A strong and sturdy partnership, the presence of BBQ in Kansas City has been a sure thing since the early 1900s, when weekend, street corner, barbecue vendors cooked any creature they could get their hands-on.
Since that time, BBQ has become the city’s signature cuisine, encompassing over 100 BBQ restaurants dotted across the Metro area, each serving up their own distinctive “Que” ranging from short and long end pork ribs, to lamb ribs, rib tips, ham, pork shoulder, and chicken.
According to Ardie Davis, founder of the renowned American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste Contest and author/co-author of nine books, BBQ in Kansas City is best described as eclectic.
“We have great pork ribs, beef brisket, beef burnt ends, pork shoulder and chicken,” Davis says. “It reflects the influence of pitmasters who migrated here from southern states, looking for work in this major transportation hub and – back then – major stockyards/meat packing city.”
Kansas City’s unmatched barbecue specialty is, hands-down, burnt ends, the tender, fatty ends of a cut of meat that turn crispy and charred during cooking.
Once castoff as no good, these smoky, flavourful trimmings – now referred to as “bark” – are typically piled high atop slices of white bread and, depending on the restaurant, slathered with sauce.
Today, Kansas City’s burnt ends are epicurean treasures that have earned a global following. “[People] have read about it, met people who have raved about it, and have seen it featured on TV shows so often, that when people think “Kansas City,” they think “˜BBQ!’ Davis explains. “They want to see and taste for themselves if it’s hoopla or real.”
Well, it’s for real. So bring your appetite, loosen your belt, and get ready to sample some of the best barbecue and burnt ends dishes in town.
Finding BBQ heaven
With five locations on both sides of the Missouri/Kansas State Line, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue serves succulent beef, ham, pork, and sausage burnt ends, as well as delicious jumbo grilled shrimp lightly seasoned with Cajun spice and topped with a barbecue butter sauce.
At B.B.’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ, the burnt ends are combined with ham, pulled pork, chopped beef, and turkey on their gigantic Walters Mixed Meat Sandwich.
In addition to the slow-smoked beef or pork burnt ends served on a toasted French roll at RJ’s Bob-Be-Cue Shack, there’s a Burnt End Hash with pork or brisket burnt ends, sautéed with onions, mushrooms, peppers and bacon, and served with two eggs, country taters, and toast.
At Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s), the burnt ends are rivaled only by their world famous Z-Man Sandwich – slow-smoked beef brisket and smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings on a toasted Kaiser roll.
Afternoon sellouts are a common affair at Slap’s (Squeal Like a Pig) BBQ for the Burnt End Combo Plate (burnt ends plus your choice of turkey, sausage, chicken, or pork, and two sides), and their St. Louis cut pork spare ribs. If you like sausage, it’s piled high with burnt ends on the namesake sandwich at Jon Russell’s Kansas City Barbecue.
And at Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q (six locations,) the barbecue mutton is just as popular as their ribs and brisket burnt ends sandwiches.
The best of the best
Kansas Citians aren’t the only ones proclaiming their BBQ prowess. Travel + Leisure voted KC “America’s Best City for Barbecue,” and Thrillist Food + Drink ranked it among “The 11 Best BBQ Cities in America.”
You’ll just have to see and taste it all for yourself”¦
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Have you tried burnt ends and BBQ in Kansas City? Have you been to any of the locations above? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin