Is waiting in line for food a pain for you? Try waiting at Franklin Barbecue, which almost every media in America agrees makes one of the best briskets in Austin, Texas or even in the whole of United States. I’m not suggesting that if you haven’t joined the line for Franklin’s brisket, you don’t know what pain is. What I’m saying is, after spending three hours of your precious life out in the rain, snow, or heat, for food that tonnes of other places offer decent versions of, you may actually come out of it thinking, ‘that was pretty fun.’ The people, both inside and outside the door that separates you and your food, can make waiting bearable or even the highlight of a trip.
Two weeks ago I was in Austin to escape the winter in New York but ended up battling the southern city’s biting wind. On the coldest day of that week, at below freezing point, I found myself in the outdoors with at least 50 others, for three morning hours. I regretted almost immediately but was somewhat comforted when one of the Franklin guys came out to greet us. He thanked us for our patience and expressed how grateful and honoured they were to have our support despite the ungodly weather. Now, that was surprising. Franklin had been seeing snaking lines outside their restaurant almost every other day. Most restaurateurs, chefs or receptionists would have been immune to that sight however grand they initially might be, or they would very imperfectly suppress their vexation of the crowd, the noise, and the long, intense working hours that follow their patronisation. But based on the comments on social media, Franklin had been appreciative to their customers. They provided chairs and blankets, although not enough for everyone, to make our wait a little more comfortable. They welcomed us to use their toilets inside the restaurant, and the men took opportunity to warm themselves up while waiting in a much shorter line to use the men’s room. Woman was a rare breed in this carnivores setting, so I thawed my hands under hot running water for as long as I could without seeming like I was camping in the toilet.
Most people preferred to stay outside in the line, where the carnival took place. Even though I was not much of a participant, it was entertaining to watch. They brought music, cartons and cartons of beers, and track shoes to run in to ward off the cold and perhaps, shed off the calories they were about to put on. I was watching a movie on my iPad but I later realised, though not too late, that jogging in place and to my neighbour’s music helped me feel my toes again. Plus I had a good chat with others when I was not staring at the screen. One generous lady even offered me a pair of gloves. Everyone was talking to someone they didn’t know about where they had driven from, what they did for a living, and whether they had tried Franklin. By the time we were right outside the restaurant, but still some distance away from the counter, we were egging each other on to kiss the door, exchanging strategies on what and how much to order, and becoming one another’s camera guy. It was so much fun and laughter during the anticipation that eating the brisket was anti-climatic. Oh it was so delicious, probably the best barbecue I’ve eaten, but not as unforgettable as a potentially-most-excruciating-but-turned-around-to-become-the-most-entertaining-wait-for-food.
Would I do it again? God no. So I’m glad my only experience was an unexpectedly pleasant one.