This past weekend I flew from Boston to Austin to hang out with some college buddies before my impending nuptials (tomorrow!). One of my goals for the weekend was to hit up some Texas BBQ, preferably without having to find out how to get 8 people to Lockhart. Rudimentary research quickly showed that there are two high end BBQ options within Austin city limits: Franklin BBQ and JMueller BBQ. While John Mueller has been at it longer as a third generation barbecue man, he closed up shop in 2006 and sold his pit to Aaron Franklin. Franklin has since risen to prominence as the media darling of the most beloved BBQ joint in Austin... but getting brisket there comes at a cost. Not exactly a monetary one (though it's not like the food is free) but instead as some serious time investment... like two hours plus in line. On the weekend in particular you need to be in line well before the restaurant even opens if you are expecting to get food.
Seeing all the accolades for Franklin pile up with lines down the street must have spurred Mueller into action, since he reopened his own venture in October 2011. When it first opened, JMueller was a nice and quick alternative to Franklin's... similar quality but with a fraction of the line length. Unfortunately, as you can see on Yelp, this has changed (not the quality - the line)... probably due to Anthony Bourdain.
Speaking of a line... we arrived directly from the airport (no time to check in!) on Friday at about 11:15 AM and said line was already all the way out of the lot. Mueller handed everybody a Lone Star and we settled in to wait. The pros suggest bringing along additional beer to sip while you work your way towards the front, but I was trying to pace myself at this early stage of the weekend and was content to just chat with my friends. I noticed that the line barely ever seemed to change length... always to the edge of the lot. The only time it dwindled was at about 1:30 when they cut it off since they were going to run out of food (a daily occurrence - they serve until they run out).
We were quite lucky that they had not crossed any items off the menu by the time we made it to the front of the line. There were only three of us... so we could not (sanely) sample everything... but we ordered brisket (1 lb), beef short ribs (1.5 lb), pork ribs (0.5 lb), and beef sausage (1 lb). We did not waste any stomach capacity with sides. Note that the one and a half pounds of short ribs resulted from the fact that each rib is about half a pound... but while the short ribs were second only to the brisket in my mind (Bourdain says they are king), I'd say that's a fair bit more beef rib then three people really needed. If I were to go again I'd probably skip the beef sausage and pork ribs, which were both very good but not nearly as transcendent as either the brisket or short ribs... and give the pork shoulder a shot.
I'm no BBQ expert by any measure (I live in New England after all)... and we couldn't visit Franklin for comparison (it was closed for the weekend)... but I thought that was some damn fine BBQ and certainly worth standing in line for. I would definitely do it again, and I recommend it to any tourists looking for culinary adventure.