Kansas City: BBQ Ground Zero

No self-respecting barbeque web page could be complete without a mention or a full section for this veritable shrine for BBQ fanatics­ Arthur Bryant's. This is ground zero for barbeque, as far I am concerned. 

Their combo sandwiches are incredible and they're large enough to feed a really hungry man or several hungry women. You can get smoked brisket, pork, ham and turkey.  They also have spareribs and you can buy their meat by the pound, which if you are in a group, may be the best way to go.  This is not health food, especially if you order their fries, (which are still cooked in lard!!) but as they say in that beer commercial, "it just doesn't get any better than this."  If you can hear your arteries snapping shut as you are partaking of this manna from heaven, just ignore it, it will be well worth it.  If you were to be 'called home' while you were at Arthur Bryant's, it probably guarantees you will be at the head of the line at the pearly gates! 

If you have not been there before I would suggest you ask them to hold the sauce, until you are sure you really like it. Many folks do, and I am not dissin' their sauce.  It is just different from any conventional BBQ sauce you have ever had; it is positively incendiary, and they slop it on quite generously with a paintbrush. Just holler through their little window there, as you go through the line and tell them you want it "dry". If you like a milder sauce, go with their "rich and spicy" one, which doesn't have the heat of the original, and bottles of both will be on your table.  Actually, what I have done before is to sneak in a bottle of Zarda's sauce and surreptitiously dab a little on!. (Don't tell!)

There are two locations.  I have only been to the original restaurant, located at 1727 Brooklyn, which is not far from the newly remodeled Negro League Baseball Museum, near 18th and Vine, in Kansas City.  I don't think you can beat the original flavor of the restaurant New York Times food critic Calvin Trillin called the single best restaurant in the world!  Their phone is (816) 231-1123 in case you want to check hours or if you get lost.  Their newest and more trendy location is at the Ameristar Casino (formerly Station Casino) on the Missouri River.  A friend says it is definitely a more upscale place and probably not even proper to call it a "joint"... their phone is 816-414-7474.

Zarda's in Blue Springs, Missouri at 214 N. 7 Highway, and also in Lenexa, Kansas at 87th and Quivera Road. Good BBQ, and their pickle spears are good; go ahead and get a full side order of pickles. The ribs are conventional spareribs, as opposed to baby loinback ribs, which I prefer- but these are quite adequate. I would order sauce on the side, instead of on the ribs, but then I like Memphis-style ribs, so suit yourself! Also, you might want to check your local Kansas/Missouri grocer to see if they carry Zarda's famous baked beans; the ones at the restaurants used to be chock- full of brisket trimmings and among the best baked beans you could eat. Locally, the Dillon's grocery chain and Sam's Club carry them, but to be honest, the last bucket we bought did not even come close to the ones served in the restaurant and it was disappointing! I'll post a recipe for my own version of Zarda's beans in the near future.

Gates and Sons
, with several locations in the Metro Kansas City area. It's good BBQ, but if you haven't been there before- just brace yourself for what might be termed as a right-down-to-business attitude of some of the counter staff. It's nothing personal, they just want to keep the line moving along, so don't dawdle. I'd recommend a brisket sandwich and fries, if you have not been there before. There's plenty to choose from!

The Filling Station, in Lees Summit is also worth your while. Their motto is "Little bit of nostalgia, Lots of Great Barbecue!" I tried this one in April, 2001 and had a pork and beef combo with fries. The pork was just a tad better than the brisket, as the brisket had a little bit of a refrigerator taste, as if it might have been leftover from the day before, but this practice is common in many restaurants, especially if you are part of the lunch crowd the next day. The place is in an old filling station, and the nostalgia is worth the trip in itself.

This is not an all-inclusive list by any means! There are many more good BBQ joints in Kansas City that I still need to explore, and you should check out some of the links on my main page for other reviews. Another great website which has restaurant reviews of greater Kansas City Area BBQ joints, and which I have used myself many times is the site of the Gastronomic Appreciation Society; G.A.S. They sound like a fun group!! I recommend you check them out...

Plan a day trip sometime and have both lunch and supper in KC, and feel free to click on the mail icon below and send me an E-mail if you have a personal favorite that I need to try out!

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This page last updated 10-04-2010