For Brisket Aficionados, Austin's Franklin BBQ Is A Must in Texas

Mar 18, 2017
Originally published on March 18, 2017 7:20 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now, you know we couldn't come to Austin without trying the barbecue. And one name kept popping up - Franklin Barbecue. You even heard the mayor shout it out. It's a barbecue spot on the east side of Austin famous for its brisket and its long lines. We got there at around 7:30 in the morning, almost four hours before Franklin opens, and let's just say we were not alone.

BEN WHITE: So we got here at 1 a.m. We were at the bars there. I'm from Austin. They're new to town. They wanted to come to Franklin's because it's a thing. So we went and waited and slept on lawn chairs for the last five hours.

MARTIN: Ben White and his buddies were half awake, but they were first in line because yes, you heard him right. He got there at 1 in the morning. Now, that's a little extreme. But if you want to make sure you get some meat, the experts we spoke to said the ideal time to get in line is around 6 a.m. By the time we got there, dozens of brisket aficionados were in a line that went all the way to the corner and wrapped around the building. Some people were sleeping. Some were drinking the usual morning beverages and some other things. And everybody was trying to stay occupied.

ANDREW CLEM: We got Settlers of Catan.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're going to double dutch.

CLEM: We're going to double dutch. We brought a football, some cards and each other's lovely company.

MARTIN: That was Andrew Clem. He's local. But the guy next to him, he wasn't.

GUILLERMI: My name is Guillermi (ph). I'm from Brazil. I am here just for the barbecue, yeah. I'm doing a barbecue trip around Texas.

MARTIN: Mincho Jacobs helped his friend Aaron Franklin and Aaron's wife Stacey start Franklin Barbecue seven years ago. The guys had moved to Austin to play music, Mincho on the bass and Aaron on the guitar. But that didn't pan out, so they turned to the Q. Now the place is world famous. Now, you know that after all that hype we had to taste this barbecue for ourselves. But first, Mincho showed us how the sausage and the rest of the food is made.

MINCHO JACOBS: All right, so you're going to smell smoky after this.

MARTIN: OK.

JACOBS: But, you know, that's not a bad thing.

MARTIN: Oh, wow.

JACOBS: Luckily, you're coming when it's not too hot.

MARTIN: This the man (unintelligible). Yes.

JACOBS: Because normally in this smokehouse it'd be, like, 120 degrees.

MARTIN: This is where the magic happens.

JACOBS: Or lot of sweating (laughter).

MARTIN: The room was holding six SUV-sized woodburning smokers. And like the food, the smokers are homemade.

JACOBS: We built them, yeah, back when we were learning how to barbecue. When Aaron Franklin started talking about doing barbecue, he also learned how to weld. And now we welded all these. He did a lot of the welding in our backyard. It's really crazy, but it's very DIY.

MARTIN: Mincho says that's the essence of this whole operation, DIY and some elbow grease.

JACOBS: We're cooking food for tomorrow right now. It is 1:44 p.m. We're cooking food that's not going to be eaten until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. And it's going to come off at 2, 3 in the morning, we're going to be putting on briskets. So it's - it takes a long time, a lot of labor. We're doing chemistry. It is really backwoods cooking. You're burning - what we use is post oak, which is really traditional here, but it has a certain chemical composition of nitrogen and carbon and acids that you're trying to burn to release to make this meat sing.

MARTIN: Since we're here on business covering South by Southwest, I had to ask Mincho about the convention that's taken over the city.

JACOBS: Well, like most Austin nights it's a mixed blessing. It's big and it's crazy and it's made the city kind of crazy. But, you know, that's Austin nowadays. Some people think we're too big, too. We make 2,300 pounds of meat a day. It's nuts (laughter). Welcome to Texas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.