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Jun 30, 2014 02:13 PM

Bryant's & Oklahoma Joe's, Kansas City

I've been to Arthur Bryant's many times in the past. It is my considered opinion that Kansas City BBQ means beef. I live in Mississippi and Southern BBQ pretty much always means pork. So, my usual order at Bryant's is burnt ends and brisket and I've always loved them. I went this time as usual and loved them as usual.

I've never been crazy about Bryant's sauce - it's a little too sweet for me and not quite spicy enough. (I do tend to prefer vinegary sauces, but even when not, I don't want them too sweet.) Strangely, though I think Gate's BBQ is inferior, I do prefer their sauce to Bryant's.

But, this time I wanted to try Oklahoma Joe's as well. I stood in the rather long - about 45 minutes on a Monday afternoon - line and ordered a platter of burnt ends - today's special, and also a pulled pork sandwich as they claim that is their specialty.

I loved the burnt ends. I loved them even more than Bryant's. There were more crispy bits, less fat and they weren't quite as chewy. The spicier of the two BBQ sauces was excellent as well. Overall, Oklahoma Joe's is my new go to place for burnt ends. The pulled pork, however, failed to change my thinking about what animal is best eaten BBQ'd in Kansas City. If it were anywhere around the South I wouldn't be bothering to have it again. (I don't know how it stacks up against other pulled pork here in KC.)

If you ever want truly great pulled pork - to see what Oklahoma Joe's is up against - try Payne's in Memphis or any number of places in North Carolina.

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  1. Although I am no expert on KC barbecue, in preparation for my trip to KC last week, I read lots about the various places, particularly in this discussion:

    What's best these days in Kansas City BBQ? -

    It quickly became clear to me that there were two places getting lots more recommendations than anywhere else: Jack Stack, and Oklahoma Joe's. I looked at their website menus, and the decision was easy for me. Jack Stack had two items that stood out and were not on the OK Joe menu: barbecued beef short ribs, and their onion rings (which I knew were something special, based on the $5.95 price for three onion rings). Even better, Jack Stack has a combo platter called Jack's Best, which includes (as stated on the menu) "one Crown Prime Beef Rib - well-marbled beef short ribs that will melt in your mouth, Baby Back Ribs, and Beef Burnt Ends". So that's where I went (the location on 22nd Street across the tracks from Union Station), and that's what I got.

    I thought the beef short rib was superb. They actually gave me a rib and a half. They were enormous and delicious, moist and tender and meaty. The (pork) baby backs were quite good too, although nothing all that unusual. The beef burnt ends, honestly, didn't do much for me; I found them to be rather fatty. (Maybe those are better at OK Joe's...?)

    So based on my meal at Jack Stack, I would agree with you - the best barbecue I had was the beef, rather than the pork. Not that the pork was bad - it was fine - but the beef short rib was pretty darn awesome. See photos below.

    And oh yeah, those onion rings were pretty amazing too, about the size of a cantaloupe!

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      What did you think of the crown rib? It is by far my favorite thing on the Jack Stack menu, and really the only reason I have for eating there -- everything else on the menu can be done better, cheaper, elsewhere in town.

      Their crown rib dinner includes THREE of the monsters. I have a couple friend who share that meal and it serves as dinner and lunch for both of them. (I'm actually embarrassed to admit that I nearly finished all three once).

      1. re: 2roadsdiverge

        >> What did you think of the crown rib?

        As I posted above: "I thought the beef short rib was superb. They actually gave me a rib and a half. They were enormous and delicious, moist and tender and meaty." It was easily my favorite item on the combo plate.

        I also thought the onion rings were pretty darn spectacular.

    2. I've never heard Bryant's sauce described as sweet. I love the stuff and it definitely is not sweet. I like Gates sauce but the last few times I've got their brisket, it wasn't good. OK Joe's Night of the Living Dead is another favorite of mine as well.

      Check out LC's for the best burnt ends in KC. I also think Bobeck's has the best ribs although OK Joe's is a very close second.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chileheadmike

        I also would never think to describe Arthur Bryant's standard sauce as "sweet". Maybe the OP was trying another version?

        1. re: chileheadmike

          Was just reading something about AB's - there is apparently now a sweeter tomato sauce in addition to the paprika-laden vinegar sauce. Cannot attest to this personally. But I, too, love LC's burnt ends AND rib tips - both beef and pork for those of us who swing both ways.