For a barbecue lover, it might be the saddest sight imaginable:
“CLOSED” the sign said. “We had a fire. We will reopen as soon as we can.
– The Franklin Family”
The sign, hand printed on butcher paper, was taped to the front door of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. Normally, at about noon on a nice summer Thursday, there could be dozens of people in line, ready to taste the best of Texas smoked meats.
But no one was in line during my visit. The joint has been closed since a fire during the early hours of Saturday, Aug. 26, as Hurricane Harvey assaulted the state.
The smoke house absorbed most of the damage, but the kitchen was damaged, too. Repair estimates have hit several hundred thousand dollars. Owner Aaron Franklin has vowed to rebuild and reopen Franklin Barbecue as soon as possible.
He wasn’t on site during my visit, but manager Benji Jacobs and another employee were. Asked about the timetable to reopen Franklin Barbecue, they said it would occur as quickly as possible, but cautioned about the time necessary to get through the city’s permitting process.
I asked if there were plans to open a temporary outlet, a trailer — maybe even the original Franklin trailer — while repairs were made.
They said they were thinking about a lot of options, but again cautioned about getting proper permits and authorization. The process will take time, Jacobs said.
As I returned to my car in the Franklin lot, I saw another car with three very sad barbecue lovers looking up at the fire damage. The driver said he was from Austin. The passengers were from out of town. When they came to Austin, they always made a pilgrimage to Franklin.
Will you try another joint? I asked.
“It’s not the same,” they said.
Over the next days and weeks, I think there will be a lot of barbecue pilgrims making the same sad visit to Franklin.