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KC BBQ recommendations

We're going to be in KC for two nights on our way to Des Moines. We will be staying at the Great Wolf Lodge near Cabela's on the way north side of town, but we don't mind a drive into the city for some good food. We're from Dallas, so we are familiar with the concept of driving an hour and still being in town!

I'd really like to eat some BBQ. In Texas, asking for 'cue recommendations is sometimes akin to starting a religious war, but I'd love to know what your favorite BBQ places are and why. I'm particularly interested in Arthur Bryant's or Jack Stack, but I have no idea about other places.

Also, what do I order? (Love burnt ends!)


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  1. I"m sure this post will bring out some strong opinions, but at the risk of being flamed I can tell you that I was in KC 2 years ago and went to Aurthur Bryant's and thought it was fantastic! I think I got a burnt end sandwich. I still daydream about it to this day...

    1. I love Arthur Bryant's, although I know some people are starting to stray. Best pulled pork sandwich, hands down. And there's one right out there at the Legends now.
      Jack Stack has the best burnt ends, no arguement, you can find it in the Crossroads or on the Plaza.
      My other favorite is Oklahoma Joes, they have some great meat and fries. Plus it's in a gas station which is unique. I'd stick with those and you won't be disappointed.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lwoerther

        I love Bryant's, probably more for the atmosphere and history than the food, which is also pretty darn great.

        That being said, Oklahoma Joe's and Smokin' Guns are outstanding. Both are run by people that made their reputations on the competition circuit. Smokin' Guns has some great burnt ends, too....go early because they sell out.

      2. I am sure I will be flamed for this, but honestly I like Famous Daves, they are at Village West. But there is Bryants out there too.

        1. I would recommend Jack Stack as my top choice. Oklahoma Joe's is my close second. Jack Stack is more up scale BBQ. Oklahoma Joe's is more greasy spoon. Both have really good food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jm054

            Second Jack Stack. It was the best I've every enjoyed. Arthur Bryant has a long rep but the ambience is not there from what I've been told.

          2. I'm relatively new to town so I while I've been to all these places, I haven't necessarily been a lot. That said, my experience is recent and not based on years of accumulated love or hate. Here's my thumbnail:

            Bryant's: Terrific, iconic, and you can't go wrong going to original. There are reports of inconsistency, but I've never had less than very good. Long waits at lunch, sliced beef sandwich is wonderful and would be a good comparison for a brisket-loving Texan, though different from what you get down in Luling and Lockhart.
            Jack Stack's: "Nice" atmosphere...doesn't speak BBQ to me at all. I thought the burnt ends were only okay. Same with the much-vaunted lamb ribs. Sides are good. Seems a very poor representation of KC BBQ to me on atmosphere alone (would avoid the Arthur Bryant near your hotel for the same reason, though I haven't been so don't know if there's a drop-off on the food)
            OK Joe's: Pretty close to me, seems pretty popular, meat is pretty bland, I thought, all the way around. Popular enough that I'll try it again, but I'm really in no hurry.
            Famous Dave's: No comment
            LC's (on Blue Pkwy): My favorite Q in town. My last takeout order there was absolutely heavenly...burnt ends are, at their best, mind blowingly good. Also had a short end and sliced, smoked pork. All really excellent.

            I still recommend Bryant's to visitors because it's an icon, but LC's is where I'd eat if I had the choice.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Aaron Deacon

              I still have a lot of Q research to do in KC, but if if I find something better than LC's Burnt Ends, I don't even know how I would react.

              1. re: Bobfrmia

                Did I just have a bad night at LC'S? My one experience a few years back was less than satisfactory. The burnt ends were really small & fatty and there was something wonky about the sauce - it was as if somebody had sprinkled sugar on top of it - seriously. I always give a second chance, however, I haven't tried it again because of location, location, location. (Given the consistently rave reviews on this board - I need to get my fanny out there again.)

                Everybody can have a bad day/night. We brought a a fair-sized group of out-of-towners to Jack's Stack (95th & Metcalf location) one night and - to a person - it was HORRIBLE. We were mortified after raving about it so much. Otherwise - we have always loved Jack's Stack. Still #1 in my book. Can't get enough of their lamb ribs & beans.

                I agree wholeheartedly with Aaron Deacon about Arthur Bryant's - never had anything less than good. Had a pork sandwich one time that about brought me to tears with it's awesomeness.

                OK Joe's - Love their pulled pork.

                Please report back, dalaimama! Have fun!

                1. re: Mushroom

                  I read about someone else that had a bad batch of burnt ends at LC's. They said they didn't look at all like some of the other servings. I wonder if when they run out, they try to fake it with something else.
                  Burnt ends are gonna be fatty, but mine weren't small or chewy. Tender, loaded with smoky flavor. I don't care for the sauce, so ask them to leave it off. Maybe I've been lucky, if so I hope it continues.

                  1. re: Mushroom

                    Just out of curiousity, here is a link to a pic of LC's burnt ends.
                    Is this how yours looked?


                    1. re: Bobfrmia

                      Good God!! Not even close! I've been robbed!

                      And you're right - I should have used "chewy" not "fatty".

                      Looks like LC's just rocketed to the top of my list!

              2. If you really don't mind driving, I love K&M BBQ in Spring Hill, KS. That would be nearly an hour south of your location. Although if you are driving North on I-35 from Dallas you could hit them on your way up or back down. They are about 10 minutes South of I-35 off 169 HWY (exit to 169 at Olathe). I think that they are closed Mondays.

                The sauce is sweet and spicy. The meat is tender and juicy. It is small town and off the beaten path, no fanciness here (although I hear that they are building a new place next to their current location).

                I am a rare BBQ fan in that, if you don't have good beans, you don't have good BBQ. These are the only beans that I like better than Jack's Stack (which many say are the best). The other sides are just ok to me, though. I get excited about Red Cream Soda, unusual around these parts, and they've got it. It's the little things, I suppose.

                4 Replies
                1. re: amy_rc

                  I do like Jack Stack beans, but sides are secondary to me. I like their cheesy corn bake too, but I don't go ga-ga for it like some.

                  1. re: Aaron Deacon

                    You know, Jack Stack's used to be IT for me, but the last couple of times, it has been VERY poor... I don't know if that was just bad luck or not.

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      I prefer the one in JoCo on Metcalf and 95th over the one in the Crossroads Dist. Very consistent and good as it has always been, IMO.

                      1. re: amy_rc

                        We usually go to the original one on Holmes... I've never been to the one in the Crossroads.

                2. Stick with the tried and true - Arthur Bryants on Brooklyn and OK Joes in the gas station - low and slow rules!

                  1. I'm sure I'm echoing others here, but my top two recomendations are OK Joe's and Jack Stack.

                    Everyone seems to rave about burt ends -- I don't get it.. There's nothing less appealing than gnawing on a fatty, chewy hunk of meat. ..And yes, LC's is where I experienced, (and ended) my first burnt ends experience. If you're at LC's go for something else smoked, you won't regret it. They have a great pit master. I just don't like burnt ends.

                    Back to Jack Stack. Best baby back ribs I've ever had. Best BBQ baked beans I've ever had. I've made many BBQ road trips to KC and when I've brought friends to Jack Stack, they always thought I was exagerating about the food -- until they ate there. From my buddy Jim, "These ribs are better than sex. I'd drive down here just for these."

                    Arthur Bryant's is good too. You won't go wrong with Oklahoma Joe's or Arthur Bryants. AB's is an institution, so you have to go at least once. OK Joe's is interesting because it's in a gas station/convenience store. They're on opposite ends of town.

                    Stay clear of Famous Dave's... cliche'd CHAIN. Not bad if it's your only choice, but really, you're in KC, there are so many better BBQ establishments to experience.

                    If you're on the North Side, hit Jack Stack downtown. It's tricky to find, but don't give up. It's a nice reward. The original one is neat, but it's a haul out there from the horth side.

                    If you have the time, catch a KC Roayls ballgame outdoors at night. The zoo is neat. They have some great museums (Check out the Jazz and Negro Baseball museums).

                    Most of all, have fun and Q it up!


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: s4zando

                      >>OK Joe's is interesting because it's in a gas station/convenience store.

                      I see this mentioned a lot as a reason to go to OK Joe's (to be fair, these recommenders also really like the meat, usually). I'm all for the physical place adding some to the experience--Bryant's is a perfect example.

                      But having a section of junk food and sundries adjacent to the eating area, and gas pumps out front, did nothing to enhance my enjoyment of OK Joe's. While I think hesitate to call the meat overrated due to its high popularity, single visit (many meats), and the general variability of BBQ, I certainly think the location is overrated.

                      1. re: s4zando

                        After living in Chicago for 4 years (KC Native), I crave burnt ends! They look at you like your nuts around here if you order rib tips or burnt ends.

                        1. re: stellamystar

                          You're going to the wrong places if you can't find rib tips...rib tips are a Chicago staple, in my experience. Try Honey 1, Lem's, or Barbara Ann's, for example. Check the Chicago board or LTHForum.

                          You're out of luck on burnt ends.

                      2. Okay, Jack Stack is pretty much a "chain" atmosphere, and the food is the same. Sides are very good, but I have never seen where they really do great meat.
                        Wyandotte BBQ is up the road from where you are staying, around 81st and State Ave.
                        Local and in business for a long time. Or go to the original Bryants, stop at the Negro Leagues museum.

                        1. We enjoy all of them, but I like Jack Stack. DH loves Bryant's. I'm a little surprised no one has mentioned Gate's.

                          1. Arthur Bryant's is still probably the best 'que I've ever had. From a native St. Louisan who's traveled a lot.

                            1. Whenever I go to KC (2-3 times a year) - I MUST go directly to JackStack. Crown prime beef ribs and beans are absolute musts for me - I highly recommend. Never been a fan of Bryants as much as others, although the sandwiches are good.

                              I'm having 2 gallons of the JackStack beans shipped into a family reunion in Pennsylvania in a couple of weeks - that's how good I think they are.

                              1. Thanks everyone for the great recommendations. Unfortunately, we are having to postpone our trip, but I am thrilled to have a great list of places to try!

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: dalaimama

                                  Add one more to your list in case you are interested in the best burnt ends on the planet... the BBQ Shack in Paola. It's a 25 min drive from 151st and 69 Hwy.

                                  1. re: SuperCorona

                                    Shake's place (the BBQ Shack) just filmed w/ Guy Fieri for the Food Network's Dives and Diners show....whatever that show is called. Shake's a cool guy with a cool place and he really knows his food.

                                    1. re: BackyardChef

                                      If you're staying at Great Wolf Lodge then I guess I would recommend going to Arthur Bryant's location in the Legends shopping area at the Speedway since it's so close. Although, I have never been to that location, so I have no idea if there's a drop off in the food or not.

                                      That being said, Bryant's SAUCE is sort of an acquired taste. You will either love it or hate it. But, it's unlike most other BBQ sauces you will encounter. Also, their fries are just OK. Kind of soggy really and I don't personally care for their BBQ beans. But their beef and pork sandwhiches really are good.

                                      Also, if you go to the original, just keep in mind, it's not in a good area. It's not terrible, but it's on the borderline of some very bad areas that you wouldn't want to get lost in. It's easy to find, but make sure you have good directions because you don't want to be circling the area looking for it.

                                      OK Joe's has some of the best ribs I've ever tasted and, in my opinion, a very good pulled pork sandwhich. I usually go for the Hog Heaven sandwhich; which is pulled pork and smoked sausage on a bun or bread. Their fries are quite possibly the best fries on the planet. I don't think i've ever been there with someone who didn't agree. Obviously it's not BBQ, but almost reason enough to go. Other than their fries, their other sides are just ok. In fact, i think their BBQ beans are awful. The fact that it's in a gas station is neither here nor there for me. It is what it is. Joe's bbq sauces are outstanding too. If you like it on the spicy sauce, definitely try the "Night of the Living Dead" sauce. It's definitely got a little heat to it.

                                      Jack Stack, and I primarily refer to the one downtown in our "crossroads" district. It's an amazing space. Sort of the antithesis of what you'd expect from a BBQ joint. So, it's a nice change of pace from eating in a gas station or the 'hood. I think the BBQ is really good, and if you don't mind splurging a little then the crown prime ribs are not to be missed. All of their sides are excellent too. Good fries, great beans, the beloved cheesy corn bake and even pretty damn good cole slaw. Their sauces, one orignal and one "hot", are very good too.

                                      Just outside of downtown and across the river, in North Kansas City, is Smokin' Guns; which i think is outstanding too. I personally think they have THE best ribs in town. In fact, they have previously won the Grand Champion award at the Jack Daniel's invitational; which is saying something. Their pulled pork is also very good. The beans are above average. They serve steak fries and i just personally don't like steak fries, but they''re ok. Their sauces are good but nothing spectacular. And it's sort of a no frills place as far as decor goes. About on par with OK Joe's, just that it's not in a gas station.

                                      LC's is good, but i haven't been for ages. Primarily because it's in a bad location that is difficult to find if you don't know where you're going and it's also really in an area of KC that's not all that safe. But if you're set on going there, the BBQ is top notch.

                                      1. re: blake1771

                                        Thanks for such great reviews. I'm really sad to be missing it, but it can't be helped.

                                        I'm in Dallas, so sauce is sort of a condiment here - 'cue should be able to stand on it's own without sauce.

                                        I think we may have to plan a longer visit next time, though, in order to hit all the 'cue!!!

                                        1. re: dalaimama

                                          agreed, but most people are going to put that sauce on their fries, sandwiches, be it a pulled pork or sliced beef or whatever and so on. So, i thought it would be helpful to give you my two cents on the respective bbq sauces. In any event, all of them are pretty good, it's just that Byrant's is markedly different and so therefore not everyone would like it.

                                          1. re: dalaimama

                                            I would never insult LC's Q with sauce. I also don't worry about the location. Just a couple miles off 435, on a highly traveled road. Never thought of it as a bad area.

                                            1. re: Bobfrmia

                                              OK sauce Nazis. I get your point. I can't believe they sell the stuff in stores or even put it on the table at those revered establishments.

                                              And yes, L.C.'s, original Bryant's, and the original Gate's (as well as a few of there other locations) are in high crime areas. That's an undisputable fact. Fortunately for Gates and Bryants they are within a couple blocks of i-70. so it's easy to get on and off the highway without noticing it too much or really endangering yourself too much. L.C.'s on the other hand, is not right off the interstate. If you come from I-435 i would agree it's not too bad, but if you're coming from West to East...it's bad.

                                              1. re: blake1771

                                                OK, good info to have.
                                                Oh, I'll be bringing home bottles of LC's sauce. Some people in my family love it. Just a matter of what each person likes.

                                                1. re: blake1771

                                                  I have never felt endangered going to LC's or Bryant's. Never been to Gates, and I'm not sure which is the original.

                                                  1. re: Aaron Deacon

                                                    The most dangerous thing at LC's is the thin film of accumulated BBQ history on the floor. Bring no-slip shoes!

                                                    1. re: heatherkay

                                                      LOL. How true. Made worse by the time I went and the exhaust fan was broke. The door propped open, smoke pouring out. Could barely see the counter from the door. I battled through it only to find them out of beef, I left disappointed, but damn did I smell good.

                                            2. re: blake1771

                                              Both of Bryant's satellite locations are sub-par at best. Stick with the original. Lunchtime is the best time to go.

                                            3. re: BackyardChef

                                              I ate at BBQ Shack the first day FN was there. It was fun watching Guy interview some of the diners and the food was great.