Waiting in line for barbecue is a fact of life if you seek out the good stuff at prime times. You know when heading out to Lockhart, Taylor, or any number of barbecue destinations on the weekends that you’re not going to walk right up to the counter to place your order. That’s as obvious as knowing that late afternoon on a Tuesday probably won’t be crowded. I even got lucky at Pecan Lodge yesterday when they still had their whole menu available at 2:30, but that’s not going to happen every week.
Pecan Lodge is my hometown joint, so I know the quirks of their operating hours. They serve both lunch and dinner on Friday, so if you drop in right after work at 5:00, you have a good shot at fresh meat and short lines. Saturday is a different story. There simply isn’t a lull. You might have your own sweet spot at your local smokehouse, but what if you’re going in blind?
In July, Google announced a new feature that would be attached to their restaurant listings. Using all the data that you gave your phone company permission to use when you blindly clicked “I Accept” after not reading their policy statement, they have compiled graphs showing the peaks and valleys in the demand for restaurants around the world. Not everyone is included. I guess they’re recalibrating the graph for Franklin Barbecue after they outlawed professional line-standers, and who knows how they missed La Barbecue, but there is ample data for many familiar names. As I noted, the vast majority of these charts confirm what we should already assume. Saturdays are busy, and Tuesdays aren’t.
But I’ve also identified helpful tips for some joints that are outliers. For instance, according to the data, a visit to City Market in Luling at lunch on a Wednesday might require you to stretch your lunch hour since it’s their busiest hour of the week.
If you want the weekend only ribs at Miller’s Smokehouse in Belton, get there for lunch on Friday. It swells ups considerably at dinner.
In Houston, both Roegels Barbecue and The Brisket House have big lunch crowds, but you won’t have to wait around long for dinner.
And at Virgie’s in Houston, the wait for lunch on a Saturday is actually less than Thursday, which is their busiest.
At Freedmen’s in Austin dinner is always the busier service, and it doesn’t really matter which day of the week.
And for Pete’s sake, y’all need to get to Micklethwait Craft Meats on Tuesdays where you can likely walk right up to the ordering window.
What about that road trip out to Lockhart? Any weekday would be easy, but Saturday’s not out of the question. Just get there for brunch at 10:00 or 10:30 and you’ll save yourself plenty of time.
Maybe, like me, you enjoy using your time in line as a chance to catch up on Twitter and emails. For the rest of you, now you can at least go in with some expectations about your potential wait. There are plenty more barbecue joints out there with line data from Google. You simply need to search for the joint from Google on your phone or desktop and look for the blue chart. Now it’s time to scout out your lunch plans for today.