Often the hype doesn't live up to expectations.
I had heard so much about Franklin BBQ in Austin that I was sure to be disappointed. Austin has no shortage of great BBQ places, but none have lines as long as Franklin. And no other BBQ place in Austin or perhaps even the USA gets as much hype.
It was a cold Saturday morning in winter when my mate Andrew came to pick me up. At 630am. There aren't many things I would get up for at 630am on a Saturday, but if we wanted to have Franklin for lunch, that is what was required.
We rocked up the famous Austin restaurant on E11th just before 7 am, and already the line was over 100 people long. It seems lots of people want to get up early for a great BBQ. Given Franklin doesn't open until 11 am we anticipated it would be at least five hours before we ate. The long wait was made even longer by the delicious aroma wafting from the large smokers we were standing near.
Given the long wait, the atmosphere feels like a tailgate. People had brought deck chairs and refreshments. Even at 7 am, there were people drinking beer. Being Australian, I'm not opposed to a breakfast beer but needed a coffee first.
By 8 am, there were a few hundred people in the queue. Looking to the back of the line, I shook my head. These people who slept in might miss out. As we made friends with those around us in line, we decided to have our first beer. It was 815am.
A couple of hours (and a few beers later), one of the Franklin employees came out and started taking 'orders' from people in the queue. They weren't official orders, but he was using this to assess how many people they could feed. Based on this, he could work out where to cut off the line and break the bad news to the unlucky ones who would miss out. As a bonus, he brought little tasters. Bits of sausage to get our stomachs ready for what lay ahead. These little appetizers made my mouth drool.
11 am finally came, and the first in line excitedly entered the restaurant. It seemed that time stood still for the next couple of hours as we literally inched forward at a snail's pace, waiting our turn. Finally, at 125pm, having been in the queue for 5 1/2 hours, it was our turn to order.
The smell, my empty stomach, and the long wait made me want to order everything. I knew my eyes would be bigger than my mouth, but this could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wanted it all! As I watched the server carve the brisket, it seemed to melt like butter. No knife would be required; this meat smoked and covered in Franklin's favorite rub could be eaten with a spoon.
Finally, it was time to eat.
Like a drooling dog, I scoffed down my first bite. Now I have watched many food shows on TV and find it hard to relate the host's superlatives to the food. Hearing a food described can't compare to how it tastes. Let me just say it was the best bbq I had ever tasted. Maybe the best food I had ever tasted.
The following 20 minutes passed by in a blissful stupor. The food was terrific, and despite the fact I ordered enough to feed a small army, I ate it all down.
Many places get called the best. But in my opinion, there can be no question that Franklin in Austin is hands down the best BBQ on the planet. The wait, while incredibly long, only adds to the experience.
And to top the meal of my dreams off- I met with Aaron Franklin after the meal, and he couldn't have been more humble or nicer.
Anyone who lives in Austin or who visits Austin - do yourself a favor and get to Franklin. You won't regret it.