How One 20-Something Married Couple Keeps the Love Alive While Running a Successful Barbecue Joint

Fort Worth has another barbecue joint, one that’s crazy busy and smoking up briskets, sausage and bacon burnt ends almost non-stop. The new restaurant is made more interesting by the fact that it's run by a couple in their mid-20s who are successfully spending nearly 24 hours a day together making their dream a reality.

Emma and Travis Heim opened Heim Barbecue & Catering on Aug. 6 after running a barbecue food truck in Fort Worth for a little over a year.

“It was a lot different, because it was either myself or Emma doing 99 percent of the work for everything in the food truck,” says 27-year-old Travis. “You had that level for just every single thing that we cook. One of the concerns we had opening a restaurant was, can we maintain that level of quality?”

It appears they can, as crowds are filling the place. Just this past Sunday, they sold out at 7:09 p.m. but kept the bar open for the Rangers, who hadn’t lost yet at the time.

“It's been wild. We've been really blessed,” he says. “It’s almost more like a manager now. We just don't have the time to cook a 20-hour brisket and do everything else. Our roles have kind of changed: more freedom, it makes it where we can really inspect every detail. It’s helped with quality control.”

The couple aims to keep things simple and make people happy.

“We have four ingredients in our brisket rub. It’s real simple, but it takes 18 hours to do it,” Travis says. “Our biggest thing is just having that attention to detail.”

“We do everything the hard way,” Emma says, noting how the menu items are from scratch and take time.

They’re open to sharing some of their meats with other DFW businesses like Cane Rosso. One patron quietly bought brisket and bacon burnt ends from Heim, and later released a doughnut topped with the barbecue spot's signature dishes.

“We didn’t know he was doing that,” Travis says of Brandon Moors' FunkyTown Donuts, the doughnuttier behind the salty-sweet pastry.

“He just came in and bought some brisket and some bacon, and the next day he brought those doughnuts to us,” Emma says. “He’ll come in about once a week, pick up a brisket and they’ll sell out super fast.”

Emma works front of house while Travis manages the smoking; many of the recipes come from Emma. The couple is currently pulling about 12-hour shifts, she says.

“It’s truly relying on each other," says 28-year-old Emma. "You do that in marriage already, but also to bring your own business into it, I know if I’m working, he’s working and vice versa. It makes us stronger as a couple for sure. I’ve really enjoyed it, I think its a huge honor to work with my spouse 24/7.”

“We piss each other off; we have a good relationship where if the briskets aren't good, she’s going to tell me that,” Travis says. “Restaurants are so stressful, you’re dealing with people all day, their expectations. You really have to lean on each other, and the biggest thing for me is knowing that she has all of that stuff under control. I don't have to worry about that ... we know that the other person is just working their ass off because they care about it.”

As the couple talks about how they grew up with great families, Travis serving in Kenya and Emma working in India, they say they aim for people to have a good experience in their restaurant.

“You want to do your best to make everyone feel welcome and be inclusive,” Travis says. “You can have really good food, but if you don’t have that environment, people aren't going to come back."

Heim Barbecue, 1109 W. Magnolia Ave.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Taylor Adams has written about the restaurant industry for the Dallas Observer since 2016. She attended Southern Methodist University before covering local news at The Dallas Morning News.

Latest Stories