In time for SXSW revelers to take note, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells has awarded two (out of a possible four) stars to Aaron Franklin’s Franklin Barbecue, meaning the cookbook author and James Beard Award winner’s renowned barbecue spot is “very good” in Wells’s estimation. Although Wells notes that the line at Franklin Barbecue was typically hours-long (presumably filled with people who knew to make the trip before reading the Times review), he admits that the brisket, if not some of the other meats on offer, was worth the wait:
I would note that in the hours required to line up and sit down at Franklin Barbecue, I could have driven 35 miles northeast to Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, ordered the magnificent beef rib (which Franklin sells only on Saturdays), and eaten it until I couldn’t hold any more.
But I’d also note that I would not trade Franklin’s brisket for Mueller’s. I doubt I’d trade Franklin’s brisket for anybody’s, although for other meats, and certainly for turkey, I may give a slight edge to Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland.
The two-star review of Franklin Barbecue may cause some head scratching, but not for the praise lavished on the ultra-famous brisket. With a James Beard Award, consistent placement on best-of lists, including three years on Eater’s own 38 Best Restaurants in America, a spot on Anthony Bourdain’s show, and daily lines of customers, does a New York Times seal of approval move the needle?
The Franklin Barbecue review is the fourth installment of Wells’s national reviews. In September, the Times announced that Wells would occasionally cover restaurants outside of the New York metropolitan area, beginning with the subject of that day’s review — Cassia. Wells gave the already well-received Los Angeles restaurant three stars.
Following Cassia, Wells journeyed to D.C. to give bustling, 24-seat Filipino restaurant Bad Saint the usual three-visit treatment — visits that left him with a three-star impression. But, Times readers — and the internet — really took note of the decision to review farther-flung restaurants when the critic reviewed Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi’s do-gooding fast-food concept LocoL in January. Wells gave the Oakland location zero stars, leaving some wondering why he chose to single out the restaurant, which aims to provide cheap, quick, healthy dining options in areas that are often lacking. While readers might wonder what a positive review for Franklin Barbecue achieves, so far this review hasn’t caused nearly as much of a stir.