?Thoughts from a Texan who knows a thing or two about Texas barbecue:
On the edge of Bryan, not far from Texas A&M, there’s a barbecue joint in an old red brick building that’s been there since Gene Autry and Bob Wills ruled the radio. Gravel parking lot with a tree in it. Wood paneling. Worn-down horseshoe-shaped counter. Yellow tinge to everything that’s been there long enough to soak up smoke.
Martin’s Place is my favorite place. But I have to admit, the last two times I’ve been there, it wasn’t all that great. Maybe it just didn’t measure up to my memories. Maybe my tastes have been spoiled by today’s premium spots.
Maybe. But it’s still my favorite place. Because it’s the most Texas place that ever existed. Old-men-and-dominoes Texas. Hand-written-specials-tacked-to-the-wall Texas. Chopped-beef-and-a-Lone-Star Texas. How Texas? If Tommy Lee Jones kicked down my door tonight and beat me to death with an armadillo, my dying words would be “hell, I seen more Texas than that just last football season.”
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You see, Texan-ness is a prized part of the traditional Texas barbecue experience. It isn’t enough just to conquer Mount Meat and waddle out full, but also — here where we can eat Texas-shaped waffles and swim in Texas-shaped pools — we aim to re-affirm our heritage as well.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how the snobbery emerging in the post-Aaron Franklin barbecue “renaissance” was disrespectful to Texans who have been enjoying barbecue long before there was an app to tell them where to go.
Now we’ll see if the Texas traditionalists will tell Aaron Franklin where to go.
In an Esquire article earlier this week, Franklin was quoted as saying he doesn’t eat his famous brisket, or anybody’s brisket, for that matter. “I don’t eat that stuff, but I love to cook it,” he said.
Then he adds: “If I’m in a special place like up in the Carolinas hanging out with Sam Jones … I’m absolutely going to get a pork sandwich. If I'm hanging out with Rodney Scott … I'm absolutely going to get some of that pulled pork.”
We are not saying you can't have a very Texan experience at Franklin Barbecue. This heaping order of meat and a Big Red fits the bill.Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman
Does Franklin need to stuff himself with brisket until he’s as fat as I am? Of course not. Guy’s a TV star. Does the King of Texas Barbecue need to choose his words carefully to not call brisket “that stuff” or avoid the implication that Carolina pork is a superior meal? Yeah, probably.
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A lot of Texans — who are happy enough to adopt Western movie stars and Southern country singers when the spirit moves them — are notoriously locals-only when it comes to barbecue.
I posted a more aggressive take on this on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon and I’m getting pummeled by a Franklin supporter. So let’s be clear: the rest of Esquire story makes Franklin sound like a great guy. And just about everybody who’s waited in that hours-long line agrees: Franklin’s brisket is the best they’ve ever had.
But “I don’t eat that stuff” isn’t exactly a unifying statement from the man who wears the crown.
Maybe it won’t be an issue at all. And if it is, I know he’s got the background to smooth things over: The Esquire article also points out that he grew up going to a historic Texas barbecue joint. He “rolled pool balls around” while his grandparents played dominoes … at Martin’s Place.