A relatively young barbecue trailer – open only about six months – has quickly earned a strong following and acclaim not only from its home fan base in Fort Worth, but also from barbecue cognoscenti across the region.
Proudly proclaiming their focus on craft barbecue and sourcing all of their meats and vegetables locally, husband and wife Travis and Emma Heim – along with newest addition Rowdy Dugan – easily demonstrate that the plaudits they’ve received so far are well deserved. It’s a testament to their farm-to-smoker prowess that crowds at Heim Barbecue, based just outside the Republic Street Bar in Fort Worth’s Near Southside, have reached new heights in recent days.
Arriving at 10:00 a.m. on a recent Saturday, one hour before the opening, I found more than 30 customers already forming some semblance of a line, lolling in the shade at picnic tables. Many patrons fought the heat with the bar’s Rahr offerings, created at the brewery just two blocks away – while others sipped water to stay cool. By the time the trailer window opened, the crowd had more than doubled, and a “Last Man Standing” sign was held by one nervous patron in the back half of the line. Beyond that point, late-arriving customers might find limited (or no) choices remaining.
The butcher paper menu taped to the black trailer featured not only prime-grade brisket, but also pork spare ribs, pulled pork, and bacon burnt ends created from pork belly. The trailer also offers jalapeño cheddar sausage – not Heim’s own, although they have plans to start making sausage in the near future. To meet the growing demand, Heim recently launched a Kickstarter campaign designed to raise $4,500, in hopes of procuring a new, significantly larger pit. Thanks to the swelling buzz, the Heims fared far better than their initial goal, securing more than $15,000 in pledges. New pits are therefore in the offing (with one arriving as early as September), plus potentially a wood-burning oven for Dugan’s freshly baked breads.
So how was the food, you ask? Heim’s product approaches that of North Texas’ top-tier barbecue outposts, coming within a hair’s breadth of such notable nosh pits as Pecan Lodge in Dallas, Hutchins in McKinney, Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas and Plano, and BBQ on the Brazos in Cresson. Heim’s moist brisket, sliced thickly, hit all of the right notes, with a textural springiness and a well-rendered fat, both hallmarks of properly smoked ‘cue. The pit’s post oak imparted a subtle smoke flavor, yet one that was well balanced with the salt-and-pepper rub, providing a pronounced spice in every rich, ebony-barked bite. No sauce should be touching this fine meat.
The spare ribs were impressive, although slightly less toothy than I prefer. The meat quickly separated from the bone, yet its flavor was spot-on, with sweet, salty and smoky present in equal measures. And oh, those bacon burnt ends. Chewy, crispy, fatty, luscious chunks of pure pork candy. I tried desperately to ignore the small puddle of drippings in the bottom of the tray, certain that my cardiologist would not approve as readily as my taste buds did. Heim’s red cabbage slaw was relatively light on mayo, boasted a satisfying crunch, flecked with pepper and abundantly speckled with fresh carrot slices. So that counts as salad, right? Regardless, it hit the spot.
Finally, it was time to sample the banana pudding, and the custard was just right, sweet and creamy, with chunks of soft banana and a generous topping of crispy vanilla wafers for contrast. All in all, a very satisfying end to the meal.
Previously operating only two days per week, Heim is now open Friday through Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. or whenever the meat runs out. Until Heim’s pit capacity increases, plan to arrive early, as 1:00 p.m. or earlier as sell-outs will likely remain the norm as long as the quality remains this high.