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Business Cooking up a winner: Riscky’s celebrates 90 years of ’cue

Cooking up a winner: Riscky’s celebrates 90 years of ’cue

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Riscky’s Barbecue

Original location

2314 Azle Ave.

Fort Worth 76164

817-624-8662

risckys.com

90 years on

In celebration of its 90th anniversary, Riscky’s is serving up a big community celebration at the Riscky’s in the Stockyards on Oct. 26.

Riscky’s is partnering with Fort Worth’s Rahr Brewing Co. and FM radio station 95.9 “The Ranch,” which will broadcast live for the event.

The event is from 5 to 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Barbecue samples from Riscky’s and beer from Rahr will be available.

In addition, Riscky’s is offering 90-cent food specials at all barbecue locations, including 90-cent fried onion strings on Oct. 19 and 90-cent chopped-beef sandwiches on Oct. 23-26.

Like millions of other immigrants, Joe and Mary Riscky came to this country to work hard and achieve their vision of the American Dream.

Ninety years after they opened a small grocery store and market on Fort Worth’s Northside, their tiny business has flourished into a stalwart Fort Worth barbecue chain that remains true to its family-owned roots. Now with eight locations, a catering business and a retail sales division, Riscky’s Barbeque revenues top $22 million a year.

The Polish immigrants might not have foreseen the success Riscky’s Grocery & Market on Azle Avenue would become, but they set the cornerstone for their family’s barbecue empire with an inexpensive chopped meat sandwich they served nearby workers in the Stockyards and neighborhood residents through the lean years of the Great Depression.

“They wanted to offer something hot and cheap that their customers liked,” said Eddie Sullivan, a fourth-generation co-owner and operator of Riscky’s Barbeque. “It all took off from there.”

Joe Riscky arrived in the United States in 1911 and settled in Fort Worth, where he met Mary Bunkervitch while working at the Armour Packing Co. They saved up $400 and got married the following year.

They then moved to Detroit, where Joe went to work for Ford Motor Co., earning $5 a day, Sullivan said.

They saved enough money to return to Texas and open their grocery and market in 1927.

Their barbecue sandwiches served from the deli counter continued to be a popular local favorite so when the original building was torn down in 1950, it was replaced by a new structure that had a “pit room” across the back alley.

The couple’s son, Pete, took over operations in 1952 and continued to slowly evolve the barbecue operation.

But it was under the leadership of Pete Riscky’s son, Jim, who took over for his father in 1976, that the barbecue operation blossomed and eventually overtook the grocery and market business.

Growing up, Jim Riscky delivered groceries to customers’ homes and learned to butcher meat. He liked the barbecue part of the business and added new pits to expand increase production and add other types of meats.

Even though he was a workaholic by nature, Jim Riscky soon grew tired of waking up in the middle of the night to go the store and turn the meat in the pits, said Sullivan, his son-in-law.

So, he hand-built a Post Oak wood-burning brick rotisserie pit that would eliminate the need for the overnight run to the store. The pit worked so well, that he built five more of steel that together are capable of smoking 1,000 pounds of meat per day.

“We still use those same pits today,” said Sullivan, who partnered with his father-in-law in the business in 2005.

With the production issues resolved, Riscky’s added its second location in the Fort Worth Stockyards in 1990.

In 1994, Riscky’s opened its third location in Sundance Square. Other locations are on Camp Bowie, Benbrook and North Richland Hills. Two full-service restaurants with wider menus, Riscky’s Steakhouse and Trailboss Burgers, are also located in the Stockyards.

Riscky’s has built its reputation on excellent customer service and quality food. For the past 11 years, Riscky’s has been the largest buyer of certified prime Angus brisket in the U.S., Sullivan said.

Besides sliced and chopped brisket, Riscky’s serves smoked beef ribs, pork spare ribs, sausage, catfish, ham and chicken. Other menu items include steaks, barbecue shrimp and chicken-fried steak. Chili is offered every winter.

All of Riscky’s barbecue is rubbed with its famous “Riscky Dust” and slow-smoked for 18 hours.

Riscky’s has won numerous awards and honors, including a listing in USA Today’s Ten Best list for barbecue in Fort Worth.

Sullivan said he expects that the family-owned tradition of Riscky’s will continue. One of his three daughters, Stacy Sullivan, is the general manager of Trailboss Burgers in the Stockyards.

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