"I like tacos."
See, celebrity chefs are just like you and me.
It was that simple thinking that led James Beard Award-winning barbecue boss Aaron Franklin to want to open a taco trailer behind his restaurant on East 11th Street. And, oh yeah, there’s coffee. He likes that, too.
Franklin has been cooking and experimenting with Tex-Mex flavors for years, often serving Tex-Mex at his restaurant’s staff meals, and now his taco tinkering is ready for public consumption. More or less. The trailer, which has no official name, is softly open at the restaurant. That means: limited employees, limited hours and a shifting roster of ingredients.
For now, the core components of the taco menu are brisket, patty sausage and chorizo. And you’ve probably never had Franklin Barbecue’s brisket quite like this. The kitchen tosses the chopped brisket in its own fat and then finishes it on the plancha, giving it a nice, crispy texture like machacado that Franklin says is key to the soft taco’s appeal.
"It’s really flippin good. I eat one every morning," Franklin said Thursday.
The breakfast sausage patties, which Franklin considers like a Tex-Mex version of classic Owen’s breakfast sausage, are inspired by fellow East Austinites Joe’s Bakery, which Franklin frequents. The chorizo is also made in house, using scraps from the pork ribs.
For a small extra charge, diners can add more ingredients to the standard three-item tacos. Options include eggs, cheese, fresh guacamole, bacon and vegetarian refried beans. The trailer plans to add more proteins and veggie-friendly tacos in the weeks to come.
"We’re definitely still figuring out the tacos," Franklin said.
The tacos are currently served on flour tortillas, but Franklin realizes with the public now hip to his soft opening, he will need to add corn tortillas. Franklin has been making salsa for several years, and the trailer’s two centerpiece salsas are a heavily charred verde for pork dishes and an earthy and toasty salsa roja packed with charred tomatoes and charred garlic. The trailer also serves an arbol salsa, a dairy-free verde cremosa made with avocado and oat milk, and a habanero salsa.
The coffee trailer also features Franklin collaborating with longtime associate and friend Travis Kizer of Barrett’s Coffee, whose Owl Tree Roasting used to share lot space with the original Franklin Barbecue trailer off the I-35 feeder road.
Franklin and Barrett’s have collaborated on a special blend that serves as the base of espresso drinks and pour-over coffee. Customers can also buy ground coffee at the trailer.
The taco half of the operation is open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, with the hopes to eventually move to daily service. There is no call-in or online ordering. The coffee operation is open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (the same days as the restaurant).
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