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Eats beat: Forerunner of Riscky's may take the prize in Fort Worth history

Posted 8:15am on Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2012

Fort Worth's restaurants are some of Texas' most historic.

But nobody is certain which came first.

For years, we thought the Paris Coffee Shop was the oldest. Restaurateur Vic Paris opened a cafe in 1926 and then sold it, and the Asikis family's descendants run it today one block west on Magnolia Avenue.

Then, The Original Mexican Restaurant came up with new details about how the Pineda family founded that restaurant in 1926, making it definitely the oldest open continuously in the same location.

But one might be older.

Riscky's Steakhouse, where the sign says "Est. 1927," may actually have opened earlier.

We've always known steakhouse founder Theo Yordanoff arrived from Skopje, Macedonia, as a teenager in 1920, when the Stockyards packinghouses were booming.

Modern-era newspaper clippings say he opened what would become Theo's Saddle & Sirloin Inn "in the 1920s" and served steaks with the restaurant's signature kapusta (cabbage soup).

But in her 1994 book North of the River: A Brief History of North Fort Worth, historian and professor J'Nell L. Pate wrote that Yordanoff opened his first cafe on Northeast 23rd Street near what would become Joe T. Garcia's in 1920.

No matter exactly when Theo's opened, Yordanoff is not remembered solely for steaks.

The way Pate tells it in her book, a cowboy customer asked one day for "calf fries" and explained, "They are what separates the bulls from the cows."

Yordanoff ordered some at the packinghouse. They told him to take all he wanted free.

So Theo's started selling a calf fries sandwich for 15 cents, making Yordanoff the first restaurateur anywhere to sell what would become "mountain oysters."

The way the story goes, customers would ask what they were, and Yordanoff would reply with a wink, "They're fresh from the tree."

The Yordanoffs moved to the early-day Saddle & Sirloin Club building on East Exchange Avenue in 1943 and had the interior redesigned by Walt Disney Studios in 1955, according to Pate's book and our archives.

Theo's closed in 1985 before the Riscky family, descendants of Polish immigrants and founders of one of Fort Worth's first barbecue stands, reopened it in 1993 with many of the same recipes.

Riscky's Steakhouse is open daily for lunch and dinner at 120 E. Exchange Ave.; 817-624-4800, risckys.com.

Bud Kennedy's Eats Beat appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com Weekend. 817-390-7538

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