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Franklin's brisket

Texas Monthly’s BBQ Festival in Austin last weekend was a huge hit. The Hatch was there to capture it all.


Franklin's brisket

Opies brisket

Justin Fourton of Dallas' Pecan Lodge

Justin Fourton of Dallas’ Pecan Lodge

Aaron Franklin is the Johnny Football of BBQ

Aaron Franklin is the Johnny Football of BBQ

The line on the left is for Pecan Lodge; the line on the right winds to Franklin BBQ

The line on the left is for Pecan Lodge; the line on the right winds to Franklin BBQ

Aaron Franklin carving brisket

Aaron Franklin carving brisket

The Long Center filled with BBQ fans

The Long Center in Austin filled with BBQ fans

Tootsie from Snow's BBQ

Tootsie is the pit master at Snow’s BBQ

Meat Coma affects everyone, even kids

Meat Coma affects everyone, even kids

Everyone of every age loves BBQ

More than 3,000 hungry patrons and 21 of the top barbecue joints in the Lone Star State converged at the Long Center in Austin this past Sunday for the Super Bowl of Texas BBQ – the 2013 Texas Monthly BBQ Festival.

The event, which spotlights the crème de la crème from Texas Monthly’s famed BBQ rankings, offered attendees the opportunity to sample some outstanding ‘cue in absolutely gorgeous weather. Some spent $150 to be among the first taste-testers; others arrived later at a much more value-conscious rate. Everyone left stuffed and one bite away from a meat coma.

The usual suspects were there for this fourth annual event – Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, Dallas’ Pecan Lodge and Lexington’s Snow’s BBQ – while others from as far away as Pecos and Rockport also doled out “boatloads” of savory samples. As different as their secret recipes are for brisket, all could agree that the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest is becoming increasingly popular with each passing year.

Other highlights at the event:

  • The two heavyweights in Texas BBQ – Franklin and Pecan Lodge – were next to one another, albeit separated by a walkway and two lines easily 100-deep of people waiting to sample their fares.
  • Pecan Lodge was the first shop to run out of barbecue, about two hours after the festival opened. Pitmaster Justin Fourton said they closed their Dallas location that Sunday of the festival, brought their largest mobile pit and came to Austin with 28 big briskets and 300 sausage links. “For the most part, [two hours after the gates open] seems to be the witching hour for us,” he said.
  • Nearly a hundred patrons lined up for Franklin Barbecue within minutes after the festival opened the gates, and the line never wilted … until three hours later when Pitmaster Aaron Franklin personally notified Mike and Julie Campbell of Schertz that they were the final samplers. And in those three hours, Franklin went through 1,600 lbs. of meat.
  • Houston, you’ve got a problem. The state’s largest city and its metropolitan area were noticeably absent from the event. No Gatlin’s, no Virgie’s, no Brooks’ Place … no idea why.
  • One that was worth getting seconds of their mouth-watering brisket and ribs was Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue out of Tyler. I’d say it’s worth the 90-minute drive east to the Rose Capital of the World.
  • Think the BBQ Fest is nothing more than a congregation of overweight men with stained shirts? Think again, many women were in attendance either with their men or with their gal pals. And these ladies know how to work it. Inside their purses were the usual standards – cell phone, makeup, wallet – and the unusual like loaves of bread and Styrofoam containers.

As for the vittles, Pecan Lodge scored a greasy thumbs-up for its juicy brisket and spicy sausage. Lockhart Smokehouse, which got off to a late start after a malfunction the previous night, proved that good things come to those who wait. Festival newcomer and McKinney-based Hutchins BBQ had a steady stream of samplers thanks to some superb brisket, ribs and sauce. Pitmaster Tim Hutchins was beaming the entire time, and said it was an honor being a part of the festival.

The seven Austin-area barbecue joints in attendance may have had the home-field advantage, but the Dallas area was well represented and the three area shops definitely held their own.

Barbecue connoisseurs and self-proclaimed pitmasters need to experience this event at least once and see how the professionals perfect their craft. Tickets to the 2014 Texas Monthly BBQ Fest should go on sale next summer, but be warned:  the event will sell out faster than the time it took Pecan Lodge to run out of meat.

We’ll announce the dates for next year’s Texas Monthly BBQ Festival in the spring.

Robert Rodriguez is the editor of AvidGolfer Magazine and a BBQ nut. He is a new contributor to the Hatch

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