Here's Where You'll Find The Best BBQ in Kansas City
Texans insist that real barbecue is made with beef, while Carolinians maintain it must be pork. But folks in Kansas City have no such strictures. As Carolyn Wells, cofounder of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, puts it, "If it moves, we cook it." Beef, chicken, pork, turkey, sausage, and ribs are all fair game here—even ham.
Big platters of meat dressed in a spicy but tangy sauce, washed down with cold draft beer from a pitcher—that's the classic Kansas City barbecue experience. Don't forget to order "burnt ends," a local delicacy that got started at legendary Arthur Bryant's Barbeque. This might be the first time you've had them, but it won't be the last.
Arthur Bryant's Barbeque
Not many things have changed at this downtown institution since Mr. Arthur Bryant, who passed away in 1982, was there running the show. That's exactly how it should be. The countermen still pile tender folds of smoked beef on brown butcher paper, slather it with sauce, slap three or four slices of white bread on top, and wrap it all up into a delicious bundle. The french fries are still cut by hand, and Bryant's legendary original sauce is unique among the city's spots. More orange than brown and mildly hot with a bit of gritty texture from the spices, it gives a boost to a big open-faced beef sandwich, and it's one of the reasons why this house of barbecue remains an iconic American treasure. arthurbryantsbbq.com
Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ
In 2007, Danny Edwards moved into a sleek new building situated on Southwest Boulevard, but it retains the same slow-cooked meats and low-key vibe that have kept it a local favorite for more than 35 years. Try a KC classic: a combo sandwich with thinly sliced tender brisket and bright, smoky ham. Give it a squirt of the joint's sweet and tangy brown barbecue sauce. dannyedwardsblvdbbq.com
Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue
Each one of the five famed Jack Stack Barbecue restaurants is a large operation, offering a cocktail list for starters and ending with crème brûlée for dessert. The biggest of all is the Freight House location, a restored railroad warehouse. Jack Stack's broad menu covers the entire Kansas City canon—including ham, pork, brisket, spare ribs, turkey, and chicken—with upscale additions like lamb ribs and hickory-smoked prime rib. Don't miss out on the silky beef ribs and smoky burnt ends. jackstackbbq.com
Ollie Gates grew his parents' original restaurant into a barbecue empire, with six locations dotting the city. Don't be cowed by the insistent refrain of "Hi, may I help you?" coming from employees behind the counter. Order a pitcher of beer and a Mixed Plate. This popular menu choice is a fitting representation of the city's barbecue style: beef, ribs, and ham drizzled with a tangy reddish brown sauce and served alongside french fries and a big pile of pickles. gatesbbq.com
Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que
There's a reason why there's a line outside Joe's door six nights a week. A lot of barbecue fans are surprised to discover that the world-class joint is located inside a gas station—in fact, it is set in a green-and-white Shamrock station. Most patrons aren't here for gas but for the slow-smoked meats, especially items such as thinly sliced brisket and sweet sauce-glazed ribs. Be sure to order a cup of BBQ Beans on the side. joeskc.com
Visitors can't go all the way to Kansas City without trying the burnt ends at LC's Bar-B-Que. They are hands down the best in the whole city—sauce drenched and chewy with a delightful salty, smoky bark on the outside. They make the ideal warm-up for a tasty combo sandwich: Tender beef and slightly salty ham are piled between two slices of soft white bread that melds into the flavorful meat and tangy sauce with each bite. LC's is a smaller restaurant with just a handful of tables crammed into the dining area, but don't allow the unassuming space to fool you. The big warming pit sitting behind the counter, with towering metal doors blackened from many years of smoke and grease, contains plenty of barbecue treasures for hungry diners. lcsbarbq.com
Q39 is what you get when a classically trained chef relocates to Kansas City and gets seduced by its barbecue scene. Designed with an open kitchen and lots of rough-hewn wood, the setting fits a farm-to-table restaurant better than a barbecue place, but chef/owner Rob Magee's chipotle sausage, juicy chicken, and flavorful smoke-kissed brisket are proper pit products. The meaty pork ribs are glazed in thick, tangy sauce, and Magee throws in a few innovative spins on the lineup of traditional side dishes. Diners love standbys like the rich, creamy white bean cassoulet and coleslaw that has a zip of sweet acidity from apple shreds. The outcomes are always delicious. q39kc.com
Founded in 2014 by Mike and Joe Pearce, brothers and competition-circuit veterans, this small counter-service spot just west of the Kansas River is one of the city's up-and-coming barbecue restaurants. The 3 Ribs + Burnt Ends combo is a sure bet, assuming you arrive before the ribs sell out. But there's also plenty of slow-smoked brisket, turkey, pork, and sausage to satisfy tardy diners. slapsbbqkc.com