terrible news

Franklin Barbecue, America’s Best Smokehouse, Has Closed After Catching Fire

The smokehouse’s famous blue-and-white exterior. Photo: Google Maps

Like salt in poor Texans’ storm-battered wounds, Franklin Barbecue, the Austin brisket joint where the wait’s so long (seven hours, at times) that not even Kanye West is permitted to cut in line, caught fire early Saturday morning. The restaurant says nobody was injured, but the damage was unfortunately extensive.

The restaurant isn’t sure when its doors will reopen:

Owner and James Beard Award–winning pit master Aaron Franklin told the Washington Post that Tropical Storm Harvey was at least partly to blame. “Wind just kind of swept through the smokehouse a lot more than we’re used to and carried an ember from a cooker and caught a wall on fire,” he said. “It went up real quick.”

Big flames aren’t exactly unusual for them, so Franklin says the news didn’t cause an instant freak-out. But he says it quickly became clear they were in trouble once he arrived at the scene. Austin 360 reports the smokehouse in back got “almost completely destroyed,” though by sheer luck, the pits themselves were unharmed, and the dining area in front is “untouched and perfect.” Portions of the roof collapsed, and the walk-in coolers are in bad shape. Franklin says with the amount of fire they create every day, it “was inevitable” something would eventually go wrong, but the upside is, there’s “not as much property loss as most restaurants would have.”

He told Austin 360 they’ll probably have to rebuild the entire smokehouse from the frame up, and estimated they might be able to reopen in a few weeks. The rain coming down right now is no help — they can’t fully assess the damages yet — but he adds, “If there was a part to the building that’s easiest to rebuild, that was the one,” so it’s “not the end of the world.”

Franklin Barbecue Has Closed After Catching Fire