Kansas City is known for a lot of things: the plucky Kansas City Royals baseball team, jazz, the World War II Museum and Memorial, and the confusing fact that Kansas City is in both Missouri and Kansas. Those things are all fun things to be known for, but Kansas City is also known for its delicious barbecue. Barbecue is the cultural food of the Paris of the Plains and whether it’s ribs or burnt ends that you crave they’ve got hundreds of options to choose from. Not sure where to start hitting the sauce? We’ve got a guide to five places you have to try.
Address: 1325 East Emanuel Cleaver Blvd, Kansas City, MO
There are actually a total of six Gates locations on both sides of the state line, so getting your barbecue fix is always within reach. Going to Gates is as much about the delicious food as it is about the unique experience of eating there. The moment you walk in you’re hit with the rich smell of smoked meat and a loud, almost bellowing of “May I help you?” from folks at the registers. It’s a little jarring at first, but it lends to the down-home feel of the place. It’s no-nonsense—like those amazing burnt ends, which are not to be missed. They also sell their own sauce and seasonings on their website so the ‘cue can come to you.
Address: 1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO
In a city as rich in barbecue as Kansas City there are those that take sides. If you’re not Team Gates, you are definitely Team Bryant’s. The best thing at Bryant’s is the sauce. It goes great on ribs and smoked meats, but it turns almost any food it touches into culinary gold (try it on fries, lightly drizzled into salad, on pizza…anything!) The sauce here is so good that New Yorker columnist Calvin Trillin once said Bryant’s was the best restaurant in the world. The Rich & Spicy version of the sauce is an absolute must try.
Address: 3002 West 47th Ave, Kansas City, KS
Joe’s (formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s) has three locations in the Kansas City area, but there’s nothing quite like the original especially when that original is located in a gas station. Be prepared to stand in very long lines no matter which location you choose, but that wait is so worth it. Everything is good at Joe’s thanks to their tender meats and variety of sauces (Night of the Living BBQ is a must try) but you absolutely have to have one of their sandwiches. Order a Z Man. Brisket, cheese, and an onion ring make this monster to die for.
Address: 13441 Holmes Rd, Kansas City, MO
Another long-standing Kansas City barbecue institution with numerous locations in the metro, Jack Stack brings the down-home deliciousness of barbecue to the sit-down dining experience. Each of their locations is a great place to take the family for Sunday dinner or any meal where folks want to gather to enjoy good food and good company. And while the barbecue here is amazing it’s the side dishes that really shine. You haven’t lived until you’ve had the cheesy corn bake. Order the large—you’ll thank us.
Address: 1218 Swift Street, North Kansas City, MO
A little off the beaten path in a semi-industrial area of North Kansas City (yes, that’s it’s own city, too), Smokin’ Guns might be one of the best kept secrets of the Kansas City barbecue scene. Their delicious barbecue has won the Grand Champion title in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue contest so you know it’s good. Generous portions and a sauce that’s not too sweet and not too spicy make this place one you have to try, but make sure you go early. The small restaurant is always busy, but you can also always do carry out. Just know you might tear into that quarter chicken plate right there in the parking lot.
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Do you have a favorite barbecue place in Kansas City that we should try? Let us know in the comments!