Dear Glutton: Getting in to Franklin Barbecue
And where to go if it doesn't work out
Some friends and I are coming into town for SXSW, and we want to go to Franklin Barbecue. Any tips on getting in? Where should we eat if we don't?
– Hungry Already
The camaraderie of the Franklin line is as legendary as the brisket, which is really saying something, because that brisket is no joke. With SXSW in town, the line is going to be even worse than usual, but, still, I understand why you want to try and take your shot, even if you could probably get away with Instagramming yourself in front of that legendary turquoise sign and getting it over with.
When I made my obligatory Franklin pilgrimage as a new resident of our fair city, I made several key mistakes, which I will share with you now in the hopes that you will not repeat my tragic experience. One: I didn't wear enough sunscreen, and left, after several hours in the sun, more burnt than the chewy shell of the brisket. Two: I didn't eat breakfast, in anticipation of the enormous barbecue lunch I would consume that afternoon, which, combined with a small cup of the rocket fuel-strength cold brew from the Legend Coffee Co. trailer around the corner, made me feel like I was going to puke up my own heart. Three: I took some dude with me on a SECOND DATE. Do not do this; you will be spending hours together, and by the end will either be married or attempting to strangle each other with those snap-skinned garlicky sausage links.
Even after all that, yeah, OK, it was worth it. Would I do it again? Only under the most ideal conditions, and with the most barbecue-driven and deserving out-of-town guest. But I can admit that the barbecue itself was good enough to compensate for the pain of waiting in line, the sunburn, and the awkward conversation with couples from San Diego who were just really, really into SeaWorld. Franklin's brisket is this greasy, dreamy mess, collapsing into an appealingly oozy pile of fat and meat shards if you so much as look at it sideways. Waiting this long for anything makes me skeptical of the final product, but this is good stuff. So good you might even forget to photograph it before you're done eating, and who could blame you for that? So go for it; brave that infamous line. But just know that, under the less ideal conditions of visiting our city's most famously hard to eat at restaurant at a time when the local population seems, temporarily, to have doubled, they may (and, in fact, probably will) run out by the time you get to the front.
Fortunately for you, and the hundreds of other would-be aspirants to the hallowed halls of perfect brisket who find themselves turned away at the door, the neighborhood around Franklin is stuffed to the gills with good, cheap, walkable lunch alternatives where you can smother your sorrows with meat and carbs. Paperboy, a stellar brunch truck a few blocks down 11th Street, makes crispy, soppy, egg and bacon and pimento cheese sandwiches on a brioche bun, a veritable carb grenade. And if you're still set on barbecue, there's Micklethwait Craft Meats, another truck parked in a surprisingly charming empty lot lined with grackle-filled trees. Their brisket Frito pie is to die for, and, I hate to say it, but I think their sides are better than Franklin's. The jalapeño cheese grits alone are worth the walk.