Food Critics: The Best Ribs In Kansas City | KCUR

Food Critics: The Best Ribs In Kansas City

May 27, 2016

Char Bar ribs.
Credit Char Bar/Facebook

Because we’re Kansas City, we automatically associate ribs with barbecue. But other cultures have their own ways of serving those succulent bits of bone, fat and meat.

From hefty slabs (sauce optional) to lighter seasonal short rib dishes to a Mexican-Korean fusion sandwich, KCUR’s Food Critics search out the best ribs in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Joe’s Kansas City constantly gets the nod in national media about their ribs. It’s hard to argue with that assessment.
  • Danny Edwards has great ribs; they’re meaty and moist. They’re also very lean and tender.
  • Houston’s baby back ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and meaty, with very little fat. I don’t usually recommend a chain restaurant, but these are hard to beat. Always good, very consistent.
  • The Crown Prime Beef Ribs at Jack Stack are the closest thing to Texas BBQ that you can find in KC. One rib is enough for a meal; the meat is incredibly tender and moist, and no sauce is needed.
  • I love the ribs at Arthur Bryant’s; that what I usually order.
  • Short ribs can be done in so many ways. In the winter, they’re comfort food; the ribs are still whole, and they’re usually braised slow and low and served with grits or mashed potatoes. Right now, they can be found in spring dishes with a lighter touch.
  • At The Rieger, go for the short rib confit (pickled beet, celery root, bone marrow toasted brioche, micro mustard greens). It’s lovely.
  • Room 39 has a short rib ravioli with chimichurri.
  • I also like the Señor Chang sandwich at The Bite: beef short ribs, queso fresco, Sriracha crema, jalapeños, pickled onions, radish and cilantro. I think it’s great; it’s kind of like the Mexican version of a banh mi sandwich. Tons of flavor.
  • For buying ribs to make at home: McGonigle’s Market, Broadway Butcher Shop, Local Pig, Bichelmeyer Meats.

Bonjwing Lee, The Ulterior Epicure:

  • I love the ribs at Joe’s Kansas City. I think they’re just very consistent with their ribs. I like them to pull off the bone cleanly, and I think they do a good job.
  • The ribs at LC's Bar-B-Q are meaty, and you kind of have to tug them off the bone a little bit; they’re a little more shaggy on the bone. What I do like about their sauce is that it’s vinegary and tangy; I like that acid with all the fat in their barbecue.
  • Rye
  • The ribs at Wabash BBQ are pretty good.
  • Big T’s Bar-B-Q. I like going there for the rib tips. I like gnawing on them; they’re full of fat and flavor.
  • Bo Ling's for their dim sum riblets.

Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:

  • The short ribs at Story are succulent, fork-tender and delicious.
  • I’m a life-long LC’s fan. Their ribs are meaty, smoky and delectable. After just a couple, I’m stuffed; they’re truly meaty. LC’s is a classic; unfortunately, there just aren’t that many places like that anymore. It’s right up there with Arthur Bryant’s in terms of iconic.
  • Char Bar: Generously meaty, flavorful, saucy.
  • Chinese spare ribs: It’s harder to find char siu ribs on local Asian menus than you might think. Chinese-style spare ribs used to be a real staple of both Chinese and Polynesian restaurants. But you can still find a good pu pu platter; my favorite is at the Steam Bowl Restaurant on Independence Avenue. It comes in a segmented wooden bowl and a little brazier with a blue flame, and it includes chicken wings (they taste prefabricated), very tasty spare ribs, crab rangoon, teriyaki beef skewers, and big fat egg rolls. And one of the things I do love about Chinese spare ribs (that’ll probably affect me like my years of smoking) is they’re traditionally made with red food coloring. If you find a pu pu platter, the spare ribs are the highlight of the dish.

Listener recommendations:

  • Big T’s is just a couple of blocks from LC’s. On the weekends, if you get there early, they have beef short ribs and they’re great. You gotta respect a joint that can hold its own so close to LC’s for a number of years.
  • The ribs at LC’s is amazing; the sauce is delicious.
  • Brobeck’s BBQ is my favorite. It’s a small, family-owned place, and it always has really good ribs — very meaty, and the sides are good. They also have a big tub filled with everyone else’s sauce in town; you can pick your bottle and choose what you want to put on your ribs.
  • Guy & Mae’s Tavern in Williamsburg, Kansas has fantastic ribs. The atmosphere is old-school dive bar; it’s been there a long time. It's worth the drive.
  • The ribs at Q39 are really consistent for me. I also like Slaps BBQ, but get there early; they sell out quickly.
  • I can’t drive down Ward Parkway at lunchtime and not turn into McGonigle’s Market. They always have the smoker out at lunchtime. Their ribs are incredible and you can smell it for a mile around.
  • Cacao, a Latin-influenced restaurant, has tremendous baby back ribs.
  • Johnny’s BBQ in Mission.
  • The lamb ribs at Jack Stack are excellent.
  • We B Smokin BBQ (in Osawatomie, Kansas) is actually at the Miami County Airport, so you can watch the planes take off and land as you eat. The ribs are to die for; they’re very tender. And the barbecue beans are loaded with rib meat and are really a meal in itself. It’s across from the Mid-Way Drive-In Theatre, which is one of the few drive-ins in Kansas, so it’s a great family outing to eat ribs then see a movie.
  • All Slabbed Up in Leavenworth. The ribs are a little bit smoky, a little bit sweet.
  • My favorites are at Jack Stack, Char Bar, Q39 and Joe’s KC, but the hands-down best ribs are at Houston’s. Second best are at Jack Stack.

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.