Washington Post claims D.C’s best brisket is better than Franklin Barbecue’s

Update: The Washington Post’s Tim Carman, who lived in Houston for 14 years, responded to my post below,  calling it “food chauvinism,” which, admittedly, is a sweet use of that word.  He also described his last trip to Franklin Barbecue, in October, and described the brisket as under-seasoned and mediocre. Maybe I need to get a flight and head back to the District and see what’s so great about Hill Country barbecue. Carman also admits showing up to Franklin at 9 a.m. on a Saturday. #rookiemove

First San Antonio wanted a taco war, now the nation’s capital is flaming a barbecue war of words.

Diners at Franklin Barbecue in Austin. (Credit: Reshma Kirpalani)

I never call out other food writers and restaurant critics. There are several reasons, but mostly because I respect the hard work that all my peers put into their jobs (we’re something of a tight-knit community), and everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. Unless that opinion is that brisket in Washington D.C. made at a restaurant that until a year ago was using a gas-assisted smoker is better than the brisket at Franklin Barbecue. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman listed his top 10 barbecue places in the D.C. Metro area and ranked Hill Country barbecue as the area’s top spot.

The most astonishing thing he wrote?

I wrote something in my notes that I never thought I’d utter about Hill Country: The “brisket is as good or better than Franklin’s.”

Yea, and Austin has better crab cakes than Baltimore.

Look, I’ve never been to Hill Country barbecue in D.C., or the flagship in Manhattan opened by a man with Texas roots who modeled his restaurant on Kreuz Market in his family’s hometown of Lockhart. But I don’t need to to know that the brisket there, or anywhere in D.C., can’t touch that at Franklin Barbecue. I reached out to barbecue expert Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor at Texas Monthly, and a man who has eaten plenty of barbecue all over America, to get his take on the proclamation.

“Anytime I read someone who writes that the brisket they had was as good as Franklin’s, then I just know that it’s been too long since they’ve been to Franklin,” he said. “The same thing happens to me.”

While it is good to see Hill Country trying to live up to its name by cooking in the Texas tradition, and Carman is right to call out the “gassers,” as Vaughn calls them, we’re pretty sure the writer just needs to swing back down to Texas for a refresher. I’ll buy the Peacemaker.

For more on gassers, and Franklin’s trip up to Hill Country in Manhattan, read Vaughn’s 2013 Texas Monthly article “In defense of gassers,” and check out his recently released Top 50 barbecue joints in Texas list. 



Author: Matthew Odam

Restaurant critic & features writer at Austin American @Statesman and @Austin360. Austin-born 6th generation Texan. Left-handed.

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