In Austin, Texas, there’s one name that sends a giant smoke signal skyward to hungry barbecue fans from around the world, calling, beckoning all night partiers and early-rising professionals in town on business alike: and that name is Franklin. Franklin Barbecue, the small Texas roadhouse shack, is a culinary and cultural phenomena that belies it’s simple exterior. It’s known you better be in line by 7 a.m. at the latest (and willing to wait six to eight hours) if you want a taste of the brisket that helped define ATX BBQ.
And when Daniel Castillo of Heritage Barbecue (an underground Orange County-based barbecue pop-up) traveled to Austin, a pilgrimage to Franklin’s was a must. He hopped in line at 7 a.m., buying buckets of beers to take back in line for his friends and the new friends he made from around the country over the course of the eight hour wait to get a taste of Franklin BBQ. By three that afternoon, drunk on the promise of BBQ–and probably with the help of some Shiner & Lone Star, too–Castillo realized the moment he had been waiting for was nearing, and it was literally a sobering moment for him.
“By the time that we got to the front of the line,” Castillo recalls, “that was one of those eye-opening moments, and we’re like ‘Why the fuck is no one doing something like this over here [in Orange County]?'”
Why the fuck not, indeed. Castillo decided to answer his own question and in less than two months, he is now creating winding lines of his own of hungry customers eager to get a taste of Texas-style barbecue (and a frosty beer or five) right here in Orange County.
“The last pop-up at Gunwhale Ales was super humbling to me,” says Castillo of his whirlwind transition from corporate kitchen chef to renegade pit-master. “Everybody was like, ‘You got to go see that line, you got to check it out.'” he recalls. He paused from serving up the fruits of his 18 plus hours of preparation for just long enough to pop his head out from under the tent. There was a line wrapped around Gunwhale Ales’s Costa Mesa tasting room building. The tasting room actually ran out of glasses to serve beer.
“I was like ‘Where the fuck did these people come from?'” Castillo says, incredulously. “Seriously, this is crazy. I don’t even have enough food to feed these people, and they’re waiting in the sun, and it’s hot, but everybody has beers.” Cheers to that.
Heritage Barbecue may have only started at the end of May, but it’s a legacy long in the making. Castillo along with Brenda Castillo–his high school sweetheart and now wife of twenty years–started serving out of their backyard. Friends could always count on the Castillo’s to be the ones to feed folks at parties and family gatherings, recalls Brenda. And Chef Daniel’s culinary school trained creativity paired with Brenda’s business-savvy brains made it natural for the pair to launch into business together, striking out with several smaller ventures like BBQ pig roasting before finding the venture that clicked: Heritage Barbecue.
“This is like your classic, Texas offset smoker,” Daniel explains excitedly, showing off the large-scale smoker he had custom built to accommodate his height and arm’s length specifically. It stands proudly in the front driveway of his home, which is situated in the shadow of Disneyland, already working for several hours by the afternoon we met on one of the hottest days of the year.
But even triple degree heat can’t keep Daniel away from the call of the ‘cue. The iron lung-like smoker evenly and steadily smokes over 100 pounds of brisket and ribs, using the fumes from Texas Post Oak to caress each slab of brisket, rack of ribs and pork shoulder; offering a tender kiss of smoke to the tongue of anyone who gets to taste it.
Inside the Castillo family home there’s not one but two kitchens. And on the stove is a giant pot of borracho beans simmering. In the fridge, there’s hand chopped onions and fresh vegetables purchased from the local farmer’s market, sitting in a large jar of pickle brine and IPA. The borracho beans are made with beer from the local brewery in which he will be popping up at. On this particular afternoon, the beans were soaked and simmered alongside a brown ale from Riip Beer Co in Huntington Beach. Locally brewed IPAs make their way into Heritage’s honey mustard – even Orange County’s first commercial bourbon from Surf City Stillworks is currently used in their sauce.
Though Texas style barbecue served as his inspiration, it’s Daniel’s Orange County roots that he says is his true passion. “We definitely put our California twist on it,” he says. “Obviously we have better produce than they do in Texas.” Shots fired, Texans!
Each vegetable served is from a local farm, as are the meats. It’s of paramount importance to him that each item served be clean, safe and natural to eat. All beef is non-GMO, antibiotic free and free range. Because eating clean, natural foods changed his and his family’s life.
“You don’t know him 20 years ago, but he used to be a big guy,” wife Brenda explains of Daniel, who at one point weighed 384 pounds. “And he lost a bunch of weight just by being healthy and he got our family in the same line.” When their son developed a tick which caused him to involintarily shake his head, that was the last straw for the Castillos. They changed their diet and became more conscious of the foods they were putting into their and their kids bodies.
“We started caring about the type of produce that we bought,” Daniel says. “[We] tried to buy more organic than anything else, just kind of knowing where everything is coming from.”
And now that passion, care and knowledge is being offered from the Castillo family to–hopefully one day–the world via Heritage Barbecue. For now, its served up fresh to anyone willing to hop in line at one of their pop up locations which occur every few weeks at local breweries around Orange County. Follow @heritagebarbecue on Instagram to be notified of the next pop up.
“I feel kind of greedy, because I want it all,” Castillo says playfully. “Not the money–I want to feed everybody!”
When not running the OCWeekly.com and OC Weekly’s social media sites, Taylor “Hellcat” Hamby can be found partying like it’s 1899.