Flickchart Road Trip: Frank
We’re remaining planted in Austin for a bit and enjoying almost all of the BBQ spots around town. And why not? Austin is a central Texas BBQ haven and a jumping-off spot for several small-town BBQ joints as well. This time we’re in east downtown at one of Austin’s most famous food trucks.
Stop #6: Austin, Micklethwait Craft Meats
Micklethwait is on the east side of I-35 in a historically segregated neighborhood that’s recently been subject to gentrification. Close to downtown, the food truck is permanently set up just north of the Texas State Cemetery, resting place of several Texas legends. Nestled into a dirt lot with picnic tables nearby, the cream-colored Micklethwait truck has been serving up smoked meats since 2012 and is ranked #8 on Texas Monthly’s list.
Pitmaster Tom Micklethwait has been smoking with oak over an indirect-heat pit since setting up shop. He aims for freshness and authenticity, and Micklethwait also serves its own baked goods as well as fresh ingredients in all of their sides. They often attract overflow from nearby Franklin BBQ, and I took advantage of that proximity as well. The word “Craft” represents Micklethwait’s variety of sausages, including some unique variations such as kielbasa and pork belly andouille.
I didn’t try any of the sausages on my visit, unfortunately. I did enjoy some brisket as well as a super large beef rib, along with some spicy red BBQ sauce. While flavorful, the beef rib was super fatty and greasy on the day of my visit, which made it difficult to eat much of it. That took away from the strengths of the bark and meat. The brisket, however, was really good, with a wonderful, black, melt-in-your-mouth bark. I had no sides and didn’t get to enjoy the buttermilk cream pie, as they were all out.
I award the brisket 4 slices out of 5, and the beef rib 3.5 cows out of 5. I give Micklethwait Craft Meats 4 smokers out of 5!
The Film: Frank
Frank is a film that is both somewhat a cheat, and then absolutely not. The film follows an Irish band of eccentrics and takes place in Ireland for the first half. Domhnall Gleeson is a young, up-and-coming musician who meets a band with a lead man who wears a giant head mask. In the second half, the band heads to the South by Southwest music fest in Austin, and thus Frank becomes a fitting film for our Texas BBQ trek. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, best known for Room, this is a strangely endearing bro-drama between Gleeson and the masked Michael Fassbender. The movie celebrates being yourself, no matter how strange.
And it certainly embraces the strange. Aside from one of our main characters wearing a giant papier-mâché head, the band’s music is off the wall. Much of the first half of the film is about the characters bonding in a remote Irish location as Gleeson’s character gets to know the band and the masked Frank while trying to push them more towards commercial appeal. It is to Abrahamson’s credit that he captures these band dynamics in a captivating and genuine way. Gleeson’s character comes to like the weirdness of the band, but also sees them as a vehicle to push his songs and push them away from their style towards something that can get them famous. Fassbender is fantastic in a performance where you don’t see his face for basically the entire film. Maggie Gyllenhaal also does a great job as a woman who may or may not be romantic with Frank. She acts as a mother hen of sorts, protecting Frank as Gleeson tries to push him beyond his boundaries.
When the band travels to play South by Southwest, the film truly captures an Austin character despite its Irish roots and casting. Austin is a place where weirdness and creativity clash with commercialism, and festivals like South By serve as a means for small bands to be seen, though that comes with sacrifices. Gleeson reaps what he sows in this part of the film as the band goes increasingly off the rails and Frank struggles with personal issues in the context of modest success. Frank manages to take familiar music business struggles and make them feel fresh, and Lenny Abrahamson balances all of these elements while keeping the film running smoothly. The ending of Frank is genuinely affecting, even after the roller coaster of strangeness that precedes it. It is a worthy representation of one of Austin’s major events and Texas’s biggest film/music/tech festival.
Does anyone eat barbecue in this film?
Still no barbecue!
Texas Film Chart
- No Country for Old Men
- The Right Stuff
- Dazed and Confused
- The Sugarland Express
- Outlaw Blues
Texas BBQ Chart
- Pinkerton’s Barbecue
- Stiles Switch BBQ
- Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
- Micklethwait Craft Meats
- The Pit Room
- The Smoking Oak
Join us again next time for more delicious smoked meats and fantastic Lone Star cinema!