East Austin Unveiled: Franklin Barbecue

In East Austin, Food Cart, Jasmin Sun, Lunch, Restaurant Review, Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Plate of pulled pork, fatty brisket, beans and potato salad at Franklin Barbecue. Photo by Jessie Wang. Editing by Jasmin Sun.

By Jasmin Sun

Call me a purist, but there are some things you must leave to the experts.  Such is the case with barbecue.  The less urbanized your restaurant, the more credibility you’ll have in my eyes.  And my eyes, readers, are born-and-bred Texan eyes.  A Lockhart restaurant’s version will outshine one in Houston, for instance.  I simply can’t have a city boy handling my barbecue.  It’s nothing personal, just good Texan foodie logic.  You can imagine my skepticism, then, when my friend Jessie suggested we try “this barbecue cart off I-35.”  In fact, I think I nearly fell over.

Franklin Barbecue Sign. Photo by Jessie Wang. Editing by Jasmin Sun.

Clearly, I caved, and I’m glad I did.  I still blame my weak will on post-Sixth Street Saturday morning hunger, but I suppose that can be forgiven.  While my expectations were lower than usual because of the a) close vicinity to downtown Austin, and b) the fact that they were smoking meat next to a food cart instead of a giant pit, they were certainly raised back to unbiased levels when I read the stellar Yelp reviews.

According to Yelpers, this place has some pretty fine barbecue.  It also sells out of it really fast.  Although they say they’re open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., they’re really open from 11 a.m until they run out of food.  So even though Jessie and I left bright and early Saturday morning and got there around 11 a.m. exactly, there was already a fairly long line.  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more, until about noon, when the owner placed a chair proclaiming Franklin’s now-closed status:

It's closing time an hour after opening here. Photo by Jessie Wang. Editing by Jasmin Sun.

A few minutes later, we finally got close enough to the cart to see the menu.  They were out of ribs by the time we could order, but we were still able to get our hands on some pulled pork, fatty brisket, lean brisket and sides.

The workstation at Franklin. Photo by Jessie Wang. Editing by Jasmin Sun.

Franklin Barbecue’s fatty brisket is truly everything I hope for in barbecued meats.  It was tender, moist, had a nice char — which, interestingly, tasted slightly like coffee — and was good enough to eat without the aid of sauce or sides.  Jessie and I got the last of it, and I’m so glad we did, because the rest of their porky offerings were only average.  The pulled pork was properly seasoned but a bit dry.  A generous amount of their homemade barbecue sauce had to be added before we could bring ourselves to eat it.  I can’t say I’m complaining too much about that, though — their sauce is an addicting, refreshingly non-syrupy concoction.

Despite the bumpier points in the meal, I would certainly return to Franklin to get my hands on their fatty brisket and to try their pork ribs.  All things considered, the meat was quite outstanding even though the owners looked a bit too hip to have grown up on a farm.  But that’s just the Texan barbecue-elitism in me talking.  Y’all should really go and give them a try.

Franklin Barbecue

3421 N. I-35

Austin, TX 78722

(512) 653-1187


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