We did a bit of research on Austin food trucks and Franklin's BBQ was a must-go place everyone was raving about.
It actually did not look like a food truck at all, more resembled a small neighbourhood joint simply finished with the blue and white paint. We only saw a few people in line from the outside which was a pleasant surprise considering the main online complaint about Franklin’s was the wait. Turns out we raised our hopes too early – there were plenty more hungry folks waiting inside.
As we entered the main building, we submerged in smoky, stuffy air almost like in a cigar room with a spicy, zesty twist. Under ribbed sheet metal ceiling, surrounded by beige walls and behind a teal door, the interior was not too memorable nor exciting. Red chairs and many wooden tables of various shapes and styles infused the room with a practical, old character. Our favourite elements were full of character and history - numerous menus on old recycled brown paper, casually inscribed with a marker in different hand writings scripts. In case that was too wild for some to read through, a wooden railed menu with sliding letters hung above the main countertop.
As we waited we also passed by a memorabilia/souvenir section with plenty of promo materials for the shop - baby onesies seemed to be a hot item.
When we got by the counter, we realized that the ribs we planned to get were already sold out, however we settled for a pound of their brisket. We went for 50/50 of leaner vs. fatter meat which turned out to be a worthwhile idea. Our favourite part of this experience was receiving a tray with basic waxed rose paper and a pound of meat in the middle of it - there was something raw and real about that. We also took a side of their potatoes salad and slaw. To top it off, there were a lot of side freebies for those not interesting in purchasing sides - hot peppers, pickles, onion, and, of course, the meal always came with just the right amount of white Texan bread. Another big plus was the impressive beer selection on tap.
While in line, we had been eyeing the $5 Texas Pecan pie, but it turns out so had everyone else as it was sold out by the time we asked for it. Key Lime pie was still an option, but we decided we were looking for something more Texan and not in Floridian for sweets.
e settled down on their porch, there was a bit of air moving there and we even got to be a bit chilly as we opened our Lone Star beer. The basic long, barbecue tables were shared and so we enjoyed the small talk with our neighbours - parents visiting their son in Austin. They were from the Mid-Western states and had just finished their meal which they claimed was the best BBQ they've had in a long time. Our expectations were very high and for a good reason.
We started with the fatty medium cooked brisket which promptly melted in our mouths – so smooth and tender. The fatty marbling was consistent throughout. It was such a treat, that even Ma Cherie who is very particular with her meat, was impressed. The lean one was also a good choice, but it failed to stand up to its fatty competition. It was tender and a bit more chewy. For all the healthy ones out there, we strongly recommend having the two side by side to compare and not lose out.
We enjoyed the brisket with each of the three BBQ sauces on the table, we just had to... The lightest one was hot, slightly sour and probably the lightest in flavour. The ruby coloured variety had a sweet/sour balance to it with smoky flavours. Last, but definitely not least, was the darkest one - sweet, lightly spicy with hints of bourbon and molasses. We both loved that one the best, seemed very authentic and wholesome. None of the BBQ sauces had labels on them. We later learned that Franklins BBQ has its own in-house brand, so we had the real deal home-made, unique recipe flavours. Lastly, the sides truly completed the meal which was an essential step. Both the slaw and the potato salad were fresh, flavourful choices.
This meal instantly awoke the carnivores inside us. When else do you get a pound of meat slapped on paper - not pretentious, just mouth-watering quality. We loved the fact that this place worked as a holistic experience - genuine, with a bit run down interior which gave Franklin's BBQ a sense of exclusivity - only locals and hard-core foodies would probably see the value. For this kind of brisket, a 40 minute wait is something we'd consider daily (our waistlines permitting). Our only regret - not having space to try their other meats.
PS: we saw a frame on the wall showing Franklin's BBQ history - it started off as a food truck with meat sold by the pound. The permanent location seemed to be only thing that changed. Thanks to Austin’s experimental food truck culture, this gem exists and was able to blossom.