Sep 252011
 

Johnny’s is a place that has been around forever (since 1977) but hadn’t received much attention or respect, at least in my circles. That may have changed a little when His Doucheness Guy Fieri dropped by a while back on his “Kansas City Barbecue Tour” for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This place came across very well on the program and the food looked great on TV, but everyone I know who had been there said Johnny’s just wasn’t very good.

Apparently not everyone feels that way, because when I stopped by recently, this fairly spacious BBQ joint on Broadmoor was full of people at the lunch hour. There is nothing to alarm the discerning barbecue diner upon entering. You order at a counter, jauntily accented with an old school menu board and a display of barbecue sauces that is dizzying in its comprehensiveness.

The staff persons are very friendly and helpful, particularly the owner who is typically present behind the counter expediting orders or out in the dining room delivering food. Simpler dishes like sliced meat sandwiches are presented right at the counter soon after ordering. Others are delivered to you out at your table.

Menu

The highly touted barbecued chicken is probably one of the better versions around town. As seen in the DDD video, it is smoked and then deep-fried to give the bird a relatively crisp crust. As a result, the chicken is much moister and has a pleasantly crunchy skin, unlike chickens I’ve had at other BBQ joints such as Zarda, who recently served me a dry-ish, flabby chicken that looked better but tasted worse than this one.

That being said, poultry is one of the most forgiving meats to smoke and I was hoping for more wood flavor from Johnny’s bird. While not among the best barbecue I’ve tasted, Johnny’s chicken had a hypnotizing effect on me, and I found myself stripping every piece of meat and gnawing on the bones. The portion is good too-a half chicken seems like a lot but really is only a pound and a half of meat which is rounded out perfectly by Johny’s decent baked beans which are cooked in the smoker but come across as a very traditional, molasses-flavored Boston-style baked bean.

Half chicken

beans

I suspect that the sauce turns a lot of barbecue purists off. It is extremely red, more pronounced than the color of ketchup and is applied liberally to most dishes unless you request that it be left off. While not particularly assertive, it has a distinctive tanginess that complements lighter meats better than beef or ribs. Some diners assume that the sauce is inferior because of its color while I find it acceptable, certainly better than the oddly sweet stuff at the otherwise superior RJ’s up the road.

The fries are nothing special: crinkle-cut frozen numbers that get the job done but really should be better considering the competition from other barbecue joints like Arthur Bryant’s and Oklahoma Joe’s who dish out superb, hand-cut fries.

The burnt ends are prepared well but lack the smoky punch that I expect from the best barbecue. The sandwich comes on a soft hoagie roll, topped with red onions and pickle slices, all of which are utterly unnecessary and ridiculous. At my core I feel that barbecue should be meat, sauce and white bread.

Burnt Ends

The decor is alas, drab as hell, reminiscent of a chain diner like Waid’s. The walls are sadly devoid of much artwork and the furniture is pure, cheap commercial dreck: Formica tables, vinyl booths, industrial carpeting.

Interior

The service is great here all around. The owner is very active in the daily operations and is typically out on the floor delivering food and making sure people are happy. At the risk of being indelicate, I should point out that Johnny’s employs a couple of developmentally disabled bus-people, a practice that I whole-heartedly endorse and appreciate. Those who have worked with such people (as I have have) or have them in your family (which I do) realize that providing a source of income is extremely important in contributing to their quality of life and promoting independence and self-sufficiency. One of the bus-women noticed that my paper towels had run out and chatted with me while replacing them with a fresh roll. I’ve never had a bus-person introduce herself to me before, but she did, and I found it a delightful exchange. Johnny’s gets big kudos for giving an opportunity to people who are often overlooked.

In general, this place is a lot better than I was led to believe, but not among the brightest lights of KC barbecue. I think Johnny’s is legitimate and probably unworthy of ridicule. It’s certainly worth a visit for those who want to familiarize themselves with the range of barbecue available in the area.

Johnny’s hickory House Bar-B-Que
5959 Broadmoor St
Shawnee Mission, KS 66202
www.johnnysbbqkc.com
(913) 432-0777

Johnny's Hickory House Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Apr 282011
 

I know, this isn’t Oklahoma Lunch Spots, and the farther reaches of rural Johnson County can damn well feel like our esteemed neighbor to the south, but K & M Bar-B-Q is probably worth mentioning as a destination lunch joint for folks in most of the metro area.

K & M Bar-B-Q

I have only made one recent visit and frankly am unlikely to make another any time soon. Even Gardner felt like a sizable jaunt from Spring Hill, and that’s saying something. Normally I like to feel a restaurant out for 2,3 or 4 meals before taking the time to write a blog post, but I’ll forego that here and offer a brief recap of my meal.

It was excellent. K & M offers some of the best burnt ends I’ve eaten in Kansas City, and the portion size was nothing to sneeze at either.

Burnt ends and rings

Burnt ends and rings

Burnt ends are typically only available on weekends as a dinner plate, but my visit luckily coincided with them being offered as a special, which included any side dish and drink for 7.80. Considering that burnt ends at LC’s cost $8.95 for the sandwich alone (admittedly much larger), this is a great lunch deal.

Yes, these are real burnt ends and not random chunks of meat covered in sauce that some places try to pass off as KC’s signature dish. The meat itself was fork-tender and the fat was properly rendered and not overabundant. I could have used a little more crunch on them but they did have a ton of prevalent bark that gave them a nice smokiness.

K & M has a nicely flavored sauce, a little less forward than a Gates or Bryant’s, and somewhat thinner. As is typical of local BBQ joints, the spicy sauce is virtually identical to the regular sauce with the modest addition of (probably) hot sauce. This is a rather lazy way to create a hot BBQ sauce but I can’t complain about the flavor.

The onion rings had the crackery coating which was actually nice accompaniment to the smoked meat. I can’t say with any certainty that they weren’t from a Sysco bag, but I sure as hell didn’t mind.

The interior of K & M is decorated in a strong western motif with cowboy hats, steer horns and old-timey prints adorning the wood-paneled walls. While this place gets pretty darn busy during lunch, the interior is huge, featuring at least two distinct dining areas. It was hopping but not even close to full at the noon hour.

Interior

The service was excellent. I had my drink and food order taken quickly and food delivered within 5 minutes. They deliver the check to your table but take all payment at the front counter which significantly expedites things.

Who knows what circumstances might leads you to Spring Hill, Kansas in the future? While it seems doubtful for many folks who live in KC proper or the older suburbs, this is a manageable drive from southern Overland Park, Gardner or Olathe. Regardless, eating in small towns can be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the options. K & M may be one of the only places to eat in Spring Hill but from all indications it serves barbecue as well as they do anywhere else.

K & M Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Feb 282011
 

Exterior

Danny Edward’s BBQ began life as a little shack in heart of downtown Kansas City, known for cranking out delicious barbecue to lunch breakers, mostly on a “to-go” basis due to its small capacity. It was also known as “Lil Jake’s Eat it an’ Beat it,” a reference to Danny’s nickname as a kid. Danny’s father, Jake, was a well-regarded local purveyor of smoked meats in his own right for more than 40 years.

Danny Edward's BBQ, Downtown KC

I moved here in 2006 when Lil Jake’s/Danny Edward’s was still very much alive downtown but increasingly dwarfed by the scope of construction at the new Power & Light District which, if you recall, made that part of downtown virtually un-navigable. Apparently, the area didn’t have much to recommend it before the arrival of P&L, but by all accounts Lil Jake’s was not part of the problem. Nonetheless it was inevitably forced to yield under the duress of eminent domain, for the “public good” of a tax-subsidized entertainment district. In with Famous Dave’s, out with Danny Edward’s, a tenant of more than a quarter century.

It is the greatest regret of my culinary life not to have eaten at Danny Edward’s downtown location before it closed and moved to Southwest Boulevard. When I started this blog on January 1, 2007 I worked at the downtown library, a 10-minute walk from the little BBQ shack, but somehow I let the construction and the potential annoyance of a small, busy restaurant keep me away. Within a year it was gone, only later to reappear on the city’s west side.

To their great credit, Kansas City barbecue enthusiasts proved more than willing to make the short car-ride out to the Boulevard and the new Danny Edwards has succeeded mightily in newer, larger, more modern digs. While the whole relocation story makes me a little sad, I’m nonetheless thrilled that this place not only does brisk business, but serves great barbecue on top of it.

Indeed the food at Danny Edwards is practically as good as the esteemed Oklahoma Joe’s, without the attendant enthusiasm of people who deluge Twitter and Facebook with uninformed assertions about BBQ sandwiches with cheese on them (click at your own risk). And while I am not immune to the appeal of Joe’s excellent barbecue, I can’t recommend it in my capacity as a lunch blogger because the wait is simply too long during the noon hour.

I’m also much more excited about eating at a place with the Edwards pedigree. Danny’s father was slinging ‘cue on the right side of the state line five decades before Joe’s set up shop in a KCK gas station.

The hand-cut fries at Edwards are similar to those at Joe’s, right down to the salty and unnecessary seasoning powder applied at the end. You can request them without seasoning and I recommend doing just that. Better yet, forego the fries entirely in favor of some of the best onion rings in town.

Beef sandwich

The brisket is hard to ignore. Once you enjoy the thick-cut, tender chucks of smoky beef, you’ll be hard-pressed to order anything else. Sure, I prefer a thinner slice such as that at Gates or LC’s and the Edwards’ brisket has all the marks of having been steamed in foil to achieve extra softness. But any complaints I have are purely related to personal preference rather than any failing on the restaurant’s part. The flavor and texture are truly sublime.

Beef and Ham

Beef and Ham

Edwards does a nice job with their burnt ends too. Their predilection for buttery, grilled kaiser buns adds an element of decadent richness, but certainly doesn’t hurt anything. Edwards has excellent baked beans with understated sweetness and good bean flavor accentuated by many tender chunks of pork. Their sweet potato fries aren’t bad either.

Ol' Smoky (Burnt Ends)

Southern Style

I’ve eaten here a number of times but have yet to try the ribs, which look excellent. But I can vouch for the beef, pulled pork and ham. What I can say is that Danny Edwards has the best, friendliest service of any BBQ joint in town. This is a table service place and you will never want for a a refill, to-go box or check when you need it. These people are pros and they will get you out in a hurry if that’s what you want. While places like Gates pay lip service to friendliness with their calculated “How may I help you” training regimen, Danny Edwards is service in action. Pay a visit and see if you don’t agree.

Danny Edwards is used to regulars and it is possible to order before your seat is warm. Get your check at the table and pay at the counter, where, more often than not, the restaurant’s namesake and his wife are running the show. Don’t let the modern building fool you, this is old school Kansas City barbecue at its best.

Danny Edwards Boulevard Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ
2900 Southwest Blvd
Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

May 162010
 

Here it is, the granddaddy of them all.

It’s been a while since I stopped by Kansas City’s most illustrious BBQ joint for lunch. I have found Bryant’s to be a little inconsistent which tempers my enthusiasm for their smoked meats. Sometimes they dish out a less than stellar meal, but when Bryant’s is good, it’s better than anyone else in town.

Unlike Oklahoma Joe’s and Gates, the original Bryant’s location has a natural ambience, one that hasn’t been calculated and cultivated.

Bryant's

Plenty of celebrity photos hang crookedly from the south wall, which doesn’t serve to class the place up so much as give folks something to look at while they wait in line. Yes, during lunch there is often a line to the door, but it moves quite quickly. The size of the lunch crowd pales in comparison to Oklahoma Joe’s.

Like Joe’s, Bryant’s is destination barbecue for many, but still has the hallmarks of a neighborhood joint. It is close enough to downtown to attract business people and also situated close enough to light industry to attract a blue collar crowd. Just a stone’s throw from 18th and Vine, it’s a popular lunch spot to combine with a trip to the Jazz or Negro Leagues museums. As a result, Arthur Bryant’s is perhaps the most racially integrated restaurant in Kansas City. At any given time, the restaurant is half-filled with people from out of town as well.

Counter service

I have never particularly enjoyed the ordering experience at AB’s. As the line moves to the front of the counter, you can pick up a plate and silverware. One of the hangdog gentlemen behind the window will take your order, and the plate as well if he feels like it. Sometimes he will decline the round plate in favor of a longer platter kept behind the counter. Lest you think it’s ok to skip the plate, know that the employee may chastise you for not having one to give.

Menu

Nonetheless, the process works pretty well, despite theoccasional screw-up with your order . This is not nearly the problem that it is at Gates. The folks at the end of the counter will take your money and serve you drinks. Be sure to get plenty of beer for your whole meal because it’s a hassle getting back up there again for more drinks.

Bring your appetite because the portions are huge. For $8.35, you can get a sandwich the size of Jesus. For $9.95 you can get some terrific fries with your sandwich. Unfortunately you may also get some disappointing fries; they are the most inconsistent item on the menu. Sometimes they are undercooked, sometimes cold, sometimes mind-blowingly perfect.

A “combo” costs $9.35, and allows you to sample two meats. This results in a larger order than normal since they basically add half a sandwich to a full size sandwich.

Beef and Ribs

Burnt Ends, Beef and Fries

Order the beef, I think it’s the best in town. It is quite smoky and considerably juicier than other versions. The ribs are a darn near perfect texture, not fatty and supremely flavorful. I’m not a huge fan of the pulled pork which they serve finely shredded and mixed with sauce. The burnt ends are roughly hacked and also mixed with sauce. I don’t think they are the finest in town (LC’s gets that distinction) but I wouldn’t turn my back on them because the beef is just that good. Bryant’s is one of the few places to offer sliced pork, which I have greatly enjoyed in the past. Not having eaten in recently, I recommend it with only the slightest hesitation.

Bryant’s original sauce is perhaps the strangest barbecue sauce I have ever tasted, and many folks will tell you that they do not care for it. Absolutely bitter, thin and riddled with spices, it is certainly a surprise if you are expecting KC’s typical sweet stuff. I find that the original sauce tastes best on ribs. Bryant’s also offers “rich and spicy” and “sweet heat” varieties which are both great.

Arthur Bryant’s was the first restaurant I visited in Kansas City. I was expecting a tourist trap, and instead found an honest, humble gem of a place, deserving of all the accolades it has received. This place is proof that tourist attractions are darn near impossible to manufacture. Readers of this blog occasionally ask me what my favorite barbecue restaurant in KC is, and I usually have a diplomatic response along the lines of “well, it depends.” But now, I can comfortably and whole-heartedly endorse Bryant’s as my favorite of them all. While not without its problems, their meats are just head and shoulders above the rest.

Arthur Bryant's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Feb 132010
 

I’ll tread lightly here; God knows I don’t want to stir up the legions of opinionated white guys who staunchly argue about barbecue in various public forums around town. Regardless, Gates seems to have a lot of lovers and haters. I think people genuinely appreciate how long it has been around and how much Ollie Gates does in the community, but like so much else in Kansas City the place doesn’t hold up under harsh scrutiny.

Gates

Like most barbecue joints, Gates does some things better than others. People swear by the burnt ends and they are widely considered a close second to LC’s in terms of taste. I found the burnt ends to be incredibly disappointing. I don’t think they were cooked properly because the taste of raw fat globules permeated the sandwich, rather than the delightful rendered fat flavor of LC’s burnt ends. With the recent news that LC’s has been shut down by the health department, we can only hope it comes back even better than before, sans rodents.

Burnt ends

Burnt ends

Compare the admittedly crappy photos above to these uploaded on flickr two years ago. It’s not even close. A lack of consistency plagues both Gates and Bryant’s in recent years, which may account for the meteoric rise in esteem for Oklahoma Joe’s and Jack Stack, which are extremely reliable.

I am a huge fan of the beef at Gates. Again, I think that LC’s has the slight edge here but it’s still tender, smoky and full of rich beefy goodness. It is well-accompanied by that glorious Gates original barbecue sauce. Like many of the world’s best food, Gates beef brisket tastes even better cold the next day. That’s why I often get the large sandwich, which is pretty tough for most folks to put away in one sitting.

Beef sandwich

At lunch, Gates offers a pretty good deal: a small-ish sandwich on a bun with fries for something like $6.50. You just order the meat of your choice “on bun” and the fries are assumed. You can also get it on loaf bread if you want, you will just have to utter the preposterous order “beef on bun on bread.” The sandwich is an appropriate size for lunch though I found the sliced pork too dry. I heartily recommend Arthur Bryant’s for all of your sliced pork needs.

Pork on bun

People love Gates’ fries. They actually have pleasing crunch and a decent potato flavor but are a little too processed tasting for my palate. A big plate of fries will also cost you something like $3.75 which seems a little steep.

I think Gates’ sauce is the best in town, an assertion I’m relatively confident in, despite the fact that I have not been to every single BBQ joint in the metro. They have something like 4 different kinds but I like the original the best. Most of them taste very similar in my humble opinion. An employee working the dining rooms recommended the sweet and mild sauce for french fries.

I also like the ribs a great deal, though I haven’t had them in a couple years. They don’t overcook their ribs like many places in town do. The meat does not fall of the bone in stringy clumps which I, for one, appreciate. Like bacon, ribs should not be cooked to death.

This particular Gates location is the newest I believe, and is kind of a flagship location due to its proximity to the business headquarters across the intersection. I’ll never fully understand the aesthetic of the Gates brand. The man with the cane depicted on Gates’ signs calls to mind some sort of turn of the century dandy, or Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin’ with some Barbecue.”

This location is laid out like an old-timey train station which sounds cool in theory but is kind of offputting. Rather than one large dining area, it is split into two small-ish, dark rooms with little fancy entrance doors and old photos on the wall.

Dining area

Dining area

While attractive enough a space, it sort of looks like someone’s well-heeled grandmother decorated it. The center of the train station is a little island fashioned after a ticket window. It is perpetually un-staffed but it is theoretically where one obtains cocktails. But I have never seen anyone having mixed drinks at Gates.

The ordering process is a disaster. Shrieks of “Hi may I help you?” are ostensibly an invitation for you to place your order verbally but there is no guarantee that anyone is actually listening. Indeed they holler it out whether they are facing you or not, often in the middle of a conversation with another diner. It doesn’t really matter, because by the time you get to the end of the line to pay, they won’t remember what you ordered anyway.

Counter

I have been here a lot, and never once has my food been waiting for me at the register. Not once. The ladies behind the line who all are trained to adopt the creepy affectation of referring to each other as “Miss Jones” or ” Miss Fredericks” or whatever, are constantly chattering among themselves and the worn down looking guys in back who actually assemble the food. If I was a betting man, I’d wager most of Gates service problems relate to the cooks not paying any goddamn attention, but that’s just a theory. As you wait to pay, another woman asks you if you want “drinks, sides, fries or pies.” I think this is the lowest person on the employee totem pole but they are usually the most efficient.

At lunch it is not unusual to spend 10 or 15 minutes in line. You will spend that time experiencing a rich mixture of mild annoyance, uneasiness and excitement, but you won’t be bored. Just make sure you get what you ordered. If they screw something up, they will get it right and run it out to your table.

A lot of people mistake the service shenanigans as unfriendliness or rudeness.Nothing could be farther from the truth. When interacting with individual employees at Gates I have found them uniformly helpful, open and even funny. If they seem exasperated, just remember that you don’t have to work in that crazy house of a kitchen. Chill out and wait for your barbecue.
Now it’s time for you all to disagree with me.
Gates Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Oct 212009
 

FAT CITY REPORTS THAT MATCHSTICK HAS CLOSED AS OF DEC.3

The circumstances surrounding my visit to Matchstick BBQ are not ideal for blog posting, but I’m going to chime in anyway. You see, I swung by after a lengthy physical examination at KU Med for which I had to fast. I ate nothing all day until about 12:30 when I staggered into Matchstick looking for a big sloppy pulled pork sandwich and some fries.

This dining area is very small but very pleasant, holding six tables, three booths as well as some seating at a small bar.

matchstick_bar

The place is punctuated by some interesting items of decor such as a scythe, an old wooden tabletop pinball game, the ubiquitous cow skull and an apparently real English telephone booth. And gentlemen, while you pee, you can consider what is either genuine advertisement or a questionable piece of fine art.

matchstick_bathroomThis is a sit-down joint, which wasn’t immediately clear when I entered. The waitress greeted me and told me to have a seat. She was in the middle of taking orders from another table and didn’t get me a menu for about 10 minutes.

Matchstick is clearly much more than a simple BBQ place. The menu contains a variety of meat-tastic offerings such as the ‘Jamestown Hero:’

Pulled Pork and smoked bacon topped with our famous creamy and crispy cole slaw on a bun. $6.99

Here’s a pic of the Jamestown hero from their facebook page.

When my server finally got to me I opted for the very reasonable lunch special: pulled pork and side for 5.99. It’s hard to beat that at a BBQ spot. Interestingly the waitress offered me a choice of bread: hoagie roll, bun or texas toast. I opted for the texas toast since it’s the closest thing I can think of to plain white bread which is my preference. I got some fries with it, but could have opted for beans, potato salad, cole slaw or cheesy corn bake. The waitress forgot to put the order in to the kitchen for a few more minutes so this whole thing took a little longer than it should have, especially since I was one of two tables by the time I got my food.

But that’s where the complaints stop. The sandwich came out looking pretty good.

matchstick_plate

The texas toast was buttered and grilled which I should have expected. I found it to be a little too greasy but still pleasant. As you can see this pork is pretty finely shredded which is not my normal preference, but this was very tasty. It had a distinctly mild smoke flavor which undoubtedly comes from their advertised use of fruit woods (as opposed to hickory which is quite a bit more pungent.)

But I would eat shoe leather if it came with Matchstick’s sauce.

The sauce does not have that distinctive twang of Gates but it a bit spicier. The heat dances around your mouth like tiny, delicious angels of flavorocity. It has sweetness, but without the cloying syrupyness that plagues others. Maybe it was just my extreme hunger, but I was ready to declare it my favorite sauce in the city.

Alright virgins obsessive barbecue enthusiasts, this is where you proceed to berate the shit out of me.

I have only been to Matchstick once and there is more than enough to bring me back. Breakfast for starters, looks very promising, as do the sandwiches. They also have onion rings for $5.99 so they must be the best damn rings in town.

It bears mentioning that there are no ribs here (at least not that I could find on the menu), just beef, ham, turkey, sausage and pulled pork. They are also without a liquor license for the moment; a full bar should be in place by Halloween. 39th street is not known for its barbecue, so I think this place fills a niche. Once they get booze and can stay open late (they are promising live entertainment) I can see this becoming a cozy little hangout. Let’s just hope, with all the restaurant competition and the poor economy, that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Matchstick BBQ on Urbanspoon

LC’s Bar-B-Q: 5800 Blue Pkwy

 Posted by at 10:14 am
Aug 142009
 

Everyone who likes to talk about local food and restaurant stuff should be reading and participating in the LTH Forum. A number of funny, articulate and knowledgeable folks are writing about KC restaurants of all kinds. I have heard about a few places for the first time there, and next to twitter it’s the best place to get up to the minute news about the local restaurant scene. A recent BBQ excursion arranged by the site’s founder Aaron Deacon took a large group of out-of-towners around to Arthur Bryant’s, Oklahoma Joe’s, Woodyard and LC’s Bar-B-Q. This got me thinking about paying another long overdue visit to LC’s.

LC's Bar-B-Q

LC’s consistently appears on those ubiquitous and subjective lists of Kansas City’s best barbecue joints. For reasons unbeknown to me I haven’t been out to LC’s in ages which, for a food lover like me is just about inexcusable. Good, popular barbecue is not something I can eat every day but I make it a point to get to Bryant’s, Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s and innumerable inferior places a couple times a year. Why not LC’s?

Part of the reason for my oversight is the physical and psychological location of the restaurant. Situated out on Blue Parkway, LC’s does not sit on prime real estate. The drive from KC central takes one through a strange part of the east side that seems semi-rural and partially abandoned, leading to a sense that it is very far away. But it’s really not. From the Plaza it will take you ten minutes. Seriously, for less time than the length of an average Yes song you can take yourself out for some of the best barbecue in the area.

LC's Bar-B-Q

Yes, some of the best in the area. I think it’s that good even though I haven’t eaten there as many times as your average barbecue enthusiast.

This last visit was all about the burnt ends, people. While many menu items are very good, this is what most folks mention when talking about LC’s. The first time you try the burnt ends you will get that slack-jawed, eyes-closed expression normally associated with the best kinds of sexual gratification. I don’t think I ever truly understood burnt ends until I had these.

A modest fee of $8.95 will get you a huge portion of these tender beef nuggets that explode with delicious flavors of smoke, spices and rendered fat. Arriving doused liberally with LC’s very good tangy sauce, the beef has a highly complex texture. It melts in your mouth like pot roast but isn’t stringy. Chewy pieces of bark punctuate each piece. There is a fair amount of fat but it doesn’t overwhelm and doesn’t need to be picked out.

LC's Bar-B-Q

The burnt ends at LC’s are truly a revelation. But let me caution that they are extremely rich and flavorful. I think only a crazy person could stomach an entire portion, though I’m sure it’s been done. If you want to be productive later in the day, you might want to opt for the half smoked chicken or a ham sandwich.

LC's Bar-B-Q

I ate probably less than half of my burnt ends and probably would have felt sick having much more. It didn’t help that I had a giant basket of french fries to deal with also.

LC's Bar-B-Q

The fries will set you back a very steep $3.45 but can easily be shared among a table of folks. As you can see, these are thick cut taters, almost like steak fries. I don’t normally care for fries of this size and these were no exception. I found about half the order to be slightly undercooked, giving a few of them that heavy, boiled potato-like consistency inside. They were nonetheless a nice starchy accompaniment to the meat, especially since the white bread quickly turned to mush.

I definitely want to give a shout-out to the beef sandwich here as well since it is my favorite brisket in the city. As always you get a huge portion in a white bread sandwich cut into delectable towering meat triangles. The beef is the best combination of tenderness and flavor that I’ve found. I had the ribs on one of my previous visits and found them a little overcooked and still too fatty, but this was probably three years ago. I certainly would not hesitate to try them again.

Every review of LC’s you read will talk about what a dive it is, but it’s actually a little cozier than I remember. I eat in sketchier places every week. There is a little ice cream freezer as you walk in, a couple lighted menu boards and a lot of taxidermied birds and fish. I don’t think the appearance of the space should even be an issue. In fact, I think Arthur Bryant’s is more of a dump and most Gates locations just look like Wendy’s with a weird design aesthetic. Really the most annoying thing about LC’s is the loud TV that always seems to be blaring some preposterous daytime program, like that game show with Howie Mandel.

Out of curiosity I searched for the health department inspection results on LC’s to see if the “dive-ish” qualities affected food safety. Interestingly I could not locate anything on the City of KCMO Health Department site. So an opportunity to be a smart-ass was lost. Alas.

The service is pretty good. The folks behind the counter certainly lack the attitude of Bryant’s employees and the hangdog incompetence of Gates workers. It is, however a much smaller operation that either of those two places. The only glitch during my last visit was the absence of pickles on my tray which I had asked for. No big thing, the cashier just gave the cook a dirty look and brought them out to me. (Yes, you have to ask for pickles here.)

I’d like to encourage everyone who loves barbecue to make a trip out to LC’s sometime soon. It’s right on the way to Kauffman Stadium if you take the back way. What could be better before (or after) a ballgame? Sure, it’s location is a tad odd, and maybe the neighborhood ain’t much but I think LC’s is on the Kansas City Must-Go list.


View Larger Map

Read More:

Yelp

LC's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Jul 292009
 

The few blocks of Troost Avenue from Rockhurst University south is turning into a nice little stretch of locally owned commercial establishments. There are a few thrift stores that bill themselves as antique shops, the sprawling Troostwood Garage, the Blue Star Motorcycle Shop, Stretch’s Flava Ice Cream, J Bones/JA Quan Clothing store, a busy barber shop, a bookstore, a sizeable tattoo parlor, not to mention Coffee Break and Mike’s Tavern * on the north end.

Sure, there are a couple of vacant storefronts, some empty lots, a payday loan place, a sketchy convenience/beer store, and a cool-looking but equally sketchy gas station:


View Larger Map

Add to that the rich mixture of cut-rate nail salons and storefront churches and you have a happening little place.

This section of Troost is a nice little mini-neighborhood that people who live nearby actually patronize. It is a veritably bustling little stretch of road, particularly compared to other commercial strips in town that often appear deserted from the outside. The newest business to set up shop in this area is an interesting little spot called Greedy Man’s.

greedy1

This place is small and easy to overlook. There is a banner above the door that says “Now Open!” or something but the entrance is actually quite easy to miss, even on foot. Don’t get it mixed up with Zap In & Out on the corner which advertises “Beer, Liquor and BBQ” on its sign but only makes good on two of those promises.

Greedy Man’s looks just like a big city corner grill should. It’s small and kind of dingy. A few people are waiting around for some takeout. There are flyers, free publications and pamphlets everywhere. Even better, a little TV in the corner was blaring Krush Groove when I walked in.

Greedy Man’s is not really a BBQ joint in the traditional sense. Yes they offer a turkey and beef BBQ sandwich, as well as rib tips but the menu also features chicken wings, fried shrimp, burgers and hot dogs of various kinds.

Not fully prepared for the lack of BBQ items I needed a second to peruse the menu before placing my order. This was a mistake since the phone rang and the cashier’s time was subsequently consumed by the world’s most complicated take out order. After 10 minutes or so I ordered the smoked turkey sandwich. This resulted in 5 minutes of confusion as to “which sandwich” I wanted since they also have a turkey Philly and a fried turkey chop sandwich. She didn’t realize that there was a regular turkey BBQ sandwich on the menu.

Stupidly I had my heart set on BBQ so I insisted on the smoked turkey. And a Coke.

“We have Dr. Pepper” she said.

The small refrigerator next to the counter was filled with various soft drink odds and ends but indeed no Coca Cola or Pepsi. So I had a Dr. Pepper.

It may sound like I’m complaining here but I’m not. I should have observed these signs and acted accordingly. Turns out that Greedy Man’s has its own special fruit juice brew called “Greedy Man’s Tropical Troost.” They also have “KC Peach Tea.” And here I wanted a soft drink from a can?

Likewise I should have realized that the BBQ turkey might not be the best thing on the menu. It wasn’t. Like other BBQ places, Greedy Man’s uses essentially deli turkey or at least a processed meat of some kind. I don’t understand this at all. And they have a lot of turkey on this menu, including turkey burgers and turkey hot dogs. Adam’s Rib uses processed turkey. So does Woodyard and Bates City. I’m going to stop ordering turkey at BBQ places until someone tells me where I can get a real sandwich made from a real bird. I’m depending on you here.

greedy2

Looking back at the menu I really should have had fried shrimp, one of their burgers or chicken wings. The cashier’s confusion should have been my clue to order something else.

I had to get the beans since Charles Ferruzza named them in the list of top 10 baked beans in Kansas City. Damn they were sweet. Literally sweet, like candy. But something about them was extremely comforting. They were piping hot, a little runny and cradled in a makeshift aluminum foil dish.

greedy man's bbq

I should point out that the wait was not trivial, about 20 minutes. Fortunately, there was Krush Groove to entertain me. People were constantly coming in the door, placing orders, picking up orders, saying hello. The guy who owns Greedy Man’s is super nice. He checked up on me and the other customers before and after we ate.

The vibe here is very cool and laid back but there are only 3 or 4 tables in the whole joint. This would be a good place to swing by on a Saturday afternoon for a greasy lunch. While I can’t say it has the best food in the world, I also feel certain that I haven’t experienced Greedy Man’s at its best.

Greedy Man's BBQ & GrillAddress: on Urbanspoon

* The last few times I have driven by Mike’s Tavern, it was closed. Once was a Saturday evening when it definitely should have been open. Hopefully, things are ok.

May 102009
 


It is incredibly annoying how much people like this place. Yelp and other sites abound with people proclaiming this the best BBQ in Kansas City and often the best BBQ in the world. I don’t have a lot of use for those kinds of assertions unless they come from people I know personally and trust. Nonetheless, Oklahoma Joe’s stellar reputation is pretty much well-deserved. They make all the BBQ standards really well (at least all that I’ve had), and I haven’t encountered the shortcomings or weaknesses that you see at other establishments around the metro.

Pulled pork? Excellent. Ribs? Excellent. Chicken? Excellent. Brisket? Very good. Sausage? Meh.

BBQ chicken

Where I will differ with the vast majority of folks in Kansas City is in my assessment of the french fries. While well cooked and pleasingly crunchy in texture, they are vastly over seasoned. They are so salty that I rarely come close to finishing them.

The baked beans on the other hand, pretty much rule. Cole slaw is solid but typical.

This is a quintessential lunch spot in a lot of ways, particularly because I think the midday meal is their bread and butter. Anyone who has been around town for any length of time knows that there is a line out the door by 11:30 when doors open. The wait during lunch rush can approach 45 minutes. This is good food, but I can’t see waiting that long for it, especially if I have somewhere to be (like, oh I don’t know, WORK?). So this is a special occasion lunch place and also a perfectly good joint for dinner and odd hour meals.

And yeah, there is the gas station thing. Oklahoma Joe’s, for those who don’t know, is located in the back of a gas station convenience store at the corner of 47th and Mission Road. I won’t go into the history of this odd placement but at the very least it is amusing and makes for a great story when introducing out of towners to KC barbecue. Despite the humble surroundings, Oklahoma Joe’s has a comforting menu which is larger than many and designed to appeal to mass palates.

The line goes from right to left, which seems backwards but probably creates extra space when it gets too long. It gets a little annoying to squeeze between all the folks in line after paying with your tray full of hot meat, a wobbly plastic cup of beer and a bag of fries. Then you get your drink and have to navigate around the line again to get to your table. But folks are accommodating and friendly so it’s not a huge ordeal. I just know that someday I’m gonna drop my pale ale in someone’s purse.

A lot of people swear by their fabled Z-man sandwich, basically a bun piled with smoked brisket, cheese and a couple of onion rings. The carolina sandwiches are also popular and include your choice of meat, topped with cole slaw on a bun. Frankly I’m not a big fan of these kinds of “specialty sandwiches.” All I require is white bread and meat a la Arthur Bryant’s but those at OK Joe’s have an undeniable appeal. And if you want meat on bread at Joe’s you can get that.

Texas platter

I’m not going to debate what is or isn’t the best barbecue in Kansas City. For my money it is and always will be Bryant’s, but I can respect those who prefer Joe’s, Danny Edwards or even Jack Stack. Joe’s began as a competition barbecue team, tearing up the regional circuit in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The restaurant has been going strong for about a dozen years, and in that relatively short time, Oklahoma Joe’s has inserted itself firmly into the pantheon of fabulous, local barbecue establishments.

Part of that is certainly its Kansas locale. Their clientele leans toward white and middle class and some of them undoubtedly like to think of themselves as slumming because they are eating in a gas station. All I can say is that the first time I went to LC’s, there were a couple guys being arrested up against cop cars in the parking lot. THAT is slumming it people. OK Joe’s is not so much a neighborhood joint as a destination spot anyway whereas Bryant’s still is a neighborhood place in a lot of ways. And the gas station isn’t remotely dingy or intimidating. It might as well be a Wendy’s with a line.

It is hard to get out of here for less than 10 bucks and a meal here often runs you much more because you want to try multiple items. That’s ok though, it is a destination meal and you should splurge a little. Get a beer and an unneeded side of beans; it won’t kill you.

I’d be a fool not to recommend Oklahoma Joe’s to anyone, just keep in mind that the line is long at the lunch hour. That means no whining. The wait is generally worth it if you have the time to spare. Service is very fast and despite how crowded it can be, I’ve never had a hard time finding a place to sit. So don’t try to save a table while your friend is ordering, because that’s just bad form.

Yelp

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Mar 092009
 

Daniel’s BBQ closed up almost as soon as it opened, the space is currently oc

Daniel's BBQWell, here’s some good news for my friends and avid readers out in Shawnee: Margarita’s on Johnson Drive near Quivira has recently turned into Daniels Bar-B-Q, a highly respectable joint that, based on one visit by yours truly, seems like a winner for either lunch or dinner.

I first heard about this place via Fat City a month or so ago. Then I forgot about it and was happy to “discover” it last week having no recollection that Owen beat me to the punch by a long shot.

Daniel’s sits in a strange little strip mall, occupying the weirdest space in the building. When I opened the front door, I did NOT expect to see a rather sizable staircase extending down in front of me. While other stores in the strip lie at street level, Daniel’s is down in the basement. Well, sort of. Once you enter you realize that the slope of the land outside actually puts a good portion of the place above ground, windows and everything.

This is a place with at least 3 or 4 levels. There is a sunken dining area, a raised bar, and the aforementioned south dining room which sits halfway up the stairs. With all the steps, this place would be a nightmare for wheelchair users and stumbly, drunk people.

All in all, it’s kind of a cool room, just the right mix of dingy and comfortable. The funniest aspects are the remnants of its life as a Mexican restaurant. A faux-road sign attached the wall at one end of the bar reads “Corona Street.” And one end of the dining area is decorated with this stunning, southwestern mural:

Daniel's BBQ

This is a table service joint and despite the odd entry, I was greeted immediately and given a choice of where to sit. After I sat down and received my Pepsi, the waitress took the calculated risk of informing me that I had a sizable piece of the straw wrapper stuck to the bridge of my nose. This, I very much appreciated.

They have the usual BBQ offerings with the addition of bar food staples like wings and burgers. But the place smelled enough of smoked meat that I opted for one of their “long bun” sandwiches with fries–a good deal at $5.99. They offer three sauces: Regular, Hot and Competition sauce.

The regular sauce, as is often the case, is the best of the lot. It’s a little sweet but has a nice tang and is hotter than one would expect. This is one of the better traditional sauces around. The competition sauce is a molasses-laden, dark, sweet sauce which I did not care for at all.

Daniel's BBQ
The pulled pork had excellent smoke flavor and a dry rub that really came through after cooking. The texture was a little dry, but fans of burnt ends will enjoy it. The beef was also very good, but was sliced way too thinly for my taste. My major problem was with the little sub rolls they serve the sandwiches on. I would much prefer white bread or even a nice soft bun. These long rolls are more conducive to Italian sandwiches at the airport. The fries are typical crinkle cut taters, not likely homemade. They did cook them nice and crispy which is all too rare.

Daniel's BBQ

Daniel’s website also advertises that they are accommodating to gluten-free diets. If you know anyone with celiac disease or just a general intolerance to gluten, you know that this is a major selling point. The meat, sauces, fries and beans are guaranteed gluten free, but more importantly they plan to offer gluten free beer and baked goods.

The service was simply outstanding. I never felt lacking for anything. My server brought my check over just as I was finishing up. “I know you are probably on lunch,” she said. Yes, someone who gets it. Likewise she refilled my drink without me having to ask. In general she was genuine, pleasant and really goods at her job.

The closest BBQ joint to Daniel’s is probably Bates City Shawnee BBQ on Quivira. RJ’s is not too far away either. I think Daniel’s can roll with either one of them. The beef is better than Bates, and the pork may very well be if you like the drier texture (I do). The original sauce is far better than RJ’s odd, sweet concoction, though the atmosphere can’t really compete with the little roadhouse ambiance.

All in all, this is a welcome addition to the suburban KC barbecue landscape.

Read more:

Daniel's Bar-B-Q and Catering on Urbanspooncupied by Char House