Where to Find the Best Barbecue in Kansas City
Barbecue can be a polarizing topic. So many regions lay claim to America's best, but the pitmasters of Kansas City have as strong a claim as anyone — and, there's an unspoken rule that you don't leave town without inhaling some serious grub. It should be noted that the locals here take their meats, especially burnt ends and ribs, with all the fixings and dressed in a sweet, spicy, and tangy sauce as gospel. From casual road-style pits to white tablecloths, here's a sampling of our favorite spots to find the best barbecue in Kansas City.
This airy Westport restaurant with a wall of pit master trophies doles out plates like brisket with classic sauce, provolone cheese, and onion straws on a toasted bun, or smoked and charred chicken, served with spicy slaw and chipotle mayo. Wood-fired grilled plates like the juicy Kansas City strip steak pair well with an icy cold pint.
No one should leave Joe's Kansas City without a helping of either burnt ends or the epic and well-documented sandwich called the Z-Man, packed with slow-smoked beef brisket and smoked provolone cheese, and topped with two crispy onion rings on a toasted Kaiser roll (a vegetarian version uses smoked Portobello mushrooms). Pair it with a cold Boulevard Pale Ale.
Since the 1920s, this nationally revered barbeque spot has served legions of fans, many of them U.S. Presidents — Barack Obama, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter — in a no-frills space. Sandwiches like the short-end ribs served on white Wonder bread or pulled pork, with a full order of French fries, a heaping side of pickles, and fountain soda are the only way to go.
The slogan of the longstanding Gates Bar-B-Q is "Hi, May I help you?" which is uttered every time one struts through the famed doors. To complete your experience, order a combination of beef, ham, turkey, beans, cole slaw, and potato salad. If by some miracle you're still hungry, the yammer pie, a triangle of sweet potato goodness, does the trick every time.
What Slap's BBQ lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for in taste and flavor. This cool, no-frills road stop is perfect for brisket and sausage — arrive early, as these items sell out quickly — doused with spicy sauce. For sides, pick a baked potato casserole and delicious cheesy corn with pickled jalapenos and two slices of white bread.
Since 1957, this small chain has catered to a crowd craving all things meat: pork, ribs, turkey, and sausage. For dinner, split a full slab of pork baby back ribs with classic sides like hickory pit beans, cheesy corn bake, and creamy coleslaw. The signature sweet colossal onion rings are hand-breaded daily, as are the fried mushrooms with horseradish sauce.
Dine in or carry out at this drive-in-style shack with either the burnt ends or deep-fried catfish platter, served with Texas toast, a pickle, and a side; or dig into a pulled pork Po'Boy, Reuben, or jumbo sandwich, which includes up to two smoked meats served on a perfectly toasted brioche bun. As for sides, try the Cajun rice, fried okra, or stick with the Bob-Be-Que beans.
On Sundays, before the beloved Kansas City Royals or Chiefs take the field, many tailgaters and meat lovers drop by this old-school, bare-bones, midtown joint (est. 1989) which doles out turkey, pork, and beef barbecue sandwiches, wings, half chicken, and ribs galore. Save room for sides, like baked beans and potato salad, and tasty desserts like peach cobbler and apple pie.