Friday, December 4, 2015


Kansas City is an eating town. A guide told us that it has more barbecue per capita than any other city in the world. To be ranked as a good barbecue place in KC is like being ranked as a good art museum in New York City or Paris. Going back for another year of AP scoring would be worth it just to be able to try a few more restaurants. In the short time I was there, however, I managed to try the five listed below.

When we asked around at the AP Reading where we should eat, this restaurant at 101 W. 22nd Street is the place we kept hearing about. It is ranked #7 out of 1,186 restaurants in Kansas City by TripAdvisor, and it deserves its high rating. When I went there with my AP friends, I had burnt ends, a dish I'd never heard of, and sides of cheesy corn and baked beans. Burnt ends, a unique part of Kansas City barbecue, are flavorful bits cut from a beef brisket. It was a dish that I loved at first bite:
And the cheesy corn, ah, the cheesy corn! So good that I came home and looked up a recipe to make it myself. It can be found here.  
When Bob came in to town at the end of my scoring week, I made sure I took him to Jack Stack's. He liked it so much that we went back for a second visit before we flew home. Bob going to the same restaurant twice when there are 1,183 other options? That's a ringing endorsement!

Here are a few other cuts we enjoyed. This is crown prime beef short rib:
And this beauty is a combo that adds beef ribs and lamb ribs to the crown prime beef short ribs:
Bob rates the barbecued beans among the best he's ever had, so I made those at home as well, using this recipe. It calls for some of Jack's barbecued brisket, which of course I didn't have, so I substituted bacon instead. It was good, but not quite as good as the real thing.

On one night of the reading we decided we were in the mood for some really good fried chicken. We checked recommendations online and decided that Stroud's Oak Ridge Manor was our best option. The restaurant, located at 5410 NE Oakridge Drive in North Kansas City, is in an 1829 farmhouse. From the inside, it's clear that it began life as a log cabin. The filled log walls and sloping floor in the waiting area add to the ambiance.
Even though we arrived relatively early, there was a pretty good wait. This place is very, very popular. TripAdvisor ranks it #21 out of those 1,186 restaurants in Kansas City.
Alan Rickman of the TV show Man vs. Food says their chicken is "whole body-lickin' good." I don't know if I'd agree with that. While it was crispy and moist, it wasn't the best fried chicken I've ever eaten--it was a bit on the bland side--and the sides of green beans with ham and mashed potatoes were only average.
Photo from Stroud's website
One evening a group of us went exploring areas north of Kansas City and we ended up having dinner at Tub Creek BBQ in Cameron, a thriving town with 9,000 residents and 24 restaurants. This particular restaurant is ranked #2 our of the 24 by TripAdvisor. 
I had the Brisket Sandwich for $8.99. It was good. I might have even said it was "really" good if I hadn't eaten at Jack Stack's. It just didn't measure up to that standard. Cameron is just 55 miles from Kansas City. If I had the choice between eating here and driving those 55 miles to Jack Stack's, I'd choose the latter.

For a total change of pace, try Gram & Dun at 600 Ward Parkway in Kansas City. Bob and I went here based on its #5 ranking out of KC's 1,186 restaurants.
Apparently there is something other than ribs and chicken in KC. This is a high-end, fancy-schmancy haute cuisine place. We were totally impressed by both the look and the taste of the food.

Bob thought the shrimp and grits were the best he's ever had:
. . . and he quite liked his cobb salad:
The most artistic dish was my skyscraper of seared ahi tuna layered with wontons, spinach, peanuts, and a sesame-ginger vinaigrette. I'm telling you, it was hard to put a fork to this masterpiece, but I was glad I did:

In spite of its kitschy spelling of "barbecue" (or maybe partly because of it), Joe's is one of the most popular barbecue joints in all of Missouri. Part of its appeal is its location in an old gas station, which gives new meaning to the term "gastropub."
Joe's was on Anthony Bourdain's 2009 list of "13 Places to Eat Before You Die." (Note, so is elBulli, the restaurant in Spain whose chef drew some pictures that I saw on this trip in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City.) Bourdain wrote, "It's the best BBQ in Kansas City, which makes it the best BBQ in the world."
Forbes magazine lists Joe's as one of the 10 best BBQ joints in the US. They too say that "there may be no better BBQ joint in the nation."
Joe's is located at 3002 West 47th Avenue, Kansas City, KANSAS, about a 10 minute drive from downtown Kansas City, MISSOURI. The restaurant is in the back section of a operating Shamrock gas station . . .
. . . complete with a mini-mart that carries the sundries you would expect in a gas station, along with a phenomenal assortment of barbecue sauces and rubs:
These people take barbecuing very, very, very, very seriously.

The line for the restaurant wound around through some rope paths inside and made its way out the door, and we're not talking about a visit on a Friday night. It was Monday at 2:00. We got a good look at everyone's plates as we waited in a pretty fast-moving line. This is an order-at-the-counter kind of place, and you'd better know what you want by the time it's your turn.
 We did. We knew we had to have a Z-Man, which is the best sandwich in Kansas City, in the United States, or in the world, depending on whom you ask:
 I could feel the cholesterol gathering in my blood stream to greet every bite I swallowed of this fatty, tasty sandwich.

I had grown quite attached to burnt ends, something unique to Kansas City-style barbecue, so that's what I ordered. These were fantastic--moist and tender. However, I think (and what I'm about to say may be heresy) I liked my burnt ends at Jack Stack's just a wee bit more:
Maybe it was just the difference between eating off china vs. Chinette. Of course, paper plates are probably part of the true BBQ experience in this part of the country.

Bob had a half-slab of pork ribs, and while they were also fantastic, they were A-grade fantastic rather than A+. I think that he agrees that given the choice for a return visit to just one BBQ joint in Kansas City, we would go to Jack Stack's.
I don't know, though--I had three meals at Jack Stack's and only one here. I think I could be easily convinced to go back and try a few more things on the menu. 


  1. I love that the last restaurant is in a gas station. You've convinced me that Stan and I need to travel to Missouri to try some local dishes. Yum!

  2. With Sprint HQ in KC, I averaged 4 or 5 trips per year to KC during my last decade of my career. Jack Stack's was always a favorite. Your photos and descriptions are making my mouth water. I would dream about BBQ dishes like these during our 18 months of meat deprivation in West Africa.

    1. I should be there again this June, Russ. Are there other KC restaurants you would recommend?

  3. I've read about some more good bbq places in Kansas City, but Jack Stacks needs to be included. That bone-in prime rib is amazing.

  4. Now I'm hungry for BBQ--nice write-up of restaurants!