The Mass Relevance “Fantastic Friday” review of Franklin Barbecue

This is my fifth startup, and I’ve learned that as a team you can’t have hard work without hard play. In the crucible of building a company, don’t forget to step back and make the non-work connections with your team. That makes better work possible. As part of the culture at Mass Relevance, on the last week of each month, we go out for a half day for what we call “Fantastic Friday”.

Last week our Fantastic Friday was at Franklin Barbecue. They have great word of mouth in Austin, were suggested “best BBQ in the country” by Bon Appetit Magazine, and they have a great trailer-to-restaurant ‘startup’ story. The Mass Relevance team wanted to experience and validate that word of mouth, and share our experience and reviews with you.

First thing you should know is there’s always a line to get into Franklin’s. They are open Sunday to Saturday, 11am ‘til sold out. I think a lot of their buzz is based on scarcity and the fact there’s a line, and somewhere along that line they sell out of meat.

So, we got there at 9:30am (with our 4G mifi where we coded and emailed from the table and lawn chairs). 9:30 was early enough to get us first in line, though some say 9am. Along with the whole Mass Relevance team, we had a few friends from People Admin, Gowalla, and Band of Heathens join us.

Doors opened at 11am, greeted by founder Aaron Franklin.

We were prepared with poundage orders of every meat: brisket, turkey, pulled pork, sausage, and ribs. We ordered seventeen pounds in total…a little less than a pound per person (enough for a few plates of leftover). We planned to review and rank every meat (below).

You have three choices of sauce: Hot, Mild and Espresso. We didn’t all review the sauces, but I can tell you they were all great. I liked Mild sauce the best. It was sweet, tangy, and it bested my favorite sauce from Salt Lick (and I think less oily as well). Others favorite Espresso, which as the name suggests, has a espresso flavor twist. Very unique.

Sides were coleslaw, beans and potatoes. Coleslaw was great, but there’s nothing to write home about on the sides. It’s all about the meat, the rub, and the sauce.

Plates were butcher paper, but not grease proof paper like Rudy’s. The wooden picnic tables outside were marinated in BBQ. I think they should take a page from Rudy’s, literally.

We figured there are three questions to answer:

  1. Is it truly better than other BBQ in the greater Austin area?
  2. Which meat do you prioritize as you fill your gut?
  3. Is it worth the wait?

Is it the best BBQ in Austin?

Yes. Yes it is. At least most of the team thought so. We asked each person to give a ranking to each meat, where 10 = it was the best BBQ meat they ever tasted compared to others, 5 = on par, and 1 = it was the worst.  Here were the average scores among 8 of us:

Brisket 9.25
Ribs 9.13
Pork 8.13
Sausage 7.63
Turkey 6.88

How do you prioritize the meats?

If you go to order for yourself, it’s silly to order such a small amount of 5 meats…you’ll regret not getting more of the best meat.  If you order for a group you still have to prioritize how many pounds of each (we heavied up on the brisket). So “meat prioritization” is a critical question. Everyone’s tastes are different, so we thought it would be useful to see where eight of us RANKED the meats in priority of most favorite to least. Now remember, all of them were great (above). This is about prioritizing greatness (you’re used to that in a startup). Here are the scores:

# of Times Ranked Avg. Rank
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Brisket 5 2 1 1.88
Ribs 3 3 2 1.88
Sausage 2 2 1 3 3.00
Turkey 3 5 3.63
Pork 3 2 3 4.63

It was a tie between Brisket and Ribs! Both have great rub, fall apart and melt in your mouth. A side note: if you’re thinking of leftovers, pulled pork ranks the highest for me…in crock pot with BBQ sauce and a bit of water to soften it up…it was incredible!

Is it worth the wait?

Your wait can be as long as two hours. Is it worth it? Yes, at least at some point in your life! How can you not validate that this could be the best BBQ in Austin, if not TX, if not the United States!? Now, you can always delegate someone to wait in line and bring meat back to the office. You have interns, right? :)

It was a Fantastic Friday for us, one that will be repeated (along with post-BBQ pool meeting)!

About Sam Decker

Sam is a co-founder and CEO of Mass Relevance, was the founding CMO of Bazaarvoice, and co-founder of Capital Factory.


  1. Thanks for the report. Heading over there tomorrow with some friends and my new Conjunctured coworking crew.

  2. Thank you for this! I already knew Franklin’s was the best, but I like the scientific take on it. Now, second question – can I come work at Mass Relevance? I could use Fantastic Fridays! LOL.