You've waited in line for over two hours to get the food. My advice is to load up. Barbecue reheats well, and the last thing you want is to run out of food and have to wait all over again.
I arrived a little after 9, nearly two hours before their 11AM opening. There were already a few dozen people in line, most of whom had the good sense to bring along folding chairs and reading material. By the time the doors opened, the line stretched all the way down to the end of the block and around the corner. I'd estimate around 120 barbecue fans all waiting for their share of the meat. If you snag a space near the front of the line, you have the advantage of getting sprayed with misters to take some edge off the heat. It's worth getting up a half hour earlier.
Cords of wood block your view of the smokers out back behind the restaurant, but rest assured, the smells and the lazy smoke rising from behing the fence assure you that the barbecue team is firing on all cylinders, getting ready for the day's rush.
The staff at Franklin are some of the friendliest around. Starting around 10AM, they'll start walking up and down the line selling $2 bottles of Mexican Coke, real sugar Dr. Pepper, Big Red (the only drink to have with barbecue), Topo Chico mineral water, and $3 Shiner Bocks.
Once you finally step in the door, you'll be greeted by air conditioning, incredible smells, and folks talking about barbecue and beard trimming (seriously).
A Two Meat Plate ($13)
Two meat plates come with your choice of brisket, sausage, pulled pork, ribs, and turkey. The peppery sausages are seriously juicy with a nice smoky tinge to them. You might think "why turkey?" when there's brisket to be had, but I implore you: give the turkey a try. Even without the last-minute, post-slice dunk in a vat of clarified butter, this is easily the moistest smoked turkey I've ever had. It eats like a ribeye steak with a great peppery kick. Excellent beans and a tangy cole slaw round out this plate.
Another Two Meat Plate ($13)
Sweet, juicy, tender pulled pork and peppery pork ribs on this one. Of all the meats there, I'd say the ribs were the weakest—slightly too cooked for my taste. They fell off the bone with almost no resistance, and I like having the smallest amount of bite to my pork ribs. A tangy, mustardy potato salad rounds out your options for sides.
This is the main event. Pull up to the front of the line, and if you're lucky, Aaron Franklin himself will have just sliced into a new brisket, cutting off some burnt ends and passing them to you on a piece of wax paper with the instructions to share. After tasting them, I dare you to look him directly in the face and see if you can resist ordering at least a half pound. At $16 a pound, it's not the cheapest brisket in the land, but it is incomparably tender and flavorful. A well seasoned, smoky bark gives way to meat basted in glorious rendered fat and connective tissue that's broken down into a rich sauce.
Unless you order it on a plate, it comes served directly on a sheet of wax paper on your tray, a pile of pickles and onions on the side, with a stack of wet naps, which you'll definitely be needing.
All the meats are available as sandwiches, and if you want to go the sandwich route, I'd suggest the Tipsy Texan, which gives you a pile of beef and sausage along with some kraut in a buttered bun. But really, the meat can speak for itself here.
There are four pies on the menu, Bourbon Banana, Pecan, Key Lime, and Lemon Chess. When I asked which is the best, the cashier immediately answered with the lemon. Good choice. A tender, buttery crust with a tangy and not-too-sweet lemon curd filling. I'm frankly shocked that I managed to find space after the barbecue, but the pie managed to wiggle his way in there.
I hadn't actually had Big Red before, but I'm an instant fan. It doesn't have a particular fruit flavor other than "red," but its sweet, refreshing flavor goes perfectly with smoky, meaty barbecue. Seek it out.
There's the famous espesso-based barbecue sauce, along with a vinegar sauce and a hot sauce, but honestly, none of them are necessary. The brisket is juicy and flavorful on its own.
The original Franklin Barbecue trailer is parked out behind the restaurant.