Allow us to play culinary cartographer for a moment. Your humble author thinks it is high time to carve off a portion of Fort Worth's Southside Historic District and rename it the Barbecue District. Hear us out: Five years ago, Travis and Emma Heim parked their eponymous food truck next to the Republic Street Bar and started a trend for stellar barbecue in the area. Heim moved to a permanent spot down the road on Magnolia Avenue in 2016, and soon thereafter, Panther City BBQ took over the spot on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Today, within a mile or so of that epicenter, Heim, Panther City, Joe Riscky's and Derek Allan's all call the neighborhood home, each carving a unique niche in the city's barbecue scene. The Barbecue District seems like a natural descriptor, but we're still waiting for a call back from City Hall about our naming suggestion. Maybe if we keep repeating it, they'll have no choice but to get on board.
In the meantime, there's a new tenant in the neighborhood. No longer is it enough to follow the smoky smells to your destination in the Barbecue District. Fortunately, Brix Barbecue is easy to spot — just look for Smokestream One and the Brisket Bomber, and your barbecue cravings will soon be satiated.
Trevor Sales is the proprietor of Brix Barbecue, and we first met him in 2018 when we discovered Dayne Weaver's barbecue pop-ups in west Fort Worth. Sales was there to lend his larger smoker to Weaver, and help cut meat and fill orders at the start of Weaver's viral popularity.
Brix Barbecue (named after Sales' dog, a rescued boxer mix who follows Sales almost everywhere he goes) got their start with pop-ups and occasional catering gigs, as well as selling barbecue tacos next to a gym in south Fort Worth (which is an exercise plan we can get on board with). Brix had a temporary stint at the Americado food hall on Berry Street last year before firming up a deal for a permanent location across the street from HopFusion Ale Works.
Finding Brix is easy; keep your eyes peeled for the gleaming Airstream trailer (Smokestream One) and a large smoker on wheels with vintage World War II fighter plane-style nose art (The Brisket Bomber), and you'll know you're in the right place. Brix Barbecue is mostly a Saturday-only operation for now, but Sales is experimenting with some evening hours ("Brix After Dark") featuring unique menu items and a plan to draw customers from HopFusion who crave a bite to eat to go with their beer.
"Right now, we're doing everything ourselves, just trying to grow organically," Sales says.
Meats and sides are sold a la carte, but the best way to get a sampling of everything Brix has to offer is to bring a friend and order the "Tour de Brix" ($36). Place your order at the window of the Airstream, and you'll be presented with a hefty tray of barbecue awesomeness shortly thereafter. The tray comes loaded with brisket, spicy cheesy sausage, pork ribs, tallow beans, jalapeño coleslaw, a pair of beef cheek tacos and "Brix Balls." What's a Brix Ball, you ask? Only a delectable, deep-fried medley of barbecue meats that will have you questioning all your life choices heretofore. Naturally sold two to an order, the racquetball-sized fried globes help set Brix apart from the crowd.
For that matter, the more traditional barbecue meats on the tray earn high marks for execution and taste, with just the right amount of post oak smoke imbued by the Brisket Bomber. Our brisket slices were textbook tender, with a shiny obsidian bark and well-rendered fat, and the ribs sported a sweetness that we enjoyed as well. Brix's jalapeño slaw is lightly dressed with a mayo-based dressing that allows the cool crunch of cabbage to shine, and the tallow barbecue beans are a rich and savory elevation over regular barbecue beans.
Also on the rich side are the beef cheek tacos, but the decadent and salty beef cheek balances with pickled red onions and a dab of chimichurri, and the homemade tortillas that Sales sources from a local purveyor hold everything together nicely. In all, the Tour de Brix was more food than two grown males could finish.
Or maybe we were saving room to try Brix's take on Nashville hot chicken, with a sandwich Sales has dubbed the "Funkytown Hot Chicken" ($10). Sales brines the chicken breasts ahead of time, then dredges and fries each sandwich to order. Served on a brioche bun with a slathering of avocado crema and dill pickles, the Funkytown chicken is ultra juicy, with a batter so crunchy that it almost defies belief. The mild heat starts off slow, but builds an appreciable tingle with successive bites. Sales knows his chicken isn't as hot as a Nashville original, but he wants to be mindful of his customers' taste buds, too.
"I know it could probably be spicier, and I think I'm going to make it hotter, but I know a lot of people can't handle it when it's too spicy," he says.
As the calendar turns to spring, Sales plans on a canvas awning for the picnic tables in front of his Airstream and will add some patio lights for the evenings when he opens for "Brix After Dark." Sales also hopes to implement a POS system that would allow HopFusion's customers to order food and get a text when it's ready to pick up.
"At first, I was a little frustrated with how long things took to come together," Sales says, as we stand next to the Brisket Bomber and look over a healthy crowd of patrons. "But I'm happy with the timing of everything, and glad to finally be open."
On a perfectly mild winter day, bellies full of barbecue goodness, we're happy, too. We dig the casual vibe of Brix as it stands, but love that there's more improvements in the works. Long live the Barbecue District!
Brix Barbecue, 218 Bryan Ave., Fort Worth. Open Saturday, 11 a.m. until sold out.