Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City)

Okay, let’s get the Kansas City meat-a-thon going. As I said at the end of last week, we drove down to Kansas City for three days for a trip that was largely built around the eating of barbecue. As you doubtless know, Kansas City is one of the four traditional centers of barbecue in the United States—Texas, Memphis and the Carolinas being the others. The major differences between Kansas City barbecue and the others is first of all a more catholic approach to meat: there is no meat that is given emphasis over others in Kansas City. Anything that can be barbecued is. The other is the deployment of a tomato-based sauce with more than a little sweetness to it. Our main desire with the eating of barbecue was to eat at places with historical/cultural significance rather than places that top “Best of” lists. To this end I looked up reviews and articles online and canvassed recommendations on social media. We settled on Arthur Bryant’s and Gates for the historical/cultural significance. But we began our eating at the relatively much-newer Joe’s Kansas City which does often land at or near the top of those “Best of” lists. We had dinner there just a few hours after arriving in Kansas City.

We were not eating in, however. I had called to order curbside takeout and was told by the person taking my order that as long as I picked up the food curbside, we’d be welcome to eat it, sans table service, outdoors on their patio. Having spent 6 hours inside the car we jumped at this chance to sit outside. And really, at least right now, this is the right play to make at Joe’s. We were at the original location—famously situated inside a gas station/convenience store—and it was HEAVING with people, only three or four of whom were wearing masks. The line to order before you even got to sit down in the dining area stretched from outside the front door. Placing a phone order (you can also order online), parking and then going through the rest of the curbside check-in/pickup process and walking our food over to an outdoor table was much, much easier.

(If you’re interested in the story of Joe’s Kansas City you can find it on their website.)

What did we get? Two sandwiches and the smoked chicken dinner for the boys. The two sandwiches are among their signature dishes. The Z-Man features sliced brisket, smoked provolone and onion rings. The Rocket Pig features pulled pork with barbecue glaze, bacon, pepper jack cheese and bbq mayo and is topped with batter-fried jalapenos. Both are served in toasted Kaiser rolls. Both are also excellent though we each preferred a different one: the missus ate most of the Z-Man and I ate most of the Rocket Pig. The boys scarfed most of the half chicken in the smoked chicken dinner down in record time. Four sides: bbq beans (with a lot of meat), potato salad, spicy slaw and seasonal vegetable which on the night was a tangy corn salad. Two of these sides came with the smoked chicken dinner (one extra on Mondays). The potato salad was just okay; the corn and the spicy slaw were good; the bbq beans were excellent with a fair bit of smoke and a bit of a spicy kick. And, oh yes, we liked the bbq sauce enough to buy a bottle.

For a look at the restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for more thoughts on the food and to see how much it cost.

How was it all? Well, it was great. Both sandwiches were excellent and the smoked chicken was the best we’ve had by some distance. We are no barbecue mavens—we’ve never been to Texas, Memphis or the Carolinas—but this was easily the best barbecue we’d had until that point. It will not surprise anyone that we thought this was far better than any barbecue we’ve had in Minnesota. And hopefully, it won’t offend anyone to read this either: you’d certainly expect one of the best barbecue places in Kansas City, one that emerged from the crucible of an intense competition circuit, to be far superior to anything in Minnesota.

It was also extremely reasonably priced: before tip it was less than $45.  I don’t know when we’ll back in/pass through Kansas City again but I’d love to try their ribs and burnt ends as well as a number of their other sandwiches.

Next up from Kansas City: another barbecue meal, this one from a much older and more storied restaurant. That’ll be next weekend. Before that, however, I’ll have a report on dinner in St. Paul.



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