Kansas City is Barbecue Central. You can get a variety of styles of BBQ there. You can go to mom and pop stands or fancy BBQ. Since we have never claimed to be “fancy people,” upper scale BBQ would not likely fit our dining plans in Kansas City.
Kansas City barbecue is considered a slow-smoked style, using tomato-based or molasses-based sauces. You can find more than 100 ‘cue places in the Metro area, according to the Kansas City Visitors Bureau.
We thought we’d share our list of favorite BBQ joints in Kansas City. While one of our all-time favorite BBQ joints is Wabash in Excelsior Springs, we decided to focus on Kansas City. Excelsior Springs is about a 35-minute drive from KC. But, well worth the trip.
We discussed rating our favorites, but we kept finding positives about each one. So much so, that there was no way to come up with a rating system on our end. I realize people have their favorites and can easily defend their choice, we found that reviewing our favorite barbecue places suits us better.
We actually visited a new spot on a recent trip and came away super impressed. Q39 is on 39th Street, near the Westport district. It’s been open for a little longer than a year, but it has a great clientele. It was packed with people waiting outside. Apparently, it’s usually that busy. The wait wasn’t long. People tend to enjoy their meal and then move along. Don’t let an outside line deter you from some great BBQ.
The food is delicious. Lisa chose a slider combination off their appetizer menu. Three slider sandwiches – pork, brisket and chicken. They were topped with coleslaw, pickled onions or honey glaze. She loved each one.
I ordered the combo plate. It comes with a choice of two meats – 2 spare ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage. I went with spare ribs and brisket. It came with a side of apple coleslaw and either potato salad or baked beans. I went with the potato salad. My meal was beyond delicious. The ribs may have been the best I’ve had, to be honest. They fell off the bone and were so easy to cut and eat.
The meal may have been made by the coleslaw. I love coleslaw, but this was a great side. It is apple coleslaw, with tiny bits of Granny Smith apples in the mix. Lisa even loved it, and she’s far from a coleslaw fan. She later said we could have ordered a large serving of the coleslaw and just ate that. LOL.
The service is outstanding and very professional. The restaurant is located in a small center with a few other businesses. Q39 is a “must” when visiting Kansas City. We’ll be back.
Our next venue is Char Bar. Located in the heart of Westport, Char Bar offers a nice take on smoked meats and barbecue. “Meet Mitch” sauces highlight the toppings you can put on your grilled, smoked or barbecued meats. You have a great selection of delicious food.
I ordered Burnt Heaven, which included smoked burnt ends, smoked sausage, fried jalapeno and creamy coleslaw on an egg bun topped with chipotle mayo. Spicy, but sooooo good.
Lisa had the Sweet Caroline. It’s a Charleston-style pulled chicken sandwich, topped with Tillamook cheddar cheese and smoked bacon on a toasted hoagie.
We rolled out of Char Bar impressed with its menu selections. In addition, the restaurant/bar has a huge beer garden, which doubles as an adult playground. You can play bocce ball, croquet, table tennis and bean bag toss.
Next up is a Kansas City classic BBQ joint. It’s so classic that it started inside a gas station…and is still there. Joe’s Kansas City (then Oklahoma Joe’s when we first dined there) is located inside the Shamrock gas station in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. It has outlets, but the original location was our choice to visit first.
We met a couple from the St. Louis area, who were dining there for the second time in a weekend. We’ve done that, too. If you love a place, why go against it? As we stood in line (and you WILL stand in line) for a short time, we checked out the menu. He suggested we try the rib combination plate.
When it was our turn to order inside, I did order the rib combo. I wasn’t disappointed. Four spare ribs and brisket were loaded on my plate. A couple slices of toasted Texas toast were added. My two sides – coleslaw and baked beans – were in bowls next to the plate.
The ribs slid off the bone. They practically melted in my mouth. They were rubbed perfectly with seasoning. Being me, I had to try some of the BBQ sauce, so I added a very little bit to the ribs. Amazing! My entire meal – what I could eat of it – was delicious!
Lisa opted for the Carolina pulled pork sandwich. It’s topped with coleslaw. We shared a few bites of the onion rings she had as a side. The entire meal was a great choice.
Our fourth stop brings to Fiorella’s Jack Stack. It was started in Martin City, south of KC. But, we dined at the location near Union Station. This is far from a knock on the BBQ, but the best thing about dining at Jack Stack is the dessert. The carrot cake, to be specific.
And that’s where we’ll start. The slice of cake is huge! It can easily feed 3-4 people. The icing melted over the sides of the carrot cake. It was very moist. We were stuffed and couldn’t finish it. Normally, we would probably just leave it, but not this time. We had it packed in a box for later consumption. And it was just as good that night.
So, what did we have for entrees? Does it matter? We had the best-ever carrot cake for dessert. But, seriously, I ordered the burnt ends plate. Some of the best burnt ends I’ve had. No fat, and cut perfectly into cubes. It came with a side of fries. But, I struggled to finish the burnt ends. So good.
Lisa ordered the two-meat combo, with turkey and brisket. Hers also came with fries.
Our final trip through Kansas City BBQ heaven takes us to the original Arthur Bryant’s in the 18th and Vine District. The district is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Jazz Museum and excellent BBQ.
Part of the Arthur Bryant’s experience is the building itself. It’s an older building, with aged tiles on the floor. It just screams old-time BBQ joint.
The staff is located behind a window. You stand in line, place your order and pick up your food. The sauces are on the table.
You get a lot of food for a reasonable price. We ordered 1.5 lbs. of meat – burnt ends, turkey and pulled pork. The burnt ends were impressive. I like burnt ends, if you haven’t noticed. We couldn’t finish it all. The side of coleslaw was excellent.
Arthur Bryant’s has a distinctive history. American presidents and celebrities have dined there. It was featured during the 2015 World Series on Fox TV.
Kansas City barbecue is yours for the picking. I’m not sure you can go wrong at any of the places in the area. But, people develop their favorite places and can have a fierce loyalty. Take your own KC BBQ tour and choose your favorite. Enjoy!
For more information on each of the locations we checked out, please visit: