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Archive for the ‘Best BBQ Joints in America’ Category

I have to admit, I don’t usually read, or think good things about the Los Angeles Times – but I have to give huge credit to Catharine Hamm, who really seems very wise.  At Pork Barrel BBQ, as two guys from Missouri, we love Kansas City BBQ and the KC Style of BBQ – especially Oklahoma Joes, Arthur Bryant’s. Gates and Jack Stacks – read this article to understand her brilliance!

Kansas City barbecue, the art of the heartland

By Catharine Hamm

Los Angeles Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Please don’t tell the family this, but they’re not the only reason I return to Kansas City whenever I can. I love them, of course, but I can talk to them on the phone. We can e-mail. We can Twitter, for crying out loud.

But barbecue is something you have to do in person. And it is best done here in the heartland. Sorry, Santa Maria, Calif. No disrespect to your juicy tri-tip. Forgive me, Lexington, N.C. Your pulled pork is fabulous. And a tip of the hat to you, Memphis, Tenn. Ribs at the Rendezvous are always memorable.

But Kansas City has made an art of this science of slow-smoked meats. So when business brought me back for 36 hours, I knew I could partake at least five times – if I didn’t mind barbecue for a late breakfast. And I didn’t, mostly. But I’ll explain that in a minute.

What I want to explain now is how Kansas City became a barbecue mecca and why you’re not going to hear me talk extensively about Arthur Bryant’s or Gates.

The barbecue legend started with Henry Perry, who is said to have opened a barbecue shack in the early 1900s in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Perry had an employee, Charlie Bryant, who eventually bought him out. Bryant had a brother, Arthur, who took over, opening what writer Calvin Trillin called the best restaurant in the world: the self-named barbecue apex that’s been at 18th and Brooklyn for a half-century or so.

Bryant’s has it all: the feel of a joint that’s just this side of grubby, the ribs that are just this side of heaven, which is where Arthur Bryant (and his brother and his brother’s former boss) now reside, I am certain. Taste the ribs or the sliced meats (or get them to go in the butcher paper) and you cannot help but believe.

Gates, meanwhile, traces its roots to George Gates, who also is said to have worked with Henry Perry. When you enter any Gates restaurant (there are six, including one up the street from Bryant’s), you’re greeted with, “Hi, may I help you?” which always unnerves me because I’m usually having a mental tussle: ribs? Burnt ends? Sliced beef sandwich?

There’s really no wrong answer. In nearly 20 years of Gates-going, I have never had anything less than fabulous, smoky, rich, and tender.

So in this discussion of barbecue, let’s put aside Bryant’s and Gates, because you cannot top perfection.

But you can compete with it. And in this last trip (and two before it), I ate my approximate weight in barbecue just to see if I could find a contender or two.

If you’re K.C.-bound this year – and you’ll find plenty to love about it if you are, including that prices for these feasts often run less than $15 a plate – I offer these suggestions, old and new, fancy and not. My list is by no means complete, because there are said to be about 80 barbecue places here, although recent news reports suggest the economy may have finished off a few of them.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack

If you’re in the mood for Spanish Moorish architecture and many of the city’s 200 fountains, choose the Jack Stack on the Country Club Plaza.

Up till this trip, I’d eaten at the Stack’s at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kan., and I loved the food. But this time, I chose the Country Club Plaza location in Kansas City, Mo., for a dinner with my cousins and my adopted aunt.

For every meal on this trip, I ordered burnt ends, which are a tribute to Arthur Bryant, who is credited with figuring out that chopping off and serving the crispy parts of the brisket could delight the masses.

Burnt ends aren’t incinerated the way a burger gets when it’s too close to the flame. The best ones are tender in the right spots and chewy-charred in spots. Jack Stack’s were right on. (The Poor Russ sandwich is made of burnt ends, and previous encounters with that gets my stamp of approval.)

Stack’s also has ribs: pork and beef, of course, and also crown prime rib and lamb, which I’ve not tried. The sides are stupendous: The beans have a wonderful smoky flavor, and the cheesy corn bake side dish is so good I’d go just for that.

Stack’s Plaza location is the kind of place you’d take out-of-town guests if you were trying to show them everything that’s right with Kansas City. The decor is rich and warm and unobtrusive.

The Plaza is also close to my new favorite place to stay (next to Chez Cousin, of course). Southmoreland on the Plaza, 116 E. 46th St., 816-531-7979, www.southmoreland.com, is a 12-room (plus Carriage House) B&B full of antiques.

I stayed in the Satchel Paige room. With a business rate of $109 and a breakfast worth getting out of bed for (great muffins, pastries and quiche), I found it more than satisfactory.

Danny Edwards

I’d regret my full breakfast only slightly upon arriving at Danny Edwards a little after 11 a.m. Every one of the 70 or so seats was taken, and when a table opened, my college friend Cindy and I grabbed it.

This Southwest Boulevard location in Kansas City, Mo., is new for Danny Edwards, whose father, Jake, was a barbecue legend. Danny (also known as Lil Jake) moved out of an 18-seat downtown shop a couple of years ago to this exposed-beam spot where “Gary B!” and “Mike W!” ring out as heaping plates of ribs and sandwiches come pouring out.

A bite of the burnt ends explained why Gary B and Mike W and, on this day, Cindy M and I were crowding the place: They were crispy-chewy with just the right amount of sauce. I think I am in love. Again. 

Brobecks Barbeque

Please, purists, don’t hurt me. I tried Brobecks in Johnson County, which opened in November 2007, and I liked it. A lot. The problem: Brobecks is not, strictly speaking, Kansas City barbecue. Instead, it relies on rubs, not sauces (although it has sauces too).

So I strayed off the farm and tried this Tennessee barbecue. I had the Tennessee Porker – pulled pork – and it was worth every guilty mouthful. But I also did the burnt-end dinner (served dry, without sauce) and found it delicious.

We also loved the steak fries and, most of all, the homemade potato chips, and Cindy noted that Brobecks gets extra credit because it offers dessert. We had to skip it because we were headed to our next stop. 

Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que

Minutes before the clock struck 9 p.m., we walked into Hayward’s, also in south Johnson County. I’m sure the folks would rather have stuck shards of glass in their eyes than serve one more customer, but we were on a mission, and they were gracious.

I’ve been a big Hayward’s fan almost since it opened in 1972 about two miles north of where it is now. I’ve never had a bad bit of barbecue there, but that night wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (though we did love the sweet potato fries). The 220-seat restaurant is not too jointy, not too snooty – you could take the in-laws and they’d feel comfortable.

We were near Gates (the Leawood location). I wanted to try it again. Or we could swing over to Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kan. Maybe we could make it to 85th Street and B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ in Kansas City, Mo., where the smoking pit is more than a half-century old. But I just couldn’t. One more mouthful and I was sure I was going to drop dead.

At least I would have died happy. 


Know Your Barbecue Styles

The word “barbecue” is thought to have derived from the Taino and Carib peoples of the Caribbean and South America, who slowly roasted meats over a bed of coals called a barbricot, which the Spanish pronounced “barbacoa.”

In his book Savage Barbecue, author Andrew Warnes theorizes that Europeans who encountered this way of cooking mixed the word “barbacoa” with “barbarian,” and the word “barbecue” was born.

It’s not always easy to say what barbecue is, but purists will say what it is not: It is not grilling meat over an open flame. Barbecue is a slow method of cooking – low heat, lots of time, lots of patience. Sauce may play a part, but might not be part of the cooking process.

Here’s a look at some of the regional differences.

Kansas City Barbecue. The sauce tends to be tomato-based, with molasses or brown sugar. It doesn’t soak in; it sits on top. Meat may be beef, pork or poultry.

Texas Barbecue. Beef brisket is king, and the sauce is spicier and thinner than the K.C. version.

South Carolina Barbecue. This is pork (shredded or pulled), and the sauce might be yellow, because it’s mustard-based. Coleslaw is part of the picture.

North Carolina Barbecue. Sauce tends to be more vinegar-based, with pepper. In the western part of the state, it may have a hint of tomato.

Memphis Barbecue. Relies on spiced rubs; sauce may be an afterthought.

Kansas City-Area Spots

Fiorella’s Jack Stack
4747 Wyandotte St.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-531-7427
www.jackstackbbq.com

Other locations:

13441 Holmes Rd.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-942-9141

101 W. 22d St.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-472-7427

9520 Metcalf Ave.
Overland Park, Kan.
913-385-7427

Brobecks

4615 Indian Creek Parkway
Overland Park, Kan.
913-901-9700
www.brobecksbbq.com

Danny Edwards

2900 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-283-0880

Haywards

11051 S. Antioch
Overland Park, Kan.
913-451-8080
www.haywardsbbq.com

Gates

1325 E. Emanuel Cleaver Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-531-7522
www.gatesbbq.com

Other locations:

1221 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-483-3880

10440 E. 40 Highway
Independence, Mo.
x816-353-5880

3205 Main St.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-753-0828

201 W. 103d
(103d and State Line)
Leawood, Kan.
913-383-1752

1026 State Ave.
Kansas City, Kan.
913-621-1134

Arthur Bryant’s

1727 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-231-1123
www.arthurbryantsbbq.com

Other locations:

1702 Village West Parkway
Kansas City, Kan.
913-788-7500

3200 N. Ameristar Dr.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-414-7474

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One of the reasons we started Pork Barrel BBQ was because we thought that DC was lacking good BBQ joints. Coming from Kansas City we got spoiled by a town that within an hours drive of downtown boasts enough BBQ joints that one can eat at one everyday for an entire year and not have to eat at the same joint twice in the year.

When we aren’t firing up our own grills in our backyards or at an event cooking our award winning BBQ we are still in search for great BBQ in the DC area. Last week we were excited to hear of the prospects of a new BBQ joint making its way to DC. Hill Country, a stalwart of the New York City BBQ scene (Is there a NYC BBQ scene? – I’m still trying to figure that out too.) is coming to DC’s Penn Quarter (at 410 Seventh St., NW) sometime next year (we hear July).

Hill Country pays homage to Lockhart, TX’s Kreuz Market. Kreuz Market is famous for selling its meats by weight and on butcher paper. A quick glance at the Hill Country website has us excited to try this new entry into the DC BBQ scene (Again, is there a DC BBQ scene? – We are still trying to figure that out too and if there isn’t one we are trying to get one started.) Not only are we looking forward to trying their BBQ, we’re looking forward to the prospects of a live country music venue in the heart of the city. Now the wait begins so you’ll still be able to find us in our backyards and at events in the area handing out our BBQ to all of our fans.

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About half of my formative years were spent roaming the streets of Sedalia, Missouri.  If you’re not familiar with Sedalia it’s a small town of about 21,000 folks about an hour and a half to the East of Kansas City.  Sedalia has a few claims to fame:

1.) During the Great Depression it was judged to be the second most economically damaged city behind Gary, Indiana – not a great claim to be able to make, but a claim none the less.

2.) Since 1901, the Missouri State Fair has been held in Sedalia.

3.)Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime” music made Sedalia his adopted home.

These are all interesting facts, but the two Sedalia claims to fame I particularly remember deal with food – the Guber Burger at the Wheel Inn and the BBQ at Dickie Doo Bar-B-Que! I’ll save the Guber Burger and the Wheel Inn for another post – this post is about one of the Best BBQ Joints in America – Dickie Doo Bar-B-Que! 
 
It was always a special event for us to get in the car and head to Dickie Doo Bar-B-Que when I was a kid.  Over the years some things have changed (it has a much larger and more diverse menu), but the thing I remember the most has stayed the same – Dickie Doo-Bar-B-Que has the best B.B.Q. Beans I’ve ever had – they are amazing and will put a smile on your face!!  The ribs are good as are the other BBQ dishes.  I can’t speak for some of the non-BBQ dishes, because I never get them, but others who have seemed happy.  If you’re ever in Sedalia drop into Dickie Doo’s and enjoy a great meal. Check them out on the internet for more information.  If you’re looking to make some great BBQ Beans of your own visit Pork Barrel BBQ’s website and order some of our Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and All American Spice Rub!!! 

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Jammin JoesIf you live in the Washington, D.C. area and travel to Charlottesville, VA on Route 29, then you probably know about on of our favorite roadside BBQ joint’s – Jammin’ Joe’s BBQ!

Jammin’ Joe’s address is: 5282 Lee Highway in New Baltimore, VA (5 miles South of Gainesville on Route 29) – BE CAREFUL– it is easy to miss, but you will be sad for the rest of the day if you miss it (trust me, I know). They operate out of a mobile BBQ trailer that looks like a log cabin. They were one of the inspirations behind us deciding to start Pork Barrel BBQ – it showed us that if you deliver quality product, even if its on the side of a highway, the people will come!

We are a huge fan of their Pulled Pork Sandwich – they provide a very generous portion, with a great sauce. Also, be sure to try their beans, I think they use 7 different beans! Check them out at on the web and in person next time you’re in New Baltimore, VA. They are big BBQ competitors and have recently opened a Florida location – be sure to try them out – you can say you knew about them before they become a household name!
 
You should also stop by and check out Pork Barrel BBQ on the web before we become a household name!  Stop by and get some of our All American Spice Rub!

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Oklahoma Joe's

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a great lunch inside a gas station? If so, look no further than Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas. Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue is situated inside of a Shamrock Gas Station – why not fill up your stomach at the same time you fill your car up?

Oklahoma Joe’s was conceived of on the competitive barbecue circuit in the early 1990s. The team that eventually went on to open Oklahoma Joe’s was know as “Slaughterhouse Five” and they won many Grand Championships, including the American Royal. Their first restaurant, Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue and Catering opened its doors in January 1996 in Stillwater, Oklahoma and their Kansas City location opened a few months later in August 1996. The Oklahoma location is now closed, but the Kansas City restaurant is going stronger than ever, in fact a second location has been opened in Olathe, Kansas.

Oklahoma Joe’s has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, The Food Network and PBS to name a few. Zagat rated Oklahmoa Joe’s as “Excellent” and the hometown Pitch Weekly gave it 3.5 Stars.

I’m a fan of the beef brisket, but can honestly say I’ve never had a meal at Oklahoma Joe’s that I didn’t enjoy and the novelty of the ambiance even makes the food taste better. Next time you are in Kansas City, Kansas stop by and give Oklahoma Joe’s a try. You can check them out on the web here.

Now go fill up your stomach and your car!!!  If you’re not in Kansas City and your looking for great bbq be sure to visit Pork Barrel BBQ on the web!

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You are sure to get a healthy argument in Kansas City over where to get the best BBQ.  Folks in Kansas City tend to be loyal to their favorite BBQ Joint like your dog is loyal to you.  One of the BBQ Joints that can claim as large of a loyal following as any in Kansas City is Arthur Bryant’s.

Arthur Bryant was know as the “King of Ribs” and some have called him the most renowned barbequer in the history of barbeque.  Arthur got into the barbeque business when he visited his brother Charlie, who worked for Henry Perry who started the Kansas City barbeque tradition.  Arthur never left Kansas City and the world of barbeque after this visit.  After Henry and Charlie died, Arthur took over the business and perfected the sauce.  About the sauce, he once said, “I make it so you can put it on bread and eat it.”

Arthur Bryant’s many loyal fans include New Yorker columnist Calvin Trillin, who once called Bryant’s the best restaurant in the world.  Over the years a number of Presidents have dined at Bryant’s, including Harry Truman (the Kansas City areas hometown President), Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  Other well known celebrities who have dined at Bryant’s include Steven Spielberg, George Brett, Wilt Chamberlain, Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson.

Bryant’s slow smokes its meats with a combination of hickory and oak woods (Pork Barrel BBQ’s favorite mix of smoking woods) to perfection.  Step up to the counter and order a beef sandwich with white or wheat Wonder Bread.  The man behind the counter slaps down the bread, puts at least a half pound of meat on the bread and then provides a generous slathering of sauce. There is literally enough meat on the sandwich for two or three meals!!!  Don’t forget to add fries, beans and a good helping of pickles and wash it all down with a Boulevard Wheat Beer – Kansas City’s hometown beer.

You’ll find the original Arthur Bryant’s at 1727 Brooklyn Avenue, in downtown Kansas City.  In recent years one has opened up at the Ameristar Casino and at the Legends at the Kansas Speedway. Check out Arthur Bryant’s on the web.

If you need anymore convincing just look at the picture at the top of this blog post and try not to drool all over yourself.

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rocklands

Since we are two guys from Missouri, you probably think all we can talk about is great Kansas City Barbecue – and you’d be almost right.  That being said we’ve found  a BBQ joint  in Alexandria, Virginia – Rocklands Barbecue – that isn’t half bad.

I have found their pulled pork sandwich to be good.  I like to order it as one of their blue plate specials – these include the choice of two sides (I like the collared greens and corn pudding).  Rocklands has four locations in the DC metro area. 

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