Introducing Frankie’s Smokehouse – the barbecue joint boasting a three-tonne smoker
If you’ve cruised down Woolloongabba’s Stanley Street strip at any point over the past six months, you might have caught a whiff of ironbark smoke wafting through the air. This woody scent emanates from an eight-and-a-half-metre long custom smoker called Frankenstein – the gargantuan contraption responsible for lovingly cooking the barbecued delights at Frankie’s Smokehouse. Since opening in October, this family-run operation has been inundated by hordes of meat-loving patrons, each one salivating at the sight of sliced brisket, mounds of pulled pork, tender beef short ribs and loaded fries.
The story behind the Frankie’s Smokehouse opening is almost a textbook anecdote of the COVID-19 era. After eight years of hobbyist smoking, barbecue fanatic Tristan Borgo was gearing up to make his passion a full-blown vocation. Alongside his sister and business partner Tamika, Tristan had expanded his dream barbecue concept from mobile trailer to a community-oriented bricks-and-mortar low ‘n’ slow joint of his own, securing a space just down from the now-vacant Chalk Hotel in Woolloongabba. In a stroke of misfortune, the nationwide lockdown was announced very same day the duo signed the lease to the space. Although their goal of opening a laid-back and welcoming eatery was temporarily waylaid, Tristan and Tamika were undeterred. They were finally able to pull the trigger in August last year, quickly embarking on a 63-day build that transformed the site into a warm, light-industrial bar and eatery with a festoon-lit alfresco courtyard space next door. Not only did the concept escalate in scale, so too did Frankie’s on-site smoking apparatus. During a visit to Craig Wegert of Bullockhead Creek BBQ Smokers and Grills, Tristan spied an empty LPG gas tank sitting idly in a nearby field. After hearing that Craig was contemplating converting the eight-metre-long vessel into one beast of a barbecue machine, Tristan immediately arranged the funds to make it happen. What resulted is Frankenstein – a jaw-dropping smoker that weighs more than three tonnes, has a capacity of seven-and-a-half kilolitres (that’s roughly 76 briskets), boasts five doors, twin three-metre smoke stacks and a double-insulated counterweight firebox. The smoker, which arrived halfway through the site’s renovations, was carefully placed outside and has become a talking point for barbecue pros and novices, all of which are in awe at the size of this absolute unit. But, as they say, size isn’t everything – it’s all about how you use it …
Coming from a hobbyist entry point as opposed to a competitive barbecuing background, Tristan’s smoking skills are informed by self-taught experimentation and info gleaned from his proximity to the community. With that in mind, a core ethos of Frankie’s is info sharing – dabblers and dedicated pros are encouraged to swing by and exchange tips and nuggets of technical wisdom. Frankie’s fare falls under the umbrella of Texas-style barbecue, but there’s a less-is-more approach at play that starts with a foundation of premium meat. Tristan and Tamika spent thousands on research and development before launch, sampling various varieties of meat before settling on a supplier. From there, Tristan merely uses salt and pepper as protein seasoning, letting the natural meat flavour (and the aromatic addition of ironbark smoke) shine through first and foremost. Sitting at the core of the Frankie’s menu is 12-hour smoked JBS Pure Prime brisket, beef short rib, pulled Northern Rivers pork, and pork ribs. Come dinner, these morsels are available solo, as part of a platter or, in the case of the brisket and pulled pork, stuffed into a bread roll with house-made barbecue sauce and coleslaw. An assortment of sides – think smoked wings, loaded fries, onion rings, hot links and Frankie’s zesty corn – help fill in any gaps. As the meat is lovingly smoked throughout the day, the Frankie’s lunch menu is more concise – we’re talking rolls, wings and pulled pork or brisket tacos. The bar is stocked with a host of familiar names, with the Frankie’s team passionate about supporting local endeavour. Craft beers from Sea Legs, Bridge Road, Brick Lane, Black Hops, 4 Hearts and Young Henrys is available on tap or in tins, with a variety on hand to suit every taste. Tristan and Tamika have enlisted the services of master of wine Peter Scudamore Smith to help curate the wine selection, with drops available off tap via a nifty wine keg system. Queensland vintners are well represented, ensuring locality remains a through-line from pasture to pour.
Frankie’s Smokehouse is now open to the public. Bookings are essential! Head to the Stumble Guide to lock in a table.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.