Everyone waits in line at Franklin Barbecue: Austinites making their weekly pilgrimages, daytrippers traveling along the Texas barbecue trail, even Anthony Bourdain. It’s an inglorious task, a tortuous crawl in which you’re taunted by the scent of smoldering oak and the sight of those lucky few already sucking the meat from a set of pork spare ribs. Those at the front of the line likely arrived no later than 8 A.M.–a full three hours before Franklin opens its doors.
But there’s community in the chaos. Blankets are unfurled, lawn chairs are unfolded and stories are shared. The camaraderie of the line is overwhelming, a testament to the pacifying power of Franklin’s otherworldly barbecue.
Brisket is what you want here. At the counter, Aaron Franklin (or perhaps his barbecue partner John Louis) will offer slices of either lean or fatty brisket. There’s no wrong choice, but you’ve waited too long not to indulge in those glorious fatty cuts. This is brisket at the point of sublimation, beef so perfectly and thoroughly smoked that it barely exists in solid form. Franklin’s pork spare ribs may also be some of the best you’ve ever tasted, thick slabs of meat that peel from the bone with unimaginable ease.
Still, rigid traditionalists might point you away from Franklin, maybe to Louie Mueller in Taylor, TX or some combination of Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX. Smitty’s has the history–a charming old building so blackened by barbecue that you can practically scrape the smoke off the walls–but Franklin has the goods. The sausage at Smitty’s is indeed excellent, yet nothing there truly approaches the ethereal barbecue at Franklin, a place that shatters even the most outsized expectations of Texas barbecue.
Franklin Barbecue, 900 E. 11th St., Austin, TX, (512) 653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com
Smitty’s Market, 208 South Commerce, Lockhart, TX, (512) 398-9344, smittysmarket.com.
Filed under General, Reviews
Profiling Bigmista’s barbecue empire for the L.A. Times:
PHOTO by GENARO MOLINA / L.A. TIMES
The Torrance farmers market is in full bloom: pluots mottled with patches of red and green, bottles of fresh-pressed pomegranate juice, eggplants as thick as tree trunks. Weekenders huddle under canopies clutching pupusas and plates of pad Thai, the electric hum of a blues man’s guitar and the distant patter of steel drums colliding in the air above. The market’s meat seekers, however, are unfazed by the clamor, eyes affixed to the brisket being carved at Bigmista’s Barbecue.
Pounds of that blackened brisket — beef massaged with a spice rub and then smoked into submission for about 12 hours — are dispensed until there’s nothing but scraps left. Some diners opt for racks of ribs and overloaded sandwiches. Regulars are drawn to one of the day’s sybaritic specials, pulled-pork nachos.
Bigmista’s is a farmers market force, propelled to the upper stratum of Los Angeles barbecue by husband-and-wife team Neil and Phyllis Strawder. They’ve earned the adulation of every local magazine, talk show and website with an appetite. In May, Bigmista’s was a finalist at the inaugural Vendy Awards, which celebrated the city’s best street and otherwise itinerant food vendors. Recently, Neil has been bouncing between TV appearances and cooking demos for Fresh & Easy markets in California, Nevada and Arizona. And now, the Strawders are making their basic cable debut on “Over Your Head,” an HGTV home improvement show.
They’ve built this burgeoning barbecue empire in just under two years, a mobile meat paradise that currently encamps at the Torrance (Saturday and Tuesday), El Segundo (Thursday) and Atwater Village (Sunday) farmers markets. It’s a business built as much on Neil’s wide smile and masterful slow smoking as Phyllis’ irresistible laugh and financial know-how.
Read the rest here.
Brute burger force for the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
If the current crop of gourmet burgers is built on finesse (hand-crafted ketchups and house-cured pickles), then the colossal creations of Big Mike’s in Bellflower are things of brute force. These aren’t burgers that land in your stomach with intestinal indifference—they sock you in the gut by the third or fourth bite. Burgers at Big Mike’s are ungainly mountains of meat in the truest American sense, sandwiches super-sized to skyscraping heights that bludgeon you into acceptance and, eventually, bliss.
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Smokers are welcome again in Santa Monica on May 9 and 10 when Drink:Eat:Play‘s 2nd annual LA BBQ Festival sets up just north of the pier. Aside from some local representatives (Baby Blues, Gus’s, Mr. Cecil’s), expect pitmasters from as far away as Texas, Missouri, Illinois and beyond. There’ll be beer (of course), bands and more. Tickets are $10.
Old Towne Orange barbecue for the Times:
PHOTO by CHRISTINE COTTER / L.A. TIMES
Every order at Scottie’s Smokehouse in Orange passes through owner Darren Scott’s hands, whether it’s a blackened slab of brisket awaiting a deft swipe of the knife or a golden-skinned chicken about to be pulled apart. It’s an exacting process, but that control is crucial because Scott has barbecue in his blood.
He inherited the necessary low-and-slow genes from his grandfather Darwin Scott, who worked his barbecue joint in Santa Ana from 1935 to 1943, when the war channeled the country’s meat into servicemen’s rations. Hanging near the kitchen is a photo of the original Scottie’s — a square shack carved out of a forested corner of the still-nascent city — that serves as proof of the family’s slow-smoked history. And that’s all Darren Scott needs. “In this family,” he says, “barbecue is just something you know you’re probably good at.”