Cooking has always been a big part of our family history. My Grandmother, Jane Tucker, and mother Robin Heim are some of the best cooks around. At an early age, I loved to help them in the kitchen and learn everything I could about different family recipes. When I was 13 years old I smoked my first brisket on my grandfather’s old smoker, it was terrible. But that first 14 hour cook started a passion for BBQ that I never could shake. Emma and I first met not long after that in Junior High school at a church event. Although we didn’t start dating until late in high school, I knew early on that she was “the one”.
After high school we moved to East Texas for college and it was at that time that my passion for all things BBQ turned into an obsession…My roommates and I would travel to out of the way hole-in-the-wall BBQ joints, smoke meat on the weekend (whenever we weren’t dead broke…), and I even helped lead a weekly guys Bible study conveniently hosted at a local BBQ joint in town. After college, Emma and I got married and moved back home to Fort Worth. It’s safe to say that Emma had eaten more bad BBQ those first few years than most folks will eat in their lifetime! From smoking meat on a converted trash can smoker, to a makeshift smoker made out of a weber grill, it wasn’t until my in-laws gave me my first real smoker that things started to turn for the better.
After cooking a few briskets for church lunches it was clear that it wasn’t just my family being polite, but that I was somewhat decent at barbecue, so I was encouraged by a lot of people to keep learning and trying new things. After some encouragement from my friends, Emma and I decided to start backyard “pop-up” dinners that we called T & E MEATclub. It was a goofy, underground dinner party that focused on BBQ, but we were also able to try out different recipes and see what our friends and family liked and disliked. I offered my uncle, Roger Heim, $300 for an old smoker that he had built at the family farm in Marshall, Texas. Even though the smoker was worth maybe 10 times that much, he said “come and get it” and gave it to me for free. So like kids on Christmas morning we took the $300 and rented a truck and trailer from U-haul and grabbed our dog, Frank, and cruised down to Marshall the next morning. We somehow drug the smoker, full of a dozen or more wasp nests, back to Arlington where my brother in law, James Miner, was kind enough to let us park it at his house for a while.
Over the next year we would host various MEATclub’s at their house, friends houses, and even local restaurants after hours. The focus was to cook the best BBQ possible, using locally sourced meats and ingredients, make all our sides and desserts from scratch, have cold beer, and live music in a fun and inviting atmosphere. We quickly outgrew our surroundings though as more and more folks found out about our secret BBQ parties and we realized that we needed to grow if we wanted to keep this thing going! Over this time we were also fortunate enough to be invited to cook with some truly incredible pitmasters all over the country including John Lewis, Rodney Scott, Sam Jones, and others.
After a brief visit to Austin to look at possibly working for a friends restaurant we came across the food truck for lease in Fort Worth. It was a huge risk or “leap of faith” but we spent all the money in our savings account on the deposit, and all the money in our checking account to buy supplies for our first day open…Not the smartest way to start a business, but because of the support of our friends and family we were able to survive those first few weeks and start gaining momentum. After a few really positive reviews and a ton of word of mouth we quickly realized that our one smoker from my uncle was nowhere near big enough to supply the ever increasing demand. So a few months after opening we set up a kickstarter to help raise funds for a new smoker. We set our goal at $4,500, which we had little confidence we would make in the required 30 days. But like a lot of times in our story, we underestimated the kindness and support of our awesome customers, friends, and family. We were able to raise the required $4,500 in about 7 hours…wow! So we kept it rolling and ended up raising just north of $15,000 in the 30 days. With these funds we were able to build a massive new smoker that increased our cooking capacity by 3 times!
After about 6 – 7 months, we were fortunate enough to meet our business partners, Will and Rachael Churchill and Corrie Watson. After turning down dozens of opportunities for different investments and other deals for a beautiful 1921 built property they own off Magnolia Ave. in Fort Worth, we met with them to discuss making it the next Heim BBQ. Through our partnership with them we were able to design and build our DREAM restaurant, in an incredible old building just a few blocks from where I grew up. It was crucial to Emma and I that we stay in Fort Worth if we were ever able to expand from out of the food truck. We turned down multiple offers for a million different investment deals because none of them felt right or compromised our goal to be in our hometown of Fort Worth. After a lot of analyzing and praying we felt that this opportunity was the perfect next step for our family and we made another huge “leap of faith.”
At our food truck, Emma and I were doing everything we could just to pay the bills, cooking as much meat as we could fit in our smokers, making as many side dishes as we could pull off every day, and even making so much handmade banana pudding that we broke a whisk! But there was a problem for a lot of guests who were unable to try our food because our hours did not work with their schedule, or they didn’t have time to wait in the insane 2 to 3 hour long lines that became the norm a few months into the food truck opening. We were overwhelmingly happy because of the support of the local community and were selling out of BBQ everyday BEFORE WE OPENED, but Emma and I felt like we weren’t providing our customers with the best experience possible. Our BBQ was “cool” and “hip” but the insane demand created an exclusivity that goes against everything we believe about how a restaurant should serve it’s guests…so in planning our restaurant we decided to change our goals. Now our focus was to “create excellent food served with passionate, gracious hospitality, in the most welcoming, inclusive environment we could possibly provide!” That meant changing a lot of things, but our core values had to stay the same.
So in August of 2016, we opened our 1st restaurant on Magnolia Ave. We set out to provide great BBQ, like we had in the food truck, but to serve lunch and dinner 6 days a week. The goal to “sell out” of barbecue daily was still there, but we implemented a ton of new schedules and techniques to provide consistently great, fresh BBQ throughout the day, every day, to provide out guests with the same experience, without a 2 to 3 hour long wait. There were a lot of bumps in the road, especially increasing the amount of volume we were cooking by almost ten fold, but after a few months we found our stride. We opened with 200+ bottles of bourbon and whiskey, and the goal of creating a fun neighborhood bar hang out where folks could enjoy a cold beer or great craft cocktail, whether they were eating BBQ or not!
After about a few months we quickly realized that our dream restaurant on Magnolia Avenue had one flaw…it was too small. So we began the process of looking for a 2nd location in the Fort Worth area that would allow us to grow and provide our guests the best experience possible. Not long after, we found an old VFW building in West Fort Worth that we were able to renovate into a 7,500 square foot restaurant with a covered patio and outdoor beer garden area.
We opened Heim Barbecue on the River April 16th, 2019 providing our normal menu of great tasting BBQ options, as well as, new, fun, and creative choices like our HEIMburger menu, homemade seasonal cobblers and hand pies, beer battered onion rings and much more. The bar at Heim Barbecue on the River offers 24 draft beer choices, craft cocktails, rotating frozen drinks, and an extensive wine list, plenty of options to make you want to sit out on the patio and enjoy a drink or two!
It is crazy for us to think that only a few years ago we were selling barbecue out of a parking lot just to make some extra cash and now we are being included in local and national press for our BBQ. The support that we have received from our community has been unbelievable, and that has been a huge encouragement to us and a big part of why we are so excited to share our story, and more importantly, our food with more and more folks.
A huge part of our success can be directly contributed to the great men and women who work with us on a daily basis, without their hard work and passion we wouldn’t have the good fortune of growing into more and more restaurants.
We hope that our restaurants always stay true to our original goal with our T & E MEATclub backyard parties: serve the absolute best quality BBQ, sides and desserts we possibly can in the most fun and inclusive atmosphere possible. Our restaurant has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we are extremely happy to share our dream with all of you.