Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

Franklin Barbecue of Austin, Texas — It’s for real

04/03/2014 9:53 AM

04/03/2014 9:54 AM

Don’t let praise or criticism influence your behavior — that’s one of several qualities in the late Murray Bowen’s description of a healthy self.

Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin exemplifies that quality to a “T.”

Franklin Barbecue is awash in a viral level of praise. Yet there’s the occasional pundit who will tell you that John Mueller’s barbecue is better and that that’s where Franklin learned to barbecue. He has heard that baloney many times.

“I wish people would stop saying that,” Franklin will say with a tiresome smile. “I was cashier at John’s place, that’s all.”

Maybe it’s irritating like a fly in the pantry, but it has zero effect on Franklin’s daily mission to produce knock-your-socks-off barbecue in his custom-made hand-built pits every day except Monday.

Back when he was learning pitmaster skills in his backyard by trial and error, he learned to weld. Franklin built or modified each pit at Franklin Barbecue.

He knows their hot spots and unique qualities. Unlike many pitmasters, he likes hot spots. When a hunk of meat needs more heat than the rest of the batch, he knows where to put it.

No wonder there’s a long line of eager customers queued up outside every morning, Tuesday through Sunday, before the doors open at 11 a.m. Everybody in Austin knows that Franklin is open for lunch only, and that they always sell out.

If you’re wondering if it’s worth it, just ask several people standing in line. Many are regulars and they will tell you their truth. The only comparable lines I’ve seen in Chow Town are at Oklahoma Joe’s gas station, especially on Saturdays.

I’ve heard that Plowboys in Blue Springs is attracting similar action, which reminds me I need to go back.

For the Full Franklin Experience, I recommend brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork, turkey and a Tipsy Texan sandwich with slaw, potato salad and beans on the side, along with your raw onion slices and dill chips. Unless you’re sharing with friends, you’ll have plenty to carry out and enjoy later.

Also plan to take home a slice of Bourbon Banana, Pecan Key Lime or Lemon Chess pie from Austin’s favorite bakery, Cake Spoon. Franklin’s wife Stacy is an active partner in the business. As soon as Vivian, their infant daughter, finishes teething on rib bones, I hope they mentor her on learning the Franklin barbecue method of cooking. If so, her generation will experience true primal barbecue.

Aaron Franklin smokes some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten, bar none. Vivian has some big boots to fill!

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”

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