Kansas City BBQ

One of the things that is important to me as a Dad is to try to maintain some type of “special” time with each of the kids. It could be a special lunch after Sunday school or a movie. Once a year, we plan a long weekend together somewhere. Last summer, my 18 year old son and I decided to drive out to Kansas City and try to find the best barbecue. We had been to Austin on a previous trip, which we enjoyed. Now we were going to find out how Kansas City compared.

July 27 – August 1, 2008

A 1,450 mile alliterative journey in search of the most amazing BBQ

Our adventure in search of Barbecue, baseball, biblioteca de Harry Truman, Bee*, Batman, Bird**, Bank*** and other B’s too numerous to mention

* – Frisbee in the vernacular

** – Bird is for Charlie “Bird” Parker, featured at the American Jazz Museum

*** – Bank is the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank

Details on each BBQ joint is below with our exclusive scoring system.


But of course, Barbeque is the reason for this trip. Eric and Al drove from Chicago to Kansas City through St. Louis. On the way to Kansas City, we stopped in at the 17th Street Bar and Grill for BBQ in O’Fallon, IL. The 17th was profiled by Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. We enjoyed our lunch and then went to the Arch in St. Louis. Two big guys in a very little tram car with three other poor visitors. Scary! The Arch is an amazing piece of engineering and provides a great view of the Mighty Mississippi.

We decided to go to Columbia, MO that evening to shorten our trip to Kansas City. We slept in Columbia and then got up early the next morning to head to Kansas City.

A word on the menu items. KC is known for a dish called burnt ends. It is the ends of the beef brisket and/or pork shoulder that are thinner and get cooked a little more than the larger portion of the meat. These pieces are taken off and mixed with sauce and served separately.

First stop in KC is the historic Mecca of BBQ, Arthur Bryant’s. It is a small restaurant located in an industrial neighborhood. Nothing fancy here. Go up to the counter and put in your order. A couple of old guys in the back hand cut your order and give it to you at the end of the counter. A big jar of dill pickle chips is also at the end of the counter with a set of tongs to take as many as you wish.

After our lunch, we headed to Independence to visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. There were a number of very neat exhibits and we learned more about the late 40’s and early 50’s in our country’s (and the world’s) history. Definitely recommend this as a history lesson. Also at the library was a bus from ProjectVoteSmart.org, a non-profit that gathers information on political candidates

But then, where to go for dinner? Hey, let’s try a strangely named place: Fiorella’s Jack Stack’s at their downtown location. This is a regular sit down restaurant with waiter service. Service was top notch and the BBQ didn’t disappoint.

After dinner, we decided to take in The Dark Night. What a great movie… Heartily recommended.

Tuesday was a day scheduled for 2 more BBQ visits. First, though we went to the American Jazz Museum. Jazz was a big part of the culture in Kansas City in the early 20th century. Here we were able to listen to Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and a whole host of others. After the museum, we looked for our 4th restaurant, LC’s. From the outside, this couldn’t be more different from Fiorella’s. Actually from the inside, this couldn’t be more different from Fiorella’s. The restaurant has about 10 tables, a greasy floor and a decadent array of BBQ flavors.

After the lunch, we went downtown and visited Union Station and the Federal Reserve Bank. We even took a timeout and played some Frisbee in a park. After these, we went to the other side. Of Kansas City, that is, in Kansas. We visited a mall called Legends and had to choose between the minor league T-Bones baseball game or another movie. Due to the impending inclement weather, we chose to do the movie (and our choice was validated when the rain started in earnest). The second movie of the trip Step Brothers was a 2 star flick at best.

We did, however, need to find dinner (we seemed to be unable to miss a meal, not a big surprise to any of you who know us…). Our last BBQ stop in Kansas City was at Oklahoma Joe’s. Believe it or not, Oklahoma Joe’s is in a real functioning gas station. There was a huge line and we had to wait a short time for a table. It was worth it.

After dinner, we decided to try to find the Cubs game on TV. Unfortunately, our hotel did not carry WGN, but we were able to follow along on ESPN. Then early to bed for our long driving day to Washington, IN to visit grandma and grandpa. Our last BBQ stop was for lunch in St. Louis at a place called Smoki O’s. This is a hole in the wall in a run down neighborhood just north of downtown St. Louis.

Thus fortified, we made it to Washington and after a hearty dinner, good night’s sleep and a good breakfast we we we able to drive the rest of the way home the next day.


We used a scale of Awesome, Great, Good, Mediocre, Don’t Bother. We decided to order combos and to order different items, so that we could get a wide variety of experiences. In addition to the main meat items, we also looked at side dishes. Unfortunately (and surprisingly to those of you who know us), we were never able to try desserts.

17th Street Bar and Grill
1711 West Highway 50
O’Fallon Illinois
Pulled Pork – Don’t bother (very bland)
Chicken – Mediocre
Brisket – Great
Hot Links – Good
Baby Back Ribs – (Al – Mediocre, Eric – Great)
Beef Rib – Mediocre
Sweet and Thick – Good
Mustard Thin – Good
Arthur Bryant’s
1727 Brooklyn Avenue
Kansas City, MO
Burnt Ends – Great
Pulled Pork – Great
Beef – Mediocre
Sausage – Mediocre
Sides and Notes
Fries – Worth tasting
Don’t forget the pickles at the end of the line
Price is higher than normal (Combo $9.15)
Original – Don’t Bother (Vinegary)
Sweet – Great
Spicy – Good
Fiorella’s Jack Stack’s
101 West 22nd Street
Kansas City, MO
(Eric’s Favorite)
Burnt Ends – Awesome
Pork Ribs – Great
Lamb Ribs – Awesome
Sliced Meat – Good
Sides and Notes
Beans – Awesome
Coleslaw – Great
Combo $14.25 for two meats
Original – Great
Spicy – Good
LC’s Barbeque
5800 Blue Parkway
Kansas City, MO
(Al’s Favorite)
Burnt Ends – Awesome
Sliced Pork – Great
Beef – Great
Burnt Ends $8.99
Combo Sandwich $8.49
Sides and Notes
Beans – Awesome (lots of meat)
Fries – good – crispy
Ambiance: AWFUL – greasy floors, small dining area
Come back for the food!!!
1 Sauce – Great
Oklahoma Joe’s
3002 West 47th Street
Kansas City, KS
Smokey Joe Sandwich (chopped beef and chopped pork) – Great
Brisket – Good
Pulled Pork – Good
Beans (less sweet, more spicy) – Great
Regular – Good
Spicy – Good
Smoki O’s
1545 North Broadway
St. Louis, MO
Pulled Pork – Great
Ribs – Good
Sides and Notes
Mac and Cheese – Good
Beans (no meat) – Good
No fountain drinks
No fries…but they have spaghetti?!
Final Selections
Al Eric
1. LC’s Fiorella’s Jack Stack
2. Fiorella’s Jack Stack LC’s
3. Oklahoma Joe’s Oklahoma Joe’s
4. Authur Bryant’s Arthur Bryant’s
5. Smoki O’s Smoki O’s
6. 17th Street Bar 17th Street Bar

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