Those fortunate enough to try Heim Barbecue have likely experienced the wafting scent of slow-smoking meat outside their two Fort Worth brick-and-mortar locations. Both regulars and out-of-town patrons take their seats at long picnic tables, bearing steel trays with a few choice items: charred brisket, the now-famous pork belly cubes called “bacon burnt ends,” mac and cheese, and a slice of white bread to sop up any leftover goodness. Though Dallas customers frequently make the drive for Travis and Emma Heim’s ‘cue, we have good news for them and their gas tanks: at long last, Heim’s bang on brisket and beef short ribs are coming to Dallas this Thursday, October 22.
The Heims’ third restaurant opens its doors in the former Mockingbird Diner space at 3130 West Mockingbird Lane, across the street from Love Field Airport. Though October 22 was slated as a soft-open with a grand opening on October 28, word has circulated so voraciously that Travis Heim isn’t sure it can be called a “soft” opening anymore. Indeed, it’s probably one of the most highly anticipated barbecue arrivals of the year. While the new location undoubtedly means more exposure for the Fort Worth–based joint, it also means something for Dallas. The addition of Heim, an already popular destination in its own right, demonstrates Dallas’ status as a culinary hub.
In Travis’ eyes, the Heim spin on smoked proteins brings something special to Dallas’ barbecue scene. Travis came up in the Aaron Franklin and John Lewis age of barbecue, when long lines and quick sell-outs were the norm for of great barbecue. When Heim BBQ was still operating solely out of a food truck, they often sold out before they opened and customers were turned away as they approached the line. Travis hated it. Now, he wants Heim to be known for incredible food and great hospitality. That means the brisket and bacon burnt ends you have at 11 a.m. will be just as good as the ones at 8 p.m.
They also want to make their high-quality “farm-to-smoker” food, as the Heims have dubbed it, accessible to anyone’s liking. “For god’s sake, we have corn dogs on the menu. A lot of other places won’t do goofy shit like that,” Travis laughs. “In general, we want it to be a place that’s your favorite. But we aren’t going to, like, make our own pickles.”
This inclusive approach to barbecue is a nod to Heim’s humble beginnings. Travis began his culinary exploration with a hand-me-down smoker and a handful of backyard barbecue parties. In just a few years, Heim has skyrocketed from a single food truck outfit to a spot in Texas Monthly’s Top 50 barbecue joints, with special mention of their buttery, farm-fresh beef rib. With the third location opening just outside Love Field, Heim is positioned to be the first pit stop for many out-of-towners. Understandably, the thought of being Dallas’ opening barbecue act generates mixed feelings in the Heims. “We were excited. We were terrified. Now we’re excited,” Travis says.
In the weeks leading up to their Dallas debut, Travis and his wife, Emma, have been sending their Meat Force One food truck to park outside the new location every Sunday. If the truck’s overwhelming reception, even with a limited menu, is any indication, you can expect lines for those bits of caramelized pork fat on Thursday.
Opening the location on West Mockingbird in the midst of a pandemic has not been without it’s challenges, particularly when it comes to hiring. With such a strong focus on hospitality, finding a reliable staff and implementing training with all the proper precautions has posed real concern. “Are we crazy? Probably 100 percent,” says Travis. Nonetheless, they are charging toward the opening with guns blazing.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or an intrigued newcomer, get there early to snag your bacon burnt ends. Even if they’re your first, they won’t be your last.