I was eating Chinese food at the Emerald Queen Convention Center talking to Nathan, a fellow member of the Transportation Club of Tacoma, about trucking. He was listening to the story of my friend Mike who bought his own rig so he could haul goods to wherever he wanted to travel. “I’m going to Austin,” Nathan said out of the blue with a far away look in his eyes. “What’s in Austin?” Nathan responded, “Franklin Barbecue.”Aaron Franklin cutting brisket.
“Aaron Franklin is the host of BBQ with Franklin and owner and chief firestarter at Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, widely regarded as one of the most influential pitmasters in the U.S. He received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2015.” – franklinbbq.com
In a trance, Nathan continued, “People start lining up at the restaurant to buy at four in the morning. He doesn’t open until eleven . . . and he closes when they run out of BBQ.” I was intrigued. Nathan was a convert to Aaron’s methodology: salt, pepper, and smoke . . . plenty of smoke . . . smoke with flavors. Nathan now has his own smoker and buys cherry wood pellets on the internet. “I think Costco is going to start selling chunks of cherry wood, soon.” My son Patrick also has a smoker. He gladly helps people clear their yards of cherry, apple and pear trunks and branches to feed his smoker. I’ve had Patrick’s smoked ribs before, so I can only dream of what Aaron Franklin does with his meats.People waiting in line for Franklin Barbecue to open.
My parents owned a motel in Ponders Corner. Our home there had a large awning. We could relax in its shade on summer evenings, but I think the reason my dad built the awning was to protect his portable BBQ from the rain. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter usually meant two turkeys. One baked and one barbecued. The rest of the year we ate my mom’s smoked steaks. Well, they weren’t really smoked, they were just over-cooked and generally black. They looked like BBQ brisket, but without the moisture. It wasn’t until I got married that I found out what meat was supposed to taste like.
Franklin sells brisket for $22 a pound. It sounded a little steep when I first saw the menu, but then I read a statement by Anthony Bourdain, “It is the best. It is the finest brisket I’ve ever had.” I’m like everyone else, I’m easily swayed by celebrities . . . and good barbecue. I love brisket. Real brisket. I began to think it over . . . I like “filet” at Pacific Grill and that sets me back about fifty dollars for a meal, so $22 is beginning to feel do-able.
I would love to journey to Austin with Nathan, but maybe when he returns he will share his story and I can taste the meats vicariously in a reverie of wonderment and lip smacking amazement. I’ll let you know how it goes. Do you have a BBQ favorite? Please, share. As Bobby Dylan says, “I’ll let you in my dreams, if you let me in yours.”