Tending the ribs at Woodyard Bar-B-Que.
Back in July, after attending MPI World Education Conference, in St. Louis, Mo., I hopped the Amtrak ‘Missouri River Runner’ train west, to Kansas City, to check out that city’s famed barbecue joints.
Here are my top picks:
My favourite was Fiorella’s Jack Stack, which boasts the Zagat guide’s highest-rated barbecue in the U.S. I sampled Jack Stack’s food three times: at the MPI WEC closing party, at St. Louis’s Missouri Botanical Garden, and twice in Kansas City, at the Freight House restaurant location, right beside the train station.
The pork ribs and burnt ends (trimmed off the ends of beef brisket, a Kansas City specialty), served at the closing party, were splendid, as was the Fred Flintstone-portioned beef rib, at the restaurant. Barbecue is as much about the sides as the main event, and Jack Stack didn’t disappoint: Crunchy, not-too-sweet slaw and rich, smoky baked beans.
Big points to Jack Stack for offering dessert, not traditionally done at most KC barbecue joints. The carrot cake, served warm, so that its pecan-studded frosting melted into a glaze, was deeply satisfying, as was the bread pudding. The decor is upscale, with faux-leather banquettes and seats, huge chandeliers and exposed-brick walls.
A much more charmingly rough ’n’ ready decor is found at Oklahoma Joe’s.
Housed inside a gas station, Oklahoma Joe’s delivered deeply smoky, hugely meaty pork ribs and tender beef brisket. The spicy slaw brought subtle spice and the black bean-studded baked beans were rich and smoky. Oklahoma Joe’s is enormously popular and lineups start forming at 10:30am, 30 minutes before the official opening time!
Expect bare formica tables, ceiling fans and tile floors. Service is cafeteria-style (order at the cash, pay, find a table, then wait for the food to be brought by a server), the norm at KC barbecue joints. Jack Stack, with its table service, is the rare exception.
Also loads of charm to be found at Woodyard Bar-B-Que.
Best to eat at the outdoor terrace, home to wrought-iron chairs and wooden picnic tables, along with a large, squat, three-chimney smoker, from which emanated extra-meaty, smoke-imbued pork ribs, among the top two or three I sampled in KC.