In addition to great food, one of the best parts of a barbecue tour is the wisdom it can generate.
“The line is a good thing,” Dan Maguire said, sounding like a Socrates of Smoked Meat rather than a Posse newcomer. “It lets the food settle before we eat again.”
It was about 1:30 or so on a recent Saturday afternoon and we had just arrived at la Barbecue in Austin. The BBQ line ahead of us was a good hour-plus long.
But we we weren’t in a hurry. We had come directly from Franklin Barbecue where we waited in line more than four hours to eat. We weren’t that hungry. . .yet.
Dan and his wife Katie recently moved to Austin from Florida. Their friends and long-time Posse members Daniel and Magda Goncalves wanted to introduce them to Texas barbecue. I suggested a couple of good trailer joints — no lines! — on the east side. But Daniel wanted only the best for his friends.
I got in line at Franklin about 8:15 a.m. The place opens at 11. It was my first time back to Franklin since the late-August fire that closed the joint for about three months.
Daniel, Dan, Magda and Katie arrived a few minutes later. A contingent then went to Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ in southern Austin to pick up breakfast tacos.
As we remained in line, a Franklin employee came by to get an idea what we planned to order. Based on our position in the BBQ line, she said, we’d probably eat about 12:30 p.m. and it was likely that the turkey would be gone by then.
We grabbed some folding chairs stored under the stairs and got comfortable.
Four hours can seem like a long time to wait in a BBQ line, but it went fast. We had some fun barbecue dialogues with those around us, including a grandfather from Houston, who was with his daughter and her baby son, nursing under a blanket.
We also got some time with Aaron Franklin, who gave us a tour of his new smokehouse, which is still under renovation. Since the place reopened, the cooking has been done on pits outside in trailers. All that work will come inside soon, Franklin said.
He talked about all the improvements he was making that would make life easier for his cooks. But, at the same time, he seemed a bit wistful.
“Cooking in the elements — the rain, the cold — makes you a better cook,” he said.
Before we knew it, we were at the head of the line and ordering — brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, sausage. There was even some turkey left. And it was just a few minutes past the 12:30 target we had been told.
So how was the food?
And the single best bite of the day might have been the taco from Valentina’s. Perfectly cooked brisket with some guacamole, cilantro, and a squirt of lime.