Aaron Franklin heads to Houston this weekend for all-star barbecue event

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Houston (a city that is much cooler than you might think, according to this GQ article), this weekend would be a good time. Aaron Franklin is participating in the Southern Smoke Festival, an event co-founded by fellow James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd (One Fifth, UB Preserv), and he’s gonna be in some heady company.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Franklin and Shepherd will be joined Sunday evening by a stunning array of talent at the festival that is part of a non-profit that benefits the National MS Society and Southern Smoke’s Emergency Relief Fund. The roster of award-winning talent includes Daniela Soto-Innes of Cosme in New York City; Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan, who has taken home more honors in the last few years to count; famed pizzaiolo Chris Bianco of Phoenix; TV host and Beard winner chef Vivian Howard of North Carolina; barbecue bosses Sam Jones of North Carolina and Billy Durney of NYC; Matthew Rudofker of Momofuku; an all-star group of Houston chefs known as the Houston BBQ Collective and more.

Chingo Bling will emcee the afternoon event that will also feature musical performances from the Bayou City Brass Band, Max Flinn and Neon Rainbow and Mariachi Los Gallitos.

Tickets cost $200, with half of the ticket money going to charity (read: it’s tax deductible). Southern Smoke’s Emergency Relief Fund raised more than half a million dollars last year for Hurricane Harvey relief. The block-party style event runs from 4 to 8 p.m. next to UB Preserv in the Montrose neighborhood.

And, if you can’t make it down to Houston, you can still check out the festival’s eye-popping silent auction. 

Southern Living names three Austin barbecue spots in its Top 50

Southern Living’s barbecue editor Robert Moss has named the Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the South. Louie Mueller Barbecue of Taylor and Snow’s BBQ of Lexington both cracked the Top 5, coming in at two and five, respectively.

Franklin Barbecue. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Austin’s highest-ranked spot is Franklin Barbecue, which came in at #7. It was followed by Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ at #17 and Micklethwait Craft Meats at #35. Check out the full list and see what other Texas barbecue greats made the cut at SouthernLiving.com.

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Texas Monthly BBQ Fest tickets now on sale

If you wanna be one of the lucky meat-sweaty hundreds at the Long Center the first weekend of November, you best move quickly. Tickets went on sale today for the November 4 event that showcases many of the magazines Top 50 barbecue spots around Texas. General admission costs $80, with VIP tickets (which include a subscription to the magazine, two drink tickets and early admission to beat the crowds) cost $165. More details and links to purchase tickets are available online.

Brad Stockman takes a bite of Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ pork ribs at the 2011 Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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Exclusive: Freedmen’s barbecue near UT is closing. Here’s what’s next.

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Freedmen’s — the barbecue restaurant near the University of Texas that has consistently held a spot on the Austin360 list of Top 10 barbecue restaurants in Austin — will close Aug. 31 amid plans for construction of an apartment complex around the historic building at 2402 San Gabriel St.

Freedmen’s is closing Aug. 31. (Contributed)

Cuatro Kowalski earlier this summer sold the building, which has been home to Freedmen’s barbecue and cocktail bar for the last five-plus years and which is registered and protected as a historical landmark by the City of Austin, to a group called AMS Retail Two. The group plans to develop the surrounding area into a horseshoe-shaped apartment building that caters to student housing in West Campus, Kowalski said.

Kowalski, who bought the building in 2010 and opened Freedmen’s in December 2012, said he wanted to stay in the space, but when he realized that the coming construction would surround him, taking away his parking and introducing obstacles such as temporary interruptions of gas and electricity, he decided to sell. Once the housing complex, which includes the land where the former Tap 24 and current 7-Eleven stand, is completed in approximately two years, Kowalski said he hopes to reopen in the historic space.

The building was originally constructed in 1869 by former slave George Franklin and served an important role in the early African-American community of Austin, including a stint as home to the Rev. Jacob Fontaine, a community leader and newspaper publisher.

While the storefront is closing, Kowalski said he has found a commissary space that will allow Freedmen’s to continue to operate and service the company’s catering and event business. Additionally, Kowalski said he is working on securing a lease for a new business called Four Stones, which the Austinite said will be “a sexier Freedmen’s.”

When he opened Freedmen’s in 2012, Kowalski intended the space to be a cocktail bar first and restaurant second, but that equation got turned on its head over the years. Four Stones, which Kowalski hopes to open by the end of the year, would be a return to that intended business model, focusing on whiskey and an expanded wine list while serving Freedmen’s barbecue cooked at the commissary.

While the future of Freedmen’s sits in limbo with the new development coming and the new focus on Four Stones, Kowalski said he has not completely given up on the idea of relocating Freedmen’s if he found an appropriate space.

“Freedmen’s has a certain feel about it. If we find that in another location, we would open a Freedmen’s in another location, but the location I’m negotiating right now doesn’t have that feel,” Kowalski said. “We didn’t want to force Freedmen’s into this location.”

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Now open: Tex-Mex barbecue restaurant N’Esperado opens in old Alcomar space

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The new restaurant N’Esperado brings together Tex-Mex and barbecue in the space formerly occupied by Mexican seafood restaurant Alcomar at 1816 S. First St.

The building that once houses Alcomar is now home to N’Esperado. (Rodolfo Gonzalez AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The restaurant, which is operated by the owners of Tex-Mex/Indian hybrid Nasha on East Sixth Street, features a menu with Mexican dishes like enchiladas (which can come with barbecue sauce) and carne guisada, and Tex-Mex staples like chili con queso, along with crossovers like brisket quesadillas. The barbecue section is limited to brisket, pork ribs and chicken. As for any Indian influence on the menu, the only real trace is on the turmeric. N’Esperado is now going through a soft open, with lunch service daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and plans to expand to dinner service once the restaurant has acquired its liquor license.

The El Chile restaurant group closed Alcomar in May.

Kerlin BBQ closed for summer vacation

It looks like Kerlin BBQ headed into their summer break in style. The trailer from Bill and Amelis Kerlin hosted a fifth anniversary party Sunday and then locked up the trailer and headed off for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The East Austin trailer, which has ranked in the Top 10 in our last two Best BBQ in Austin lists, will be closed through August 30. Luckily for you, fellow Top 10 spots La Barbecue and Micklethwait Craft Meats aren’t far away.

Kerlin BBQ is one of the best barbecue trailers in the city.
Matthew Odam/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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Report: Franklin Barbecue will open a taco trailer this year

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You ever get to Franklin Barbecue around 8 a.m. empty handed and by 9 a.m. you were wishing you had stopped to get a breakfast taco during your harried sprint to get in line? Soon, that problem will be solved by Franklin Barbecue itself. According to the Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, Franklin Barbecue intends to open a breakfast taco trailer by the end of the year. It will be located in an Airstream on the property and include coffee service, which might explain why Legends Coffee posted recently on Instagram that it would be pulling up anchor soon.

From restaurant news and reviews to best dining spots, we’ve got you covered. Subscribe to our free newsletter: https://atxne.ws/2uLRqKM

For more details on the taco trailer at Franklin, read Vaughn’s full report here.

Noted taco lover Aaron Franklin is opening a breakfast taco trailer on his property on East 11th St. (Ralph Barrera/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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No, Franklin Barbecue is not closing

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Slow summer news days can create some hardcore speculation. A barbecue-centric podcast titled “Tales from the Pits BBQ” released its 65th episode yesterday. It’s entitled “Changes at Franklin Barbecue.”

Update: It appears the podcasters at Tales from the Pits BBQ have permanently deleted the podcast in question from their archives both on their website and in iTunes. They sent out a Tweet Monday evening responding to Franklin’s comments and explaining their methodology.

Franklin BBQ’s success is due to the dedication and hard work of the powerhouse couple in Aaron and Stacy Franklin. The two are daily fixtures at the east Austin restaurant overseeing every aspect of the culinary hotspot.
RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Using some circumstantial evidence, such as Franklin working on a steak cookbook, the coffee trailer at Franklin closing and a longtime member of the Franklin team having left recently, the show speculated in its show notes the following:

In our episode we discuss recent high profile departures from Aaron Franklin and his restaurant’s inner circle, upcoming projects we’ve confirmed he’s involved in, as well as documents we’ve seen that lend credence to a very surprising development our sources have been telling us is in the works: Aaron Franklin may be stepping back from the barbecue world.

Based on the information we received and facts we’ve found, we have a few theories on what may be developing which we discuss at length on this podcast. Not everything has been confirmed and spelled out for the public yet, but with everything we’ve seen, discovered, and been told, we firmly believe that Franklin Barbecue as we know it is undergoing a major change and in the not too distant future may not be owned and operated by Aaron and Stacy Franklin.

Barbecue lovers can rest easy, however. While the Franklins are on vacation until August 9, and are working on a book, they have no plans to end their stellar run.

“Yes, we have had staffing changes after the fire, folks moving on for one reason or another,” Stacy Franklin said via text. “We have no plans of selling or not operating Franklin Barbecue. That is simply not true.”

“That’s a good laugh,” Aaron Franklin added after hearing about the speculation.

OK, everyone. Get back to eating barbecue and fighting about Lockhart.

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Franklin Barbecue closing for summer vacation

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When you work the kind of crazy hours barbecue professionals put in, you deserve a break. Especially when you’ve been doing it for a decade like Aaron and Stacy Franklin. The whole crew at Franklin gets a break starting next week, so if you’ve got out-of-town friends looking to grub some barbecue or you’re a glutton for waiting in the heat, you best make other plans. Franklin Barbecue will be closed from July 30 through August 9. What that means, this Sunday will be the last time to get that transcendent brisket until Friday August 10. During that lull, check out the Top 10 barbecue restaurants in Austin. Or maybe just take a few plays off, friends.

Franklin Barbecue. (Matthew Odam AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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Texas Monthly BBQ Fest Early Bird tickets sales end Monday

If you wanna be one of the lucky meat-sweaty hundreds at the Long Center the first weekend of November, today’s your final chance to get the biggest bang for your buck. Early Bird tickets for the 9th annual Texas Monthly BBQ Fest end today. The tickets for the November 4 event that showcases many of the magazines Top 50 barbecue spots around Texas cost $80, with VIP tickets (which include a subscription to the magazine, two drink tickets and early admission to beat the crowds) currently cost $165. More details and links to purchase tickets are available online.

Brad Stockman takes a bite of Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ pork ribs at the 2011 Texas Monthly BBQ Fest. (Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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