< Back to Oral History project: Texas BBQ
Originally from Mississippi, Ben Wash started cooking when he was seven years old. He moved to Austin as a teenager in the late 1950s and learned to grill brisket from older friends. His mother cultivated his love and talent of cooking. In 1971, with a bank loan of five hundred dollars and a good eye for bargains, Ben started the Long Branch in his garage. Soon after, he build his first building, a Western-inspired place that was named after the saloon on the television show Gunsmoke. Since its opening, Ben’s Long Branch resides in the heart of old East Austin and, as a barbecue institution in this community, Ben believes in keeping the history and roots of the area alive. He talks candidly about any subject from brisket prices to integration and, whether you’re in the mood for pork ribs or stories about East Austin development and the quickly changing character of the neighborhood, Ben knows a lot about both. Ben left his Long Branch in 2002 only to return to a business that was failing without his presence. The restaurant is successful once again, and Ben is working hard to keep the East Austin spirit alive.