February 17, 2017 –
Travis & Emma Heim are changing the barbecue game at their restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas.
In Texas, barbecue is sacred. It’s much more than meat, fire and smoke; it’s a way of life. And it’s what Travis Heim knows best. Thanks to his grandma and mom’s home cooking, Travis got hooked on barbecue at an early age, getting his start on the smoker at 12-years-old. “I grew up around barbecue … it was something I thought was neat. When I cooked my first brisket, it was awful. But I kept cooking and trying new stuff and somehow wound up here.”
Here is Heim Barbecue, a popular Fort Worth barbecue joint Travis opened in the summer of 2016 with wife and business partner, Emma. The restaurant is the latest by the husband and wife team, who started out with a food truck. Travis says, “There was a moment where we were cooking for friends and everyone really enjoyed it, and it was like, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life, maybe it’s something I can do for a living.’ And we’re crazy, so we went for it.”
For Emma, the success comes from their partnership. “Our marriage is really unique because we work together. It’s really rewarding for us to be on a team and support each other the way we do.” Travis agrees. “We’ve tried to stay true to ourselves. We stuck with family recipes. It means a lot when people like our food, but my favorite is if somebody says, ‘This was as good as my grandad’s’. That’s when you know you’ve touched someone on a personal level … it evokes those memories of family. That’s really what we care about.”
Get a behind-the-scenes look at Heim Barbecue today.
When Travis and Emma first found the food truck to lease a few years ago, they began putting a plan into motion. “It was a lot of faith and stupidity,” says Travis. “A leap of faith,” Emma adds with a smile. With a smoker from Travis’ uncle, Roger, the couple spent their entire savings account on the truck deposit, their checking account on food and got to work cooking. But the community delivered too, rallying around them to help the business grow. “The initial response to us opening the food truck was really amazing,” Emma explains. “People came and waited in our lines for hours. For us to see that was so encouraging to keep cooking good food, because people were counting on us in the area.”
So, what makes Fort Worth so special? Travis says, “It’s a great community for small businesses … if you really care about what you do, the community’s going to support you.” Emma agrees. “[It’s] shown up for us. We really feel the love from them.” They continued to show up, even when the business needed a new smoker. “About two months into the food truck, we realized we weren’t cooking enough food,” says Travis. “So, we started a Kickstarter to raise money for a new smoker. Within 8 hours, we had raised our goal and kept it rolling.”
As a result, the couple was able to build a 24-foot-long custom smoker. But the pair’s recipe for success continued to be dedication and hard work. Emma says, “What we do takes a lot of time and patience … when you keep your head down, you zone in on what you want your end product to be [and] it can turn out really great.” Travis continues, “Barbecue is different. It’s a lot of work with your hands and you’re dealing with the fire, meat and sharp objects. I’ve always worn Dickies products [like] overalls and shirts, because you just need a product that’s going to last and work as hard as you work.”
With the community behind them, the Heims’ hard work helped the business grow and their dream restaurant soon followed.
Living A Dream
Once Travis and Emma found the perfect building, they immediately knew it was meant to be their restaurant. Emma says, “It’s from 1921 and we fell in love. We were able to take it from the state it was in, design everything and bring it back to what it is now.” But the hard work was just starting. Travis says, “It’s a lot of … effort and attention to detail to come up with the end result.” That’s why the team continued to turn to Dickies for all their workwear needs.
“Our staff really needs heavy-duty work clothes and that’s what Dickies provides - stuff that you can get grease splattered on [or] you may get some embers on, but [it’s] still going to last and stay strong. -- Travis Heim”
Heim Barbecue officially opened for business on August 6, 2016. “Our first day was terrifying,” says Travis. “Now to see people willing to stand in line just to get our food is very humbling.” But what makes Heim Barbecue special is the one-of-a-kind environment. Emma explains, “We’ve tried to create an atmosphere of love and community so that when people come in, everyone is accepted and having a good time.” And customers couldn’t agree more. Self-proclaimed “Heim Fan Club President” Emily McLaughlin says, “I will never forget the first time I had a bite of this brisket. I might’ve cried, it’s that good. [But] what separates this from another barbecue place is Travis and Emma [and] their commitment to what they’re doing, night and day.”
The best part for Travis and Emma? Connecting with their customers ... even the Dickies team in the Fort Worth area are fans. Emma says, “It’s awesome … they’re right down the street so [they’ll] come in and eat lunch. It’s a fun exchange every time we see them.” Travis adds, “We really care that every guest feels welcome … that’s what makes the difference. Our biggest goal right now is to make sure that every person who comes in has a great time. Two years ago, we were selling barbecue out of a parking lot and now we have our own restaurant. It’s kind of crazy.”
From the FansEmily McLaughlin: “It’s the holy grail. [My husband and I] were sold after one bite of brisket. I bring people here and I overstate it because I believe in it, and I love Travis and Emma.”
Joey Endriukaitis: “A friend of mine told me about the trailer and I’ve been hooked ever since. My favorite thing is the fatty brisket. It’s just a great place to be, I love it here...I’m here 4-5 times a week.”
Robert (aka “Big Cat”) Floyd: I’m definitely a fanatic of [Heim Barbecue]. I really like the Green Chile Mac & Cheese and the Twice Baked Potato Salad. Those are my favorites that I get almost every time. And Travis and Emma … they’re now good friends, too.