Aaron Franklin is king of all pit masters
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., June 24, 2011
Tue.-Sun., 11am-4pm (be in line by 9:30am)
Franklin Barbecue900 E. 11th, 653-1187
Daily, 11am until sold out (1-2pm)
Aaron Franklin, the most congenial pit boss in town, learned his craft very well while working for his folks at their barbecue place, working for John Mueller's B-B-Q, and smoking up a storm in his backyard for friends. His small trailer operation was a huge success, and now Franklin and crew are getting settled in nicely at their new location, the radically renovated remains of the old Ben's Longbranch Bar-B-Q, just east of I-35 on 11th Street. What stays the same as Franklin's old trailer location up the freeway are the stellar quality of the barbecue, the lines of eager salivating diners, and the shortage of the 'cue. (To further complicate the shortage, Bon Appétit just said of Franklin, "Today, [Franklin's] bricks-and-mortar restaurant serves what we're calling the best BBQ in Texas, if not America.") Franklin says: "We hope to have the new pit up and running in a month or so ... if the city works with us a little bit. Once we get that operating, I think we'll have plenty enough for everyone. By the end of the summer, we'll be hoppin'."
On a recent Sunday, there was a long line waiting at 10:30am, and by the time we left at 11:30am, the joint was full and the line was snaking out the door, down the ramp, and down the street. The custom-made sausage ($10 per pound) is outstanding: medium-textured and smoky, a snappy casing, spicy and juicy, with rich flavor. The brisket ($15 per pound, natural Angus) is superb: a thick smoky and spicy bark, a deep smoke ring, and exceedingly moist and tender, with nice beefy flavor. The ribs ($13 per pound) are perfection: tender without being mushy, juicy and smoky, and assertively spiced.
The ordering procedure, sauces, and sides have stayed the same, but now about 50 can eat in air conditioning, with more dining outside on the breezy deck. Future plans call for the installation of the mega pit smoker; bigger, nicer restrooms; and for the whole east side of the building becoming a terraced, shaded dining area with picnic tables. Franklin Barbecue has made a huge leap forward with this move, and if the city will cooperate, it will just get better and better.