It’s Kansas City’s claim to fame, sparking fierce debates among locals and attracting foodies from all around the country: Barbecue. Anthony Bourdain dedicated an episode of “No Reservations” to Kansas City BBQ, and even listed Joe’s KC as one of the places to eat before you die.
Central Standard’s food critics sat down to talk about their favorite barbecue classics and unexpected finds.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block:
- Plowboys Barbecue—The BBQ Nachos are simple and brilliant. Chips, homemade queso and jalapeños with your choice of meat, drizzled with barbecue sauce. I like mine with pulled pork.
- Scott’s Kitchen— While the menu features the traditional brisket, ribs, pork, etc., they also use those same meats in burritos, bowls and tacos. Add in black beans, rice, romaine, cheese and salsa. At breakfast, they serve the bowls and tacos with eggs and potatoes.
- Q39 —I love the burnt end burger, a ground brisket burger with burnt ends and pickle slaw on top. The difference in textures comes through in every bite.
- Fiorella’s Jack’s Stack Barbecue— Get the Crown Prime Beef Rib. I’m one of those people who loves to gnaw on bones, and I always try to get a bone when I have prime rib. These ribs are the same, only smoked. Great meat on the bone.
- kobi-Q— Traditional Korean barbecue beef marinated in a soy and garlic marinade, served with rice, kimchee and lettuce wraps. Get your choice of ribeye bulgogi or LA galbi Short Ribs.
- Woodyard Bar-B-Que— Burnt end chili. Think beef chili, only with chunks of meaty burnt ends.
- Rye— Brisket burnt end hash comes with spicy tomato sauce, potatoes, red pepper and eggs. Love the spicy tomato sauce with the meat and eggs.
Mary’s best barbecue picks, by category:
- Char Bar — Burnt ends, pulled pork
- Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que — Burnt ends, ribs, pulled pork, sauce
- Scott’s Kitchen — Burnt ends, pulled pork, brisket
- Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ — Burnt ends, ribs, brisket, sauce
- LC’s Bar-B-Q — Ribs
- Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue — Brisket
- Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue — Sauce, baked beans
- Slap’s BBQ — Brisket
- EJ’s Urban Eatery — Home of the "meat and three." The espresso-rubbed brisket is excellent with that white BBQ sauce. And Tuesday is burnt end day. (But sometimes, I’ve wandered in on a Sunday and discovered them on the menu.)
- Burnt End BBQ — Located in an awkward parking lot at Metcalf and 119th street, Burnt End BBQ recently updated the menu. They have platters, burgers, BBQ bowls, smoked wings and daily specials. Great brisket, burnt ends, smoked turkey, sides and onion straws with about six BBQ sauces to choose from.
- McGonigle’s Market — Right now, the BBQ trailer parked outside of this grocery store is my current love. From April to October, you will find a white trailer outside the grocery store. You go inside to place your order, take your receipt to the window and wait patiently. The best deal is the daily specials. My favorites are the pulled pork sandwich on Wednesday for $4.99; the burnt end sandwich for $6.99 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and the half smoked chicken on Friday for $3.99. But you MUST order the onion strings! Thinly sliced and seasoned onions are fried and served in a huge to go container with enough for 4 people — just $2.49.
- Brobecks Barbecue — Located on Indian Creek Parkway, Brobeck’s uses a dry rub and features a selection of different sauces. One of the favorite menu items is the smoked ham salad. The flavor is salty and smoky. It is served with packaged saltine crackers or house chips seasoned with rub blend.
- Blind Box BBQ — Great brisket, burnt ends and barbecue street corn aka elotes. The members of Kansas City Eats LOVE the BBQ nachos and Sunday brunch.
- Big T’s — Big T’s holds a special place in my heart because all of his life, my father was an Arthur Bryant’s fan. After I introduced him to Big T’s, it became his second favorite. And that’s saying a lot because he was the Barbecue King in our family. He loved the combo plate with beef, ham, ribs, sausage and fries. Great onion rings.
- R.J.’s Bob-Be-Que Shack — They have some very unique items on the menu: jalapeno sausage smoked in a corn husk, a ground brisket burger, barbecue nachos and brisket steak soup. They also have breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que — Mission gas station location only! Carolina Pork Sandwich, Z-Man brisket, chicken or portobello versions are all amazing. Or try the Rocket Pig, their new sandwich that has Joe's pulled pork tossed in a sweet-hot competition BBQ glaze, bacon, pepper jack cheese and a BBQ mayo, topped with fried jalapenos.
- Slap’s BBQ — Located in Kansas City, Kansas, I like the Cattleman's Plate that comes with a healthy portion of brisket, burnt ends and beef polish sausage, served with two sides, bread, sauce and pickles. When they sell out, they are done for the day!
- Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue — Freight House location if I am feeling fancy, but I think the food is better at Martin City, call me crazy! Bring someone to share the Round Up (otherwise known as ‘cue for two) which includes sliced beef and ham, pulled pork, pork spare ribs with hickory pit beans, creamy coleslaw and fries.
- LC’s Bar-B-Q — I keep it simple here, this is not a large menu or a fancy place. Get the combo sandwich with 2 meats and French fries. I like beef and pork.
- The Rub Bar-B-Que — Taking his neighborhood barbecuing skills and his restaurant skills, founder Dan Janssen has created a fine little stop for Kansas City-style barbecue sandwiches, platters and bowls in Olathe. Their combo sandwiches with their pulled pork or burnt ends is my favorite, served with house-made french fries and their original barbecue sauce. His burnt ends were so tender. But, I am getting one of his crazy bowls you can build with Hillbilly Bowl built with sugar-crusted cornbread topped with your choice of meat, BBQ beans and onion straws.
- We B Smokin’ — You can either fly-in or drive to the Miami County Airport in Paola, KS to find We B Smokin’, and you should because this barbecue is worth the trip. Their We B’ Sticky Ribs are a signature item, sold only in full slabs of baby back ribs. Get your We B’ on a Hoagie roll with your choice of any two beef, pork, ham or turkey, I like beef and pork. Their We B’ Beans are also some of my favorite barbecue beans in town, spicy, smoky and a little sweet. They might be cash only, so bring some to spend.
- Tin Kitchen — Smoked over pecan wood for 16 hours, the barbecue at Tin Kitchen is the real deal and many barbecue aficionados confirm that. Now that I know what I am missing, my companion will get either the pulled pork or the brisket platter with 2 sides, (usually 24-hour coleslaw and fries), and I’ll get the green chili burger and we will split the order and share. Best of both worlds.
- A Little BBQ Joint — This place gives atmosphere for days. “Start-your-engine” ambiance. Start with bacon chips or barbecue wonton wraps, then get one of their sandwiches. The burnt ends on bun are good, so are the specials of the day. On Tuesday, they have a pulled pork and spicy pork sausage sandwich on a toasted bun with french fries. Fan of ribs? They have baby back ribs on the weekends after 4 p.m. on Fridays. For sides, get the mac n’ cheese or spicy coleslaw.
- Porky’s Blazin’ Bar-B-Q — Located in Grain Valley, MO and open Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday, accepting cash or checks only, this little red roadside barn on the side of the road has people recommending it to me again and again on Twitter pouring in from all over to sample their smoked meats. They offer the usual suspects for a “meat on bun” sandwich and no single serving platters. There are three platters, feeding a group of four, eight or 16. No french fries, just coleslaw, beans, potato salad and pasta salad.
- Organic Soul KC — This is primarily a catering company that serves vegan food, and they do a fantastic barbecue jackfruit. Even better, they have a really good vegan mac and cheese.
- Rosedale Barbecue — Their brisket is sliced very thin. The fries are amazing, they’re not too small, they’re not too big and there’s none left when you’re done eating.
- Pepe’s Carnitas — Come here for Mexican barbecue. They have the best barbacoa and they have a fantastic salad made with vinaigrette with cauliflower and a variety of vegetables. They’re only open on the weekends, and if you don’t get there by 2 p.m., you might not get food.
- Guy & Mae’s Tavern — It’s a little tavern in Williamsburg, Kansas. They’re putting out really delicious ribs. It comes wrapped in the local newspaper and you can take it out to the park next door or eat it inside.
Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.