HOME > Chowhound > General Midwest Archive >


BBQ Roadtrip

I live in Chicago, and am going to plan a roadtrip from Chicago to Kansas City, St. Louis and back. Any suggestions for great BBQ or beer on that general route? Does that route make any sense, or should we go in another direction or take any specific roads? Memphis may be a little too far to go, since we will be using a long weekend.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are a lot of good BBQ joints in Kansas City, but I recommend Oklahoma Joe's. There are 2 of them in KC. One is in Olathe, KS a few minutes from I-35 (about 20 miles South of downtown KC). Anthony Bourdain has a list of the 13 places to eat before you die, and Oklahoma Joe's is #13 on his list.

    Oklahoma Joe's BBQ & Cater
    11950 S Strang Line Rd, Olathe, KS 66062

    1. You could do a search for KC BBQ and read for a week.
      Myself, every few months I drive from Des Moines to LC' s BBQ on Blue Prkwy for Burnt Ends. The best food on earth.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bobfrmia

        Hey Shaggy, a Scooby reference perhaps? Regardless, Kansas City has the best barbeque. Tons of information available, so let's talk beer. Kansas City is home to Boulevard Brewing Co,, check out their website. They are located on Southwest Boulevard in the heart of Kansas City's historic Hispanic neighborhood. This is just west of the Crossroads and the Freighthouse district, and just southwest of downtown. Tours are available several times a week and reservations can be made online. I can't say for sure, but I believe that when you take the tour you actually get ....Free Beer! Please don't get mad at me if I am mistaken, but the tour would be entertaining regardless.
        This part of town has a number of quality restaurants, since you specify barbeque, the Freighthouse District has a Jack Stack location, but back to beer.
        The Power and Light District on the south side of downtown by the Sprint Center, has the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. This is a chain with numerous locations. They have tasty bar food and a ton of different beers. I hope that this will help you with your trip and I sincerely hope that you enjoy your time in Kansas City.

        1. re: powillie

          Also for beer. Head about 40 minutes West to Lawrence and the Free State Brewery. Excellent beers and some darn good food.

          1. re: powillie

            Boulevard does some good beers. I enjoy the Single Wide, and the Smokestack series is fun. E-mail the brewery ahead of time, and they'll probably hook you up with a good tour. One of the guys from the brewery post at Beer Advocate, and he always says if you let them know when you're coming, they'll try to hook you up.

          2. You ask "should you go in another direction" for great BBQ.



            8 Replies
            1. re: Jaymes

              Love to read your reviews of KC BBQ. Could you link to them?

              1. re: Bobfrmia

                Don't have reviews online to which I could link. At least, I don't think I do. But hey, maybe I do. I'll have to think about it. I'm old and have been eating and writing a very long time, much of it in Kansas City. And I am a member of the KCBS, and a graduate of their judging class.

                Not really a link, or a proper review, but in Kansas City, I will say that my two favorites are LC's and Oklahoma Joe's, both mentioned above, and both quite good and well worth a road trip.

                But I will add that your beloved "burnt ends" are just what we call everyday ol' bbq brisket in Central Texas.

                Which is much better.

                Perhaps you could mention, just by way of comparison, your impressions of your visits to the great barbecue temples of Central Texas.

                1. re: Jaymes

                  I'd love to, except I've never experienced Texas BBQ. I would not presume Texas BBQ isn't as good as KC BBQ, or anywhere else.
                  You directed the OP to bypass KC, and go to Texas. I just wondered why.
                  LC's "beloved" burnt ends are just everyday ol' bbq in Central Texas? I envy you. I've had burnt ends in many bbq places, and LC's takes them to a totally higher level. If that level is below your Central Texas level, well, enjoy.
                  Anyway, I think Texas takes the OP off his scheduled route.

                  1. re: Bobfrmia

                    Well, I was partly jess kiddin'. Regional pride and all that.

                    The truth of the matter is that, in my opinion, the old German meat markets in Central Texas do turn out smoked brisket that is the best anywhere, and that does include LC's burnt ends, although LC's burnt ends come in a pretty strong second. And more truth is that this brisket fit for the gods is only produced in small towns in Central Texas. Nobody else in Texas, that I have found anyway and I've done a lot of looking, can even come close. Not Dallas and most certainly not Houston. You KC barbecue fans are eating much better 'cue on a regular basis than anyone in the major metropolitan areas in Texas, unless you're talking about somebody in San Antonio that drives the half-hour or so to Luling. Or somebody in Austin that drives the 45 minutes or so to Lockhart or Taylor.

                    Central Texas sausage is also ambrosial, thanks to the Germans and Czechs that settled there around the turn of the last century. They missed their smoked meats of home, and thus began the grand tradition that lingers today.

                    However, Kansas City has Texas beat for ribs, unless y'all slather them with that cloyingly sweet sauce. And the beans at LC's are to die for. I love those beans.

                    All in all, it's probably a tie.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      Good Q needs no sauce. I'm from Iowa, I go South for the Q.
                      Regional pride. Fine, I'm coming your way, and bringing the best breaded pork tenderloin sandwich you'll ever imagine.
                      Wait, Texas doesn't recognize pork.
                      This is what keeps Chowhound fun.

                        1. re: Jaymes

                          Jaymes, I am from KC and I believe that KC Barbeque is the best, although we do owe a debt of gratitute to Texas. Charlie Bryant came here from Texas where the technique was perfected to create the world's greatest barbeque. However, I would like to request your help. Several years ago, I was driving down to the Valley to visit my brother. Somewhere between Fort Worth and Austin, maybe around Waco, we stopped at a small, old-fashioned gas station, on the west side of I-35. Inside by the register was a display case filled with smoked meats Everything looked really tasty, but what caught my eye, and what I bought, was sausage on a stick. This sausage was incredible. It was a course ground german sausage with lots of garlic and black pepper. Do you kinow where this place is? What exit do I take to get there? If you can help me, I would be eternally grateful. If not, thanks for listening.

                          1. re: powillie


                            I'm not positive and I drive that highway a lot, so you think I'd know, but here's a guess.

                            It sounds like something around the little Czech town of West. The Nemecek Bros Meat Market there turns out great sausage, and several of the local stores carry it. The only thing that is giving me pause is that most of the gas stations, kolache bakeries, and the Nemecek Bros storefront itself are on the east side of I35. But it's a strong possibility that there's a combination gas station convenience store on the west side that carries it.

                            I'd strongly suggest that you post your question on the Texas boards. Texans drive a lot, and we do love our sausage, so I'm positive someone will know. Unfortunately, in their great wisdom, the powers that be here have decided not to put "Austin" on the "Texas" forum, so if I were you, I'd post my question both places - Austin and Texas.

                            I will also say that there are a great many Central Texas BBQ joints that make their own sausage and they sound a lot like what you describe. Many of them do offer mail order, so you might check Kreuz, Luling City Market (NOT the one in Houston which is not connected to the legendary place in Luling but just stole their name), Smitty's, Louie Mueller in Taylor, and two places in Elgin - Meyer's and Southside.

                            Good luck!

                            ETA - I'll be driving that road in about three weeks or so. Right now, I'm up in your neck o' the woods, but I'll head back to Texas sometime the last week of July, so I'll keep an eye out for you. There is a small old gas station/grocery store on the west side of the road a little farther south than West - at Jarrell, I think. I can't recall if they sell any smoked meats, but it's a real possibility. It's got a gravel parking lot out front, and it faces I35 at an angle. I'll check it out.

                2. Of course KC is the mecca of your BBQ pilgramage. But that journey takes you straight through Columbia where Buckinghams throws down some very credible Q.

                  1. In St. Louis, Pappy's is great. If you can find a bbq pork steak, that is a St Louis specialty but they are hard to find in a restaurant. The best imo, are cooked low and slow and sauced while cooking so it caramelizes and burns slightly. You might find one at a parking lot BBQ or if you can wangle an invite to someones backyard.

                      1. re: bbqboy

                        Thanks for the suggestions, these all look great. One place I will definitely be stopping is the Three Floyd's Brewery in Indiana, they probably have some of the best craft beer in the midwest right now.

                        1. re: Shaggy

                          go west to Lawrence for Free State Brewery. It will be worth your while. really.
                          You might not come back.

                          1. re: Shaggy

                            I envy you going to FFF. Alpha King is my favorite beer, but I rarely am able to get it. Try the Gumballhead. A truly unique wheat beer. One of my all time best. Anything they have only available at the brewpub should be awesome.

                        2. I'm partial to Jack Stack and Gates in KC, though there are plenty of good options.

                          A few more places for beer - Millstream in the Amana Colonies, IA (just off I-80); Flat Branch in Columbia, MO; and Schlafly in St. Louis.

                          1. I lived in Kansas City for years and my faith still lies in Gates BBQ and Arthur Bryant's. Of course, I have no idea if these two places are still in business since I don't live there anymore, but these are old time places that are still on top of my list. Have fun, regardless........you'll find something you like in Kansas City. It's a great town.

                            1. Has anyone directed you to Murphysboro, Ill? I've been to mosgt of the others on this list (and lived near Lockhart, Tex. as well as worked a pit in El Paso) and have no hesitation in saying that 17th St. Bar and Grill is right up there with the best of any type of barbecue.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bring Back the Stein

                                There is also a 17th Street close to St Louis in/around Fairview Heights and in Marion, Il. Some say that the one in Murphysboro is the best though.

                                1. re: Bring Back the Stein

                                  17 st was a big disappointment to me. I read many reviews where it said the meat tasted like it had been rewarmed. I specifically contacted them and asked the question and was assured that no, they do not serve rewarmed meat.

                                  It was all re-warmed. I would not make the trip again.

                                  I have eaten at Jacks Stack and LC's and they both blew 17th away.



                                2. Shaggy,

                                  There are so many good choices in the KC area that different folks will tell you different ones. Is there a specific type of meat or style of Que that you would like? That would change the recs.

                                  Also, when are you coming?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: KansasTravel

                                    No specific type of bbq, however we would lean towards ribs I think. Mostly I would like something that is distinctely "Kansas City" or "St Louis" style. I lived in NYC for a few years, and many of the bbq joints serve these styles, but I have no idea if they are authentic.
                                    We are visiting around the first weekend in September I think.


                                    1. re: Shaggy

                                      A just out pretty comprehensive list.
                                      If you want to hit some more local but no less delicious, you might head for Woodyard and Smokin' Guns. Just a thought.

                                      1. re: Shaggy

                                        I would recommend checking out the KCBS event schedule to see if there is going to be a competition somewhere along your journey. Here is the link http://www.kcbs.us/events.php?year=20...

                                        1. re: tiomano

                                          While attending a competition is a lot of fun, please be aware that most contests do not allow the teams to share/sell food. The American Royal has allowed teams to obtain a permit to sell, as has the Great American Barbecue. Most of the smaller contests do not allow this and you will have to buy barbecue from a vendor. Its not always the best 'que available.

                                          1. re: chileheadmike

                                            i judge a lot of smaller events and they have what they call a taster kit available for usually $5. And with that they award a peoples choice award. Now I don't hang in KC too often so that may be the case there but down here, Friends who have done this have loved it.

                                            1. re: tiomano

                                              The Lawrence Sertoma cookoff does this, and we've participated several times. Its a lot of fun for us because we get to talk to people, and fun for the people to taste and find out more about barbecue.

                                    2. To update everyone, we went to Oklahoma Joe's for ribs, and Big T's for burnt ends (LC's was closed). Big T's was really good, not overly sauced. and really tender. The ribs at Joe's were the best I've ever had, hands down, well worth the wait to get a table. I can't imagine a better rib.