If you’ve spent any time in Fort Worth, you’re likely familiar with Riscky’s Barbecue, whose name appears on half a dozen spots across Tarrant County. Particularly astute barbecue hounds may have noticed a seemingly new spot under the name of Joe Riscky’s Barbecue next to Wild Acre Brewing southeast of downtown.
Joe Riscky’s eponymous spot has been open only a few months but is a separate venture from the Riscky’s of old. In 2017, Joe Riscky had been experimenting with pop-ups and new recipes for the family business, much to his father Jim’s chagrin. Depending on who you talk to, Joe Riscky was either fired by his dad or walked away of his own accord to keep doing pop-up barbecue. We don’t wish family strife upon anyone, but the end result of Joe’s new venture is a win for Fort Worth barbecue fans in search of quality smoked meats.
Joe Riscky’s occupies a small wood- and brick-sided building where the ordering and serving takes place, with an impressively large covered patio and picnic tables for diners. Perhaps best of all, it’s a short walk across the lawn from Wild Acre’s operation; the chance to grab a beer with lunch or a bite after doing some heavy beer drinking is brilliant marketing at its finest. Just don’t ask Joe Riscky to predict what happens from day to day.
“There are days when they launch a new beer, and nobody eats anything,” Riscky tells us while we peruse the menu posted over the ordering counter. “Then we have days where everyone is eating barbecue and no one is drinking. We just try to be ready for whatever.”
Speaking of the menu, we appreciate that Riscky’s meats are all priced by the quarter-pound, or in the case of ribs, by the single rib. It’s another genius marketing stroke, as nothing is over $5.50, so it feels easy to order a little bit of everything, which is exactly what we did. Two of us ordered every meat except turkey, a sausage bomb, two sides and two drinks, and the bill came to $39 before tax.
Let’s start with the sausage bomb ($6.50), which may be the best thing on Riscky’s menu. A cheese-stuffed jalapeño is encased in sausage, which itself is wrapped in bacon and set to work on Riscky’s post oak-fired smoker. Riscky drizzles each order with his sweet and tangy sauce before handing it over, and each bite is a smoky-savory-cheesy-salty blast of flavor.
Riscky’s sauce also adorned the pulled pork ($5.50) but the thin sauce still allows the flavor of the pork to shine. We also were amazed by the amount of smoke and beef flavor in our order of lean brisket ($5.50), but thought the slices were just beginning to dry out under the textbook bark. Riscky’s pork ribs ($3.25) also ooze with flavor underneath a thick rub with just the right amount of sweetness, and the wagyu sausage left us craving repeat bites, too.
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If we had to pick a weakness to Joe Riscky’s game, it’s in the sides. We had heard great things about the butter beans ($4), which start with a cooked ham that simmers with lima beans for hours. The flavor was solid, if a little heavy on pepper and a little light on salt. We also tried the coleslaw ($3.50), which was inoffensively mild on its own, but gave a nice cool crunch when added to bites of pulled pork.
Again, that’s us finding nits to pick at what’s an overall great barbecue experience. We may not be the only ones who dream of working next to a craft brewery, but Joe Riscky’s makes that a reality, combining great barbecue with a great location. Summer weekends are meant for cookouts and beer drinking, but if you can’t or won’t do it yourself, a trip to Joe Riscky’s Barbecue nicely fills the gap.
Joe Riscky's Barbecue, 1734 E. El Paso St., Fort Worth.