If you can work Lady Gaga into a conversation about Texas barbecue, then it’s probably going to be a pretty good conversation.
That was true Thursday morning when I stopped by Aaron Franklin’s new place in Austin on my way back to Dallas. It was just after 9 a.m., still about two hours until he opened for business, so Franklin had a few minutes to show me around.
“What are you doing in town?” he asked.
I explained that I had gone to the Lady Gaga concert the night before at the Erwin Center. (Terrific show, btw.)
One of her stage props was a red neon outline of a pig with red neon letters “BBQ” in the middle. Who knew Lady G was a barbecue fan?
“Don’t know much about her,” Franklin said. “Poker Face?”
That’s her, I said.
I reminded Franklin that he was on the verge of attaining Gaga-like status in Texas barbecue circles.
“That Aaron Franklin is a ……. rock star,” Nick Pencis of Stanley’s in Tyler said after tasting Franklin’s barbecue earlier this year.
After operating out of a trailer for about a year, Franklin moved to a permanent location, with indoor seating, in March. The building is a couple blocks east of I-35, near the state capitol.
“We’re already running out of room,” Franklin said as we walked through his dining area. On Saturdays, he said, customers start lining up at 9 a.m. On weekdays, 10:30 a.m. He opens at 11. At the trailer location, he would often sell out by noon. Now, with an extra pit in use, he can go to early afternoon.
Franklin said he has the capacity to cook about 600 pounds of meat a day on his three homemade, tank-style smokers, located on trailers behind the building. He is still working through the city permission process for two brick pits he wants to build. He plans to begin on the enclosure for one of them next week.
He also wants to build a patio area near them.
“So people can watch the pits,” he said.
The cooking chambers on the brick pits will hold 42-inch racks and be 16 feet long. Franklin estimated that they will triple his cooking capacity to 1,800 pounds of meat at a time.
That’s a lot of barbecue. The last time we were at Snow’s in Lexington, which is only open Saturdays, pitmaster Kerry Bexley said he was down a bit, but still cooking about 800 pounds a day.