journal so I completely took advantage of this situation and brought my journal to write in for a few minutes. Cody and I also both brought books that we read for a bit here and there. Even if you don’t end up reading it’s just so nice to have the option and not sit there and die of boredom.
- Camera- We realize that most people have smartphones but whatever you do don’t forget to take the camera out and snap a few pictures of your Franklin Bbq experience. When people find out you waited 3 plus hours for brisket they’re going to want to visually see that Franklin Barbecue!
- Good Company- Cody and I went as a couple to experience Franklin Bbq but after observing surrounding groups we decided that bringing a big group of friends or family would have been the most ideal way to enjoy the entire Franklin Bbq experience.
- Comfortable Clothes & Shoes- Once the line gets up and going after 11:00 you’ll probably be on your feet for the rest of the wait. That combined with the potential killer Texas heat means you should dress for comfort and comfort only.
- An Appetite- You’re in for the best barbecue experience of your life. Make sure you don’t spoil your meal at Franklin Barbecue with a candy bar or copious amounts of soda just before you order. Because we were there for so long and because I was pregnant, I had a small breakfast around 9:30 which was the perfect amount of time for me to not be miserably hungry but also work up an appetite for lunch which we finally had at 1:15.
Things you shouldn’t do at Franklin Bbq
Most of these are no-brainers but with anything that drives crowds there are always a few who potentially can ruin the fun. Franklin Bbq even has a sign called “A Line Manifesto” attached to the outside of the building with these specific guidelines:
- “Be respectful to others and keep ‘joiners’ at a minimum.” We get it, everyone wants a taste of the best bbq in Austin, but don’t have one person from your group show up early so that 7 others can also hop into your party at their convenience. Lame sauce.
- “If you smoke cigarettes or cigars, we ask that you please step a reasonable distance away of the line while doing so.” I feel like this is such common knowledge but it was shocking to me that two ladies waiting both directly ahead of and behind me felt that it was okay to light up and smoke first thing in the morning right beside me (and not to mention all the others surrounding us). Once they realized I was pregnant, they thoughtfully stepped over near the road to smoke (and one of the ladies apologized, she was very nice about it), but I feel like whether someone is pregnant or not you should never assume that people within a close proximity to you want to sit and inhale your second hand smoke. Rant over.
- “Please don’t take a table until you have food.” I totally get the panic behind the thought of waiting for hours for food and then not having a spot to sit down and enjoy (or an outdoor table where I can take all the naturally lit pictures of my food #foodieprobs). But, as I’ll talk about more below, there is absolutely no need to have people from your group save a table while you’re in line. It all seemed to even out in the end and there were never people standing around looking for a table to eat at.
- This wasn’t a part of the line manifesto but I had to throw this one in myself- don’t bring your vegan or vegetarian friends to Franklin Barbecue. One gal waiting nearby was vegetarian (her husband is a huge bbq enthusiast and she was a good sport to wait the entire six hours with him), but I couldn’t help but think to myself “what are you going to eat here?!” There is literally meat in everything (even the beans) except for the coleslaw, potato salad, and pie. And while the pie is fantastic (more on that later), it’s made by a local bakery so you might as well go there and enjoy without the 3+ hour wait. Unless lines are your type of thing.
What should I order at Franklin Bbq?
Thankfully true to traditional barbecue form, you won’t be overwhelmed with dozens of menu items at Franklin Bbq. They do a small handful of things excellently, which is why it made me a little sad inside to see some of our fellow diners only order a few small things and call it good.
- Meat- If you’re waiting in line for Franklin Bbq you need to try then brisket. Period. As mentioned earlier in this post brisket is often the measure of a pit master and defines the quality of his barbecue due to the complexity and difficulty of mastering the art of smoking the perfect brisket. I knew this would be the star of the show and it was truly AMAZING! To our even greater surprise, however, the beef rib was our absolute favorite. They serve this at Franklin Barbecue on Saturdays only and it was truly the most supernal serving of barbecue I have ever had in my life. So now that you know to prioritize the brisket and beef rib (if you’re there on a Saturday), I’d suggest getting a little bit of everything else! The pork ribs, sausage, and pulled pork are all incredibly delicious and after so many hours of waiting you simply need to try everything. The only meat item we didn’t love was the turkey. It may have been an “off” day (and I typically love smoked turkey) but neither of us thought this was worth ordering.
- Sides- One of the very few disappointments for me from our day at Franklin Bbq was the sides. The meat was (and 100% should be) the absolute star of the show, but I was really underwhelmed with all three sides (potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans). Of the three I liked the coleslaw the best. It has a nice neutral flavor and was delicious alongside the meat, but I had one bite of the beans and potato salad and that was enough for me. We only ordered a small portion of each side and really focused on the meat, so in the end it wasn’t a big deal that we weren’t huge fans.
- Dessert- I was super excited to see PIE on the menu, made by local bakery Cake and Spoon, with four different options including Texas pecan, key lime, bourbon banana, and lemon chess. The gal who cashed us out at the end recommended the key lime so we decided to try that and the Texas pecan. Both were simple but so delicious! Even with the enormous amount of bbq that we ordered we were still able to polish off both mini pies. We both agreed that the key lime was the way to go- the tartness of this sweet treat was the perfect compliment to a rich and “heavy” meal.
- Bottom line- You waited in line forever to have Franklin Barbecue. Get a little bit of everything. When it comes to the best bbq in Austin t’s the only way to go.
- If you have room for more- And a kitchen at your disposal, get enough to enjoy leftovers! They have cooler bags for purchase for $5 or you can definitely bring your own. And if you’ve never “re-heated” barbecue we recommend throwing it in your oven at 200 degrees for an hour (give or take), covered in foil, so that you don’t dry up your meat! It will still taste fantastically delicious.
How much does it cost to eat at Franklin Bbq?
Everything is very reasonably priced at Franklin bbq (especially considering it’s the best bbq in Austin) and you won’t find prices better in town for such high quality barbecue. We spent a total of $131.24 but keep in mind that we intentionally purchased extra of everything so we could enjoy leftovers as well. The beef rib is also extra at $25/lb but like we mentioned this was the absolute highlight of our entire meal so #noregrets. This amount of food could have comfortably fed 4 people- you do the math. At Franklin Barbecue, all of the meat is priced by weight. For easy reference here’s a breakdown of our receipt:
- 1 lb brisket: $22.00
- 1lb pork ribs: $19.00
- 1/2 lb pulled pork: $9.50
- 1 beef rib (1.47 lb): $36.00
- 3 sausage links: $7.00
- 1/4 lb turkey: $4.75
- single potato salad: $3.00
- single slaw: $3.00
- single pinto beans: $3.00
- pecan pie: $5.00
- key lime pie: $5.00
- bottled root beer: $2.00
- bottled big red: $2.00
- tax: $9.24
- TOTAL PRICE: $131.24
Things we liked about our experience at Franklin Bbq
The overall experience at Franklin Bbq was very positive. Aaron Franklin and his team aren’t oblivious to the fact that people come from all over the world and wait in line forever to enjoy his barbecue and they do what they can to make the entire experience a positive one.
- The employees at Franklin Barbecue were super thoughtful. Your first encounter with them will be early in the morning (for us this was around 8:00 a.m.) when an employee goes through the line and takes a preliminary order from everyone. They tally up how much brisket, ribs, etc. are being ordered so that if you’re one of the later folks in line they can let you know if you might be cutting it close or if you won’t get your share of brisket for that day. I think that this is really thoughtful to warn people so that their waiting isn’t in vain. Once you finally make your way inside of the restaurant and then finally to the counter, they won’t rush you through the line. The meat cutter kindly gave us some small samples of brisket as he asked us what type of cut we wanted (fatty, lean, or a little bit of both) and measured everything by the pound. Aaron Franklin wasn’t there the day we visited but I’ve heard from several others that he often times is there and happily interacts with customers. We were also really excited to take a quick tour of the pits after we had finished our lunch, which was really awesome and would recommend that you do the same if you like to smoke meat yourself or you’re intrigued at all by the process (warning, it is hotter than hades in the smoking room).
- Barbecue enthusiasts are great people. We really enjoyed the overall environment of the Franklin Bbq experience and everyone around us seemed to be really happy to be there. Like I mentioned earlier it reminded us very much of a tailgating culture. Our experience with people around us was positive and it was fun to get to know the people waiting in line beside us.
- Franklin Barbecue is the best bbq in Austin and truly the best bbq we have ever had in our lives. Aside from all of the other fun side elements, we came for the what we had heard was the best bbq in Austin (and to many the best bbq in the world) and it was better than we could have imagined.
Things that we didn’t expect
- The wait wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. As mentioned the whole environment was so positive and upbeat that it really went by quickly. I did end up journaling and reading a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. If you have the right company it should go by fast for you too!
- I didn’t expect the employees to be so nice! I didn’t expect them to be rude either but in my experience restaurants that have so much hype can often times lead to restaurant employees (owners and managers included) who have an annoying sense of entitlement. Not the case at Franklin Barbecue.
- There was PLENTY of seating. This was in part due to the flow of the line but we saw a LOT of people taking big orders of the best bbq in Austin to go. The restaurant isn’t enormous so I can totally understand the fear of having a place to sit and eat but really there were several tables open by the time we had the chance to eat, even two hours after it had been open.
- We didn’t expect to have a peak and quick tour of the smoke room which was really cool. After waiting in line for so long and then enjoying the best bbq in Austin, it was fun to get a peek at behind the scenes. Ask an employee if this is something you’re interested in and I’m guessing they’ll give you a tour too!
- Even though the restaurant didn’t technically open until 11:00, the building is open around 8:00 a.m. which was super nice for bathroom breaks (especially once things started to heat up #airconditioning). You can also go look at and purchase any of their merchandise or buy drinks from the counter.
- Pets are okay at Franklin Bbq as long as they stay outside on the patio and leashed. This was mentioned in the “line manifesto” and came to me by surprise, but in retrospect not so surprising as this is totally in line with the vibe at Franklin Bbq.
- We passed on the barbecue sauce. Cody and I are usually big fans of trying different barbecue sauces, but true to form, fantastic barbecue should never need a sauce and Franklin’s Barbecue was no exception. I think I had a dime sized sample at one point. When you’re eating the best bbq in Austin, you can go without and it’s a beautiful thing.
What we would have done differently
- We arrived at 7:15 a.m. (even though we were shooting for 7 a.m.) and ended up eating at 1:15 p.m., with a total wait time of 6 hours. We both wish we had shown up an hour earlier at 6 a.m. to beat some of the heat, wait for a similar amount of time prior to the actual restaurant opening, but enjoy lunch around 11 or 12 rather than at 1:00. One hour difference of getting there earlier (in my opinion) wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. We also had a waiting spot in line that was juuuust beyond the covered side patio area of the restaurant. Even showing up 20 minutes earlier would have put us in a more shaded area- totally worth it.
- I personally wished I had been more organized about bringing something for breakfast while we sat there all morning waiting for the best bbq in Austin. You definitely don’t want to spoil your appetite, but bring something to eat when you get there in the morning so that you don’t feel miserable while waiting in line.
- I wish we would have brought our copy of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto (this is an amazon affiliate link if you want to buy your own copy). I had purchased this a few weeks earlier for Cody’s birthday and it would have been fun to really dive into his recipes and learn more about Aaron Franklin and the history of the best bbq in Austin while we were waiting in line. There are, however, books for purchase inside starting early in the morning (I think they may be signed copies as well?).
- I wish we would have carved out time for this during the winter or spring. The weather wasn’t terribly hot when we were there (May and overcast for a lot of the morning with only a few periods here and there in the direct sunlight) but I think the whole thing would have been more pleasant if it would have been in the 60s or 70s rather than the high 80s/low 90s.
- I wish we would have been able to share our Franklin Barbecue experience with more friends and family. It was really fun to be there with Cody but great the best bbq in Austin is something to be enjoyed with a group of friends or family!
- If our schedules would have permitted, it would have been nice to lessen our wait time and go during the week. The wait time is supposed to be around 2-3 hours during the week which would have been preferred over the 6 hours we ended up waiting. The only bad thing about going during the week would have been missing out on that glorious beef rib. Decisions.
Is the wait for Franklin Barbecue worth it?
Probably the question we will be asked the most after telling people we spent half of our day waiting for barbecue. Our answer? It depends.
- For me and Cody, the answer was an unquestionable YES! Dining at Franklin Barbecue is a rite of passage and must have experience if you’re a) a barbecue enthusiast, b) if you truly consider yourself an Austinite, or c) you want to try the best bbq in Austin and quite possibly in the world. If you answered “yes” to any three of those criteria it’s time to pony up and make the time for it. We really felt like after living in Austin for several months with increasing curiosity about the whole thing and also being huge barbecue fans, that it was an experience that we needed to have at least once.
- If you feel indifferent about barbecue
whatiswrongwithyou, the experience doesn’t really appeal to you, or you’re simply okay with trying another barbecue spot in town (Franklin Bbq is definitely in good company), order takeout ahead of time online. To pre-order online you must purchase a minimum of 5 pounds of meat and take it to-go only. Visit their website to secure your order on a specified date and pickup time. I’m not sure if the “order ahead” period varies but as of the day I’m sharing this post the earliest I can order ahead online is two weeks in advance. Easy peasy.
Have you personally tried Franklin Barbecue? Is there another Austin barbecue spot that you love? Leave us a comment- we’d love to hear about your experience with the best bbq in Austin!