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Dozens of people from all over the U.S. gathered for Franklin Barbecue's grand post-pandemic opening. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

In the wee hours of the morning, barbecue fans lined up outside Franklin Barbecue to ensure that they would be first in line to get the famous smoked meats they had waited for throughout the entire pandemic.

The Austin-based barbecue legend opened its dining room, located at 900 E. 11th St., for the first time Tuesday since its initial shutdown in March 2020. Even just the wait to get inside was a hootin' and hollerin' good time with chairs, beers and campsites set up. The campout-turned-tailgate attracted at least 150 people by the time doors opened—many from all over the U.S.—despite the chilly weather.

People in line cheered as Franklin Barbecue opened its doors for the first time since the pandemic at 11 a.m. Tuesday. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Take it from Ryan and Erin Hoepfner, St. Louis natives, who traveled all the way from Missouri just to get a taste of Franklin's for the first time. The trip, planned by his wife, was Ryan's birthday present.

Ryan and Erin Hoepfner had been patiently waiting for Franklin to reopen so they could visit. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

"(Aaron Franklin) got me into smoking brisket—I watched his tutorials, I've been following him on YouTube and masterclass and learning how to trim and everything," Ryan said. "We literally arrived in Austin at 10 a.m. Monday morning and we're leaving tonight at 8 p.m."

First in line, the Hoepfners arrived at midnight so needless to say, they were excited when the doors let them in first.

"Whatever the scale you have is, compound it by 10," Ryan said, smiling as the doors opened to let him inside.

From left to right, Chris, Krystina Maloukis and Daniel Manion had been waiting around seven hours to get barbecue. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Born-and-raised Austin native Krystina Maloukis has been coming to Franklin for more than a decade and said the takeout during the pandemic was just not the same as waiting in the frigid air. Maloukis and her friend, Daniel Manion, got in line around 4 a.m. and were among the first groups that made it inside the doors.

"I've never ordered Franklin's without waiting in line—it's about the people, like I've met people from El Paso, people from California. You meet really cool people being here in line," Maloukis said. "When we break the thresholds, I'll be at a seven out of 10, when we get to the counter, I'll be at a 12 out of 10."

Maloukis was all smiles when they were able to sit inside for the first time in almost two years.

The restaurant had originally planned to reopen in August but decided to delay opening until the summer COVID surge had a chance to die down. The wait for Franklin's is going to continue—even in pre-pandemic times, people would line up for hours to get a taste of the world-renowned barbecue.

Recently, Texas Monthly ranked Franklin Barbecue as the seventh-best barbecue restaurant in the state. Though smoke master and Texas native Franklin didn't clinch the first or second spot (like it did in 2015 and 2017), the magazine said "no one does the traditional barbecue lineup better."


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