Our first day of the BBQ tour ended below expectations. Nevertheless my mother and I were excited to get on with the next part of the trip.
Based on local recommendations, we started off our day by trying out Joe Kansas. Joe Kansas is known for the Z-man sandwich. Additionally, they also serve burnt ends only one day a week. We got there early to avoid the lines. Locals had told us that the line can sometimes wrap around the building. When we arrived and were first in line. I took up some conversation with a gentleman by the name of Kit. He told us how busy the place normally gets. Also, he gave us some more information if we ever decided to come back to Kansas City. With no one in line, my mother and I managed to sit down and eat quickly. But within 15 minutes the entire place had no empty seats.
I asked for a kitchen tour and got in touch with the marketing executive, Doug, who gave me a comprehensive tour of the building. While he showed me around the pit and kitchens he rattled off various facts about barbecue. I was tremendously impressed by his knowledge of the history of Joe Kansas, as well as the other historic bbq establishments as well. Meanwhile, streams of customers were constantly coming up to Doug singing praises. (“So good, from Seattle!”)
Joe Kansas started nearly 75 years ago as a repair garage; over the years it evolved into a gas station with a convenience store featuring fried chicken. The current owners got their start in BBQ from local competitions. They ran with the momentum and after much success and needed more cold storage space to keep up with the catering orders they were constantly receiving. Years went on and Joe Kansas – the highest grossing restaurant in Kansas City – became known for what it is today.
I ordered burnt ends, asking for sauce on the side. And, I was pleasantly surprised when the gentleman behind the counter notified me, “burnt ends don’t get sauce”. My mom wasn’t feeling well and so she was just a spectator. My fork pierced the mahogany morsels of meat like it was butter; my mouth was already salivating. My first bite, well all the bites, were easily some of the most memorable I have ever taken. What I consider my first taste of real BBQ, was smokey – all thanks to Missouri white oak – tender and absolutely delicious.
As I enjoyed my meal I looked over to Kit and his dining buddy Sam who both asked me across the dining room, “How is it”? My response, “Its ******* delicious”, and trust me it was. Both of them couldn’t help but smile and then Sam offered, “If you really like those, you have to try the Z-man.” I was at first reluctant, but figured I could order the sandwich to go. I took one bite to get an idea of what the hot sandwich was like. Devastatingly amazing…I could on and on about Joe Kansas, but I’ll finish by saying it’s no surprise that they get the business that they do. (If you are ever in the Kansas City area, this is a MUST STOP!)
Spirits high, we left for St. Louis. As we traveled across the state of Missouri all I could think about was what I had just eaten; it was surreal. Our stop in St. Louis was at Pappy’s Smokehouse. I ordered ribs and my mom got an order of sweet potato fries and mac and cheese. The ribs were good but nothing special. Fortunately they came naked because the variety of Pappy’s sauce were marginal at best. BBQ is all about the smoke and the meat so ultimately I wasn’t to displeased. Between the dry rub and combination of apple-wood and cherry smoke, I felt the ribs were best eaten naked. I got a side of baked beans with my ribs which were to sweet to actually eat. Our second day proved to be awesome; infinitely better than day one and a great taste of what was to come. Check back later this week to find out how the bbq tour went!