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Barbecue Line Etiquette

Don't be a pork butt

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I had arrived at Cattleack Barbecue in Dallas later than I’d planned. I expected the line to be long at 11:15 that morning, but it was a real whopper. It snaked through the stanchions set up to herd the crowd and all the way down the side of the new dining room. I cursed to myself because I knew better than to wait this long after their 10:30 opening to get in the door, but at least I had Twitter to entertain me.

Through a side door I saw a small group approaching. I counted all seven of them as they snaked past me to reach their friend just ahead in the line. He was waving and smiling. As an afterthought, he asked the people just behind him, who were in front of me, if they were okay with his friends jumping in. He didn’t bother to consult the ten or so people further back. I seethed quietly.

A few minutes later, three more friends greeted the wave-happy patron. With strength in numbers, the group of eleven didn’t bother to ask permission. I spoke up, asking how many more he was holding the line for, but I just received a few uncomfortable grins in response.

These patrons were clearly unfamiliar with barbecue line etiquette. So hopefully, somehow, they’ll read these simple rules and learn to honor thy neighboring meat enthusiasts.

  1. You can totally cut in line to meet a friend. I get it, and I’ve done it, but we all know what is reasonable. If there is one of you, let one person in, maybe even two. But seven? C’mon, people. Back of the line.
  2. It’s about the transactions. There’s no quicker way to get four people through a line than to order one big tray and share it. On the very same day in question, I was meeting four other friends. I got there earlier than them, and they didn’t come stand in line with me. We also didn’t hold up the line by making them construct four separate barbecue trays for us and paying with four different credit cards. Even if you all got in line together (following rule number one, of course), please consider keeping your number of individual transactions to a minimum.
  1. Know your order. If you’ve been in line for thirty minutes, or heck, just five minutes, look at the menu. It is rarely hidden. Study it and figure out what you want before you step up to the counter. The first word to every order shouldn’t be “Um…” while glancing at the menu for the first time.

That wasn’t hard, was it? Just those three rules will help all of us spend less time in line and get more time eating.

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  • Todd David

    thank you for making us aware. We will do our part in making these etiquette rules known and enforced

  • Craig

    Preach it brother! *waves hanky* That’s some good stuff right there. Ohhh, I feel the spirit on that man!

  • Stuart

    These rules should be common sense, but of course they’re not in reality. Thanks for passing along and hopefully this will help some people use common courtesy next time. My approach is to get there early enough so it doesn’t matter, as you said.

  • Scott Jackson

    This is a good take. Big groups ordering one by one is especially aggravating.

  • Nathan

    And when I got to the counter they were out of !!!

    Been there Brother….

    • Michael McFarland

      Wow! come on somebody I’m right with you brother *wavys hanky*

  • Jacob

    What about when you cut in line. I have seen the infamous, friend shows up 5 Mins before opening routine way to much. I’m taking talking about the spouse and kids who are waiting in the car, but the I’ll wait until last moment guy.

    • Jacob

      sorry, meant: “I’m NOT talking about the spouse and kids who wait in the car.” That is understandable to me. darn cell phone.

      This exact thing happen to me at Franklins brick and mortar grand opening. I was 4th in line with only 20 minutes until open and suddenly I was 15th or so.

  • Corey

    Quick question about ordering… If I ask for a beef rib, and the one they give me is almost all fat, or doesn’t look like the others at the counter, can I ask for a different one?

    Also, how picky can I get about ordering brisket? If they are cutting it in front of me, can I ask for the burnt-end section?

    Thanks, and great article.

    • Ask Todd nicely, throw in a sincere please/thanks, and he’ll bend over backwards for you!

  • Ben Remak

    #4: Cash or card in your hand before it’s your turn to order. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you have to pay for the meal, so that isn’t the time to start the search. Bonus points if you can add and figure out the approximate total, then have out enough cash to cover it.

  • RockportDon

    With the increased popularity of BBQ, the lines have come to represent a cross section of our society, including rude people, those who feel privileged and above the normal rules of lines and public behavior. My hat is off to Franklin BBQ for not allowing people to make a business of selling their place in line. If you have not done so, I would encourage everyone to read “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”.


  • Steve Bodiford

    How about if all the POSERS stay at home, and let us who really love BBQ stand in line ( well there wouldn’t be much of a line then would there)! That way we could get what we want, and you can post on (Name your favorite social media), how long you had to wait in line… With pictures of your favorite frozen BBQ meals… Nuff said!!!

  • Ward Wolfram

    Let’s make America Great Again and start enforcing basic rules!

  • Ken

    Try standing in a line at Disneyland when this happens…all the time!

  • Clint

    I would also add – You cannot take a seat a table unless you have your food (or placed your order if it’s a spot where you order then wait for your food – e.g. Micklethwait).

    Way too often I see people holding a table while someone else in their group is waiting in line. Franklin is the only place I’ve seen that has a rule like this in place.

    • Austin

      Pecan Lodge has this rule as well.

  • Frank M

    What Clint said

  • Jim

    You might be able to get away with line cutting in Dallas, but at someplace like Snow’s, which is as country as you can get and only open one day a week, I wouldn’t advise it. Some of the folks in line look like they wait all week for that meal and don’t want any city-style delays. Just sayin.

  • Thanks for the lesson on BARBECUE LINE ETIQUETTE….. ????