Franklin Barbecue, Austin
Credit: Nicholas McWhirter

A relative newcomer to the Hill Country circuit, Franklin Barbecue has nonetheless racked up all the honors that exist in this art form. Its specialty is Texas barbecue's most iconic product: Meat rubbed with salt and pepper and smoked low and slow over indirect heat to a melting texture. Pitmaster Aaron Franklin's fatty brisket justifies foodie terms like "bark" and "sugar cookie," which would be annoying were it not true that the meat may be indescribable to a layman (learn the BBQ man's insider vocab in Vaughn's book). As Vaughn tells us, "Waiting upwards of two hours just for barbecue seems ludicrous, but this is the only joint in the state – and therefore the world – where I can honestly say that it's worth the wait." Our recent stop clocked in at two and a half hours to the counter, at which point we got 2.5 pounds of brisket for two women and two babies. Though you'll come for that beef, Franklin's turkey, pork ribs, and the Tipsy Texan – a chopped brisket sandwich capped with beef sausage, red cabbage slaw, white onion, dill pickle, and the house's espresso barbecue sauce – reveal an outstanding all-around game.