Of course no one agrees on who serves the best barbecue in Kansas City and with over 100 restaurants touting the city’s claim to fame, we’re not going to try to discern who makes the best pulled pork or burnt ends. But one thing is for certain, a trip to Kansas City is incomplete without barbecue, so here are a few noteworthy meat havens to add to your list.
You’ve probably heard of Oklahoma Joe’s—they’ve been featured time and time again on food shows, Bourdain names it on his list of restaurants to eat at before you die, not to mention they’ve taken the top prize at dozens of national barbecue competitions—well they’ve changed their name to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, but the pilgrimage worthy burnt ends and pulled pork remain the same. The line can be out the door any time of day at the original gas station location, but it’s worth the wait. Try the Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich, the Z-man with brisket and smoked provolone, burnt ends and ribs. And don’t forget a shareable side of seasoned fries.
3002 West 47th Avenue, Kansas City, KS; 913.722.3366; oklahomajoesbbq.com
Tucked in a nondescript strip mall on 39th Street, Q39 was opened just two years ago by CIA graduate, national barbecue champion and American Royal-winning chef Rob Magee and his wife Kelly. As far as barbecue joints go, it’s rather stylish—sporting an industrial-chic vibe with concrete floors, rustic wooden tables and a bustling open kitchen—with a focus on fresh ingredients and from-scratch dishes. The burnt end burger is as good as everyone says; a juicy ground brisket patty is topped with perfectly charred sliced burnt ends, spicy pickle slaw and their classic sauce. Or go with the Judges Plate and get a sampling of smoked meats with a side of apple coleslaw and baked beans.
1000 W. 39th St., Kansas City, MO; 816.255.3753; q39kc.com
This barbecue joint is a no-frills wood slat house and lumberyard, with a few tables, an ordering counter and a lingering smokey smell to draw you in. Smoked meats are their claim to fame (the thick cut house-smoked bacon makes its way into almost everything on the menu), along with the burnt end chili filled with smoked ground beef and beans, and topped with those perfect charred bits of beef brisket.
3001 Merriam Lane, Kansas City, KS; 913.362.8000; woodyardbbq.com
On the city’s east side (near Kauffman Stadium none-the-less), L.C.’s doesn’t offer much in the way of atmosphere, but this whole-in-the-wall sure knows their way around burnt ends. Stop in and get a sandwich to go, along with a side of their vinegary, peppery sauce, a few slices of white bread and an order of hand-cut fries.
5800 Blue Pkwy, Kansas City, MO; 816.923.4484
Chef and butcher Alex Pope worked at the American before opening his butcher shop and restaurant in the city’s industrial East Bottoms. Supporting local farms and humanely raised meats, the Local Pig has become a dining destination, with a serious selection of steaks, roasts, chops, inventive sausages (Thai peanut, burnt end barbecue, and goat chorizo to name a few), burgers and charcuterie. There’s also a permanent sandwich truck, Pigwich, parked outside for a meal on the go.
2618 Guinotte Avenue, Kansas City, MO; 816.200.1639; thelocalpig.com
Pork ribs, beef ribs, lamb ribs, brisket and steaks are all top notch at Kansas City’s famed Jack Stack. Started by Russ Fiorella back in 1957 and still run by the Fiorellas three generations later, Jack Stack has become a hickory wood smoked institution in the city. They’re also known for the classic homestyle sides, such as the cheesy corn bake and hickory pit beans.
101 W 22nd Street, Kansas City, MO; 816.472.7427; jackstackbbq.com
Formerly Lil’ Jakes, Danny Edward’s tiny barbecue joint moved to bigger digs. Now patrons can sit and enjoy heirloom recipes that the Edward family has been passing down since the Great Depression. Opt for big, meaty ribs, tender and juicy turkey or the beef brisket. Better yet, try all three.
2900 Southwest Boulevard, Kansas City, MO; 816.283.0880; dannyedwardsblvdbbq.com
Open since the 1920s, Arthur Bryant’s is legendary. Just go, try the pit ham, burnt ends and fresh cut fries, and soak in the history. It’s a must.
1727 Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, MO; 816.231.1123; arthurbryantsbbq.com
Everyone knows that nothing pairs with barbecue like a hefty serving of blues music. At B.B.’s Lawnside, you get both. Opt for gigantic slabs of saucy ribs served with pit beans and white bread. The sauce is tart and sweet, and the ribs are arguably the best in the city. And in this city, that’s saying a lot.
1205 East 85th Street, 816.822.7427; bbslawnsidebbq.com