Tag Archives: American Pickers

Finding BBQ’s Holy Grail At Austin’s Franklin Barbecue

10 Mar

I had heard the steady rumble about Franklin BBQ. But they were located a long way from my home base in coastal Alabama. Stories appeared with some frequency in regional and national food publications. Many with accompanying images that made my mouth water. Brisket, ribs, sausage, chopped beef … I just had to get there. And soon!

My opportunity finally presented itself when I was recently invited to attend a 3-day conference in Austin. I checked the city map and confirmed that Franklin BBQ would be within walking distance of the conference center. A rather long hike — but walkable none the less. I would not have a rental car on this trip, so my legs would have to get me there.

The conference wrapped just before noon on a Thursday and I made a bee line for Franklin BBQ. One of the hotel bellhops attempted to discourage me. He said the food was said to be great, but that they would likely be sold out of food by the time I hoofed it all the way over there. He even added that several of his friends had tried to eat there in the past and each of them had arrived too late. So, as I learned, this is not just a meal. It’s a meal and a race against the clock — all rolled into one. The sign out front (see above image) confirmed this. They were open from “11 a.m. til sold out.”

One of Franklin’s many awards hanging inside the dining room.

An employee met me as I joined the back of the line of folks waiting patiently to order. She asked how many were in my group and would I be placing any large orders today. I told her I was traveling and dining solo. She then inquired as to what I was planning to order. My heart was set on their famous sandwich known as the “Tipsy Texan.” Good, she said. Your wait is gonna be about 40 minutes. Forty minutes — plenty of time to take in all the smokey ambiance. I will say this … the place smelled AMAZING!

The interior at Franklin BBQ is funky and relaxed. No frills to speak of — unless you count the classic country tunes streaming out of their sound system. Loved that. I also dug the old advertising like the faded Coke sign you see above. Mike and Frankie from American Pickers would have been pumped. As the line continued to creep along, my stomach began to talk to me. Thankfully, the kind dude behind the counter appeared with a few samples to further whet our collective appetite. I wasn’t really thinking about ordering the smoked turkey. But the sample was sooo doggone moist and peppery that it almost had me wavering. Almost.

Pick up a souvenir t-shirt. Personalize it with sauce, grease, etc.

The furnishings are mix-match — do love the retro formica table.

The low overhead theme is also reflected in the menu boards.

Desserts sound great, but I had to wonder who ever gets that far.

It all started as a small food trailer. That only took them so far.

The main menu board. Yes, I was inching closer to my lunch.

SPEED SHOP doesn’t exactly apply to the service time at Franklin.

My wait was finally over — and this (above) was my reward. The soon to be legendary Tipsy Texan. Nope … the recipe does not involve any alcohol whatsoever. The “tipsy” part refers to the lofty sandwich’s architectural soundness. Or lack thereof. It does lean a good bit, but how could it not?  

Fresh baked Mrs. Baird’s bun (it’s a Texas thing), lean charred chopped beef, sliced locally made sausage topped with slaw and sauce. I was gonna wash it all down with a Topo Chico mineral water. There was no way I was going to get my mouth around the sandwich as is — not without somehow unhinging my jaw. Plan B was to give the leaning tower of deliciousness a good shove and then go at it with a fork and a smile.

It may look like a crime scene, but it would be a crime not to try it.

I have included this picture (above) for a reason. Sure, the image is not going to win any awards. But it does show you the little medallions of sausage used in the construction of the Tipsy Texan. The casing was smokey and posessed a nice snap. You can also see the pepper and other spices which gave the sausage a nice kick. The attention to detail and obvious passion that goes into all food preparation here is truly inspiring. To say that I was impressed would be doing a great disservice to the master craftsmen/craftswomen who toil here.

My meal at Franklin BBQ was nothing short of a transformative experience. I will never judge a BBQ joint the same way again. I was thrilled to have found the Holy Grail of BBQ, yet would it be all downhill from here? That sobering thought only lingered a moment. And ended with the thought of my next visit to this culinary mecca. In 2010, Bon Appetit hailed Franklin BBQ as the “Best in America.” And you know what? I can’t really argue with that.

Now THIS is a sobering thought. Don’t make me look! PLEASE!!!

Franklin Barbecue – 900 E. 11th Street, Austin, TX

(512) 653-1187; www.franklinbarbecue.com

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Manci’s Antique Club – Daphne, Alabama

18 Jun

Manci’s Antique Club is essentially a bar and restaurant, not an antique store. Let’s get that straight right away. It had me confused for a short while, until my friend Chris Kalifeh dragged me in for a quick look around. I have long since become a convert. Manci’s has really tasty burgers and po-boys. They also live up to their Italian ancestry with some mighty fine pasta dishes. And the bar has a comfy, neighborhood pub feel to it. You might say it is the Cheers of Alabama’s Eastern Shore. They serve draft Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale too — that is a definite plus.

This freshly painted mural outside of Manci’s (above) is part of a larger city arts project in Daphne. I believe this particular image was lifted from an early photo of one of the Manci women. It is very well done and adds to the overall charm of the building’s exterior. My arsty wife Eileen has recently been asked to create a similar mural, so I’m anxious to see what she comes up with.

Horses like the one seen above will keep an eye on your vehicle while you’re dining/drinking at Manci’s. This joint is in a cool little part of Old Town Daphne. If you’re a foodie, you’ll also want to check out Will Hughes’ Catering & Market (www.willhughescateringandmarket.com) located directly across Daphne’s Main Street. It is a gourmet’s dream with a wide assortment of sandwiches, soups and other take-home treats. I am especially partial to Will’s New Orleans-style bread pudding. It’s about as good as it gets this side of the Crescent City. There is also a pretty unique cigar/wine bar (De-Cuba) and a cupcake bakery (Something Sweet Bake Shop) just a couple doors down from Hughes’ building.

The Menu Board (above) outside Manci’s entrance. Their Bloody Marys are notorious in these parts. In fact, Manci’s is often billed as “The Bloody Mary Capital of the Eastern Shore.” Beyond that, Manci’s also houses one of the world’s largest collections of Jim Beam decanters. Very impressive. We spent a few minutes before dinner strolling around the restaurant’s cool, dark interior. It was pretty darn interesting and kept the boys occupied as our meals were being prepared.

The lucky horse shoe on the front door at Manci’s Antique Club.

The handsome wooden Indian (seen above) just inside the front door at Manci’s — on the lookout for stogies? Either that or he’s seeking a “mansierre” to support his well-developed chest. Dusty relics like this can be found throughout the tavern. Honestly, it could take hours to have a real close look at all the “doo-dads,” “chotchkes,” and “brick-a-brack” they have collected over the many decades.  

Guns, booze, and gasoline — what a combination! I snapped another photo of an antique gas pump inside Manci’s Antique Club, which once was a filling station back in the ’20s. So in many ways, I guess this truly is an “antique club — although I don’t believe any of the items are actually for sale. Who knows? Make ’em an offer and see what happens.

A vintage gas pump from days gone by. American Pickers would love this joint!

Clutter? Yup. Eye catching? Yer dern tootin’! The main bar at Manci’s Antique Club. Alex Manci, the club’s current owner and resident barkeep, quietly holds court — all the while sporting his signature driving cap. This is his little kingdom and he reigns calmly but proudly. Barack Obama’s address concerning the Gulf Oil spill was on the bar’s lone TV as we took our seats. It was all a bit surreal. We were right in the heart of the affected area and preparing to dine on the type of seafood treats which have long made the Gulf region nationally famous. My visiting mother-in-law Pat is a Baltimore native. She declared the soft shell crab sandwich (aka “The Spider Sandwich”) to be first rate.

Boxing’s Rocky Marciano – still a major source of pride for Italian-Americans.

Minnie Pearl greets the female diners seeking rest — “HOW-DEEEE!!!”

Yes, Food Network’s Guy Fieri has been here to film an episode of Triple D. His signed poster adorns the door of the “GENTS” room. Manci’s is also prominently featured in one of Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins,  and Dives” cookbooks. Of the 3 choices, I would say Manci’s would fall under the DIVE category. You don’t see many tourists or out of towners in here. It’s pretty much a locals hangout. And I guess that’s the way they like it. It’s something of a secret dining society and I consider myself fortunate to finally be in on the secret.   

Combo Fried Gulf Oyster and Shrimp Po-Boy at Manci’s — get ’em while you can! Manci’s po-boys have been praised by the likes of Southern Living and Coastal Living. The Bayou La Batre oysters were obviously fresh and the shrimp were fat and meaty — unlike those puny little frozen cocktail shrimp you find in some lesser po-boys. The bread, which was freshly baked, was slathered from end to end with a homemade tartar sauce. I am normally not a big tartar sauce guy, yet this was quite well done and, more importantly, not overdone. A little bit of mayo goes a long way. Local tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and red onions completed the symphony of complimentary ingredients. A little splash of hot sauce won’t hurt either!

Retro newspaper ads as seen on all the tabletops (pictured above) at Manci’s. Anyone need some Princess Bust Developer? Hey, maybe this is where our old friend the wooden Indian re-enters the storyline??? I’ve seen this kind of designer touch before, but it is right at home at Manci’s. In many ways you’ll feel like you have been transported back to the 1930’s in a time machine. A time machine, I might add, with really cold beer and really memorable chow.

Never heard of “Alabama Water before?” Neither had I. Tap water, lemon, and Sweet-n-Low — mmm, mmmm! I’m not sure how many of these drinks they actually sell each day. I didn’t bother to ask. However, it makes for a nice conversation starter if nothing else.

A dusty old carriage inside Manci’s.

Early prototypes of iPods on display inside Manci’s main dining room.

A vintage ROCK-O-LA juke box – check out the primo selection of tunes!

http://www.manci.net/

Watch “American Pickers” on the History Channel

6 Apr