(Update, April 3: Yes, this was an April Fool's Day joke. Franklin isn't even open Mondays!)
Austin’s Franklin Barbecue is finally expanding.
Owner Aaron Franklin confirmed to the TM Daily Post that starting tomorrow, April 2, the East Austin restaurant, which usually shuts down every day by 1 or 2 p.m., will serve a “Meatless Monday” dinner every week.
The $27.95 prix fixe meal is built around a vegan brisket Franklin reportedly developed in collaboration with the meat science department at Texas A&M University.
“This will help us drive down cost and increase production to keep up with the lines,” said Franklin. “We think it’s an untapped market in the world of Texas BBQ.”
Based on her reporting for February’s “Of Meat and Men” cover story , TEXAS MONTHLY Senior Editor Katy Vine agrees.
“Half the people in that line are actually vegan hipsters who can’t order any meat,” said Vine. “They just wanted to say they stood in the Franklin line. Now they can have more than coleslaw and Big Red.”
Word of the new menu item first leaked Sunday afternoon, via the Twitter account BBQ Jesus:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, & no mind has imagined what I have prepared for those who love me. 1 Cor 2:9New menu item coming soon.
— BBQ Jesus (@barbecue_jesus) April 1, 2012
TEXAS MONTHLY executive editor and food critic Patricia Sharpe has already had a taste.
“I insisted on a blind tasting to compare a vegan and a regular brisket,” she said. “I heard a few snickers from other people while I was stabbing randomly at two plates with a bandanna tied over my eyes, but I wanted to be scientific.
"And the briskets were equal in every way," Sharpe continued. "The vegan version had the crust, the marbling, the juiciness, and the texture of a regular brisket. It’s incredible. The guy is some kind of genius. But we knew that.”
Texas A&M would not publicly confirm its work with Franklin, but Rick Perry an anonymous source with close ties to the Texas A&M administration did acknowledge the connection.
“We were skeptical at first,” the source said. “But then we realized this would also be the perfect thing to serve when all those Florida and LSU fans come to College Station. Those people don’t know anything about good brisket anyway.”
Made out of stacked kelp stems and seitan, the vegan brisket is then wrapped with a tofacon weave to give it more integrity.
“It’s exactly like a fat cap,” Full Custom Gospel BBQ blogger Daniel Vaughn (aka @bbqsnob) observed of the tofacon.
Vaughn has also had a preview. "I tried a test cut a few weeks back during the No Reservations shoot ,” he said. (Vaughn is writing a book for Anthony Bourdain's publishing imprint.)
It wasn't perfect, though.
“Aaron is such a master with a smoker, but this one still needed more smoke,” Vaughn said. “We figured another couple of days on the smoker would do the trick."
Indeed, in keeping with Franklin's famous slow-and-low approach, the vegan briskets will now be smoked at a variable temperature of no lower than 40 degrees and no higher than 140 degrees, for at least eight days a week.
That means there won’t be as much room on the smoker for beef briskets, but Franklin thinks the increased customer base should be worth it.
“We think people will embrace the change,” said Franklin. “Besides, everybody knows that it’s the sauce that makes our BBQ so good.”