Are You Experienced?

Jimi Hendrix in 1967

Jimi Hendrix in 1967

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you didn’t understand exactly what was going on but you knew you were in the midst of something great?  It is like what I imagine it would have been like to see Jimi Hendrix before he was The Experience.  Think about what it would have been like to see him really early in his career, like his first bus tour early.  You may not have truly understood how revolutionary, how progressive and how influential he would be, but you knew it was good.

That is a little what my first few trips to Q39 were like.  Immediately I knew the food was fantastic.  The smoked meats were some of the best I’ve had in a town literally World Famous for smoked meats.  The sides were classic, yet unique and inspired.  But even knowing that the food was great, there was something that never quite clicked for me.  It was like seeing Hendrix for the first time.  I knew it was good, but until Jake and I went with our wives to do our review I didn’t quite understand what I was experiencing.

At this point Q39 has been around long enough and built up enough of a reputation that walking in on a weekend night and snaring a table around dinner time is out of the question.  You are going to wait.  Conveniently though, they do offer an online reservation system on their website that can eliminate much of your time standing around the entry way waiting for a table.  If you plan on going at traditional feeding times, I highly recommend taking advantage of this feature.  We tried to book an 8:00pm spot at about 4:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday and no luck.  It was already full, so plan early.  We went ahead and booked a 9:00 and showed up about 8:00 anyway hoping that someone had cancelled or people weren’t lingering.  We got lucky and had a table by about 8:20.

Dining Room

Dining Room

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the front door at Q39 is it doesn’t really look like any other BBQ place we have visited.  It has an industrial feel with concrete floors and walls and and exposed beam ceiling. As you stand in the entry way there is a full, and busy, bar to your left, a large community style table directly in front of you and a large dining room with many tightly placed tables wrapping around the bar and community table.  Around the corner to the right is the open BBQ kitchen, which Q39 claims is the only one of its kind in Kansas City.  The dining area and bar were both packed and there was an obvious energy in the room.  On previous visits this was one of the things I did not quite get.  It didn’t feel like a BBQ joint and it didn’t feel like an upscale restaurant.  It had more of a hip neighborhood bar vibe than anything else.  We were shown to our table and quickly decided that a pair of Judge’s Plates and a Q Bacon Club for Mrs. Jake would give us everything we needed to get a nice sampling of the board of fare.

My thoughts on the Food:

Sliced Brisket

Sliced Brisket

Brisket:  Let’s start off with a bang.  These were my notes in totality for the brisket, “Thick cut.  Perfect. Smoke, beef, bark, perfect.” The smoke was present in a visible smoke ring and in flavor in every bite.  Slices were about 1/4″ and they were lightly sprinkled with BBQ rub on the plate.  The bark had tons of flavor and was the perfect crust to compliment the beef.  I’ve had the pleasure of sampling quite a bit of brisket from various places in KC and this ranks right at the top of the list.

Pulled Pork:  This was another home run.  The flavor on the pork was unlike anything we’ve had anywhere else.  It was pulled very fine and had almost a buttery texture.  Flavor was very complex for pork and it seemed like a layer of flavor was added every step of the cooking process.  It tasted like it was either heated in or served with the juices created by cooking.  Again, this pork is right at the top of the list of what we have had out in KC.

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Burnt End

Burnt End

Burnt Ends: These were really tasty as well.  They were on the lean side for burnt ends,which personally I really prefer.  These were moist and had tons of beef and smoke flavor.  As good as the sliced brisket was I expected top flight burnt ends and was not disappointed.

Sausage: Q39 uses a coarse grind for their sausage which is pretty unique.  There was a distinct pink smoke ring and pieces of herbs visible on the bias cut pieces.  It was very tender and tasted fresh.  Overall, it was quite enjoyable.

Sausage Close

Sausage Close

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ribs

Ribs

Ribs: The ribs were sweet and sticky.  They had a great texture with just the right amount of pull and bite.  Like all the meat, the smoke was present and complimented the meat, rub, and other flavors really well.

Chicken: We got this as a bone in leg quarter and it had the least amount of smoke of any of the meats but even though it was subtle, it was definitely there.  The skin was crispy so I’d guess it gets finished off on the grill before serving.  It was tender and juicy and a very nice smoked chicken.

Chicken Leg Quarter

Chicken Leg Quarter

Turkey:  The turkey took on more smoke than most turkey and it tasted like the real deal, not some processed “turkey product”.  It was however, still just turkey.

Sides:

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

The tarragon potato salad consisted of smallish diced potatoes that when combined with the dressing almost came out like a cool chunky mashed potato. (that is meant as a good thing).  The tarragon added an unexpected but incredibly pleasant fresh herb note to the flavor and really sets this apart from any other potato salad I’ve had anywhere.

The apple coleslaw was the other stand out side for me.  It was a simple blend of cabbage, carrot, onion, and apple.  The apple adds a little sweetness and the slaw is not overly dressed.  It tasted very fresh, had great texture and was a nice balance of sweet, tangy, and crunchy.

Apple Slaw

Apple Slaw

The BBQ beans were adorned with big chunks of meat.  White beans were an unexpected surprise in the mix.  These were absent the super sweet note that many KC style beans have.  They were good, but took a back seat to the slaw and potato salad for me.

BBQ Beans 2

BBQ Beans

Judge's Plate 2

Judge’s Plate

The fries are hand cut, fried crisp and served with large flaked salt and chipotle ketchup on the side.  This was the least impressive of all the sides to me.  For fries to justify costing $4.00 extra as a side they better be pretty stinking earth shattering.  These just aren’t.  It’s not that they are bad by any means, just that your side dish dollar will get you more elsewhere on the menu.

The plates were served with a jalapeno cornbread that, while tasty, seemed a little like an afterthought and was kind of overshadowed by everything else on the plate.

Jalapeno Cornbread

Jalapeno Cornbread

Sauce:

Q39 offers 2 sauces.  They have an original and a zesty.  The original was tangier than most “regular” sauces we have encountered.  It is just a little sweet and that balances the bite.  Overall I liked it quite a bit.  The Zesty sauce was a little thinner, had more vinegar bite, less sweetness, and another level of heat from more (and visible) black pepper.  This was a nice compliment to the richness of the pulled pork (which was wonderful without sauce) and added yet another layer of flavor to that meat.

Sauces

Sauces

Dessert:

Made to order doughnuts

Made to order doughnuts

This is not a normal section in our food review mainly because very few places have dessert.  Q39 boasts some award winning* desserts so we thought we ought to give them a try.  We ordered the made to order doughnuts (yes, they were precisely as good as it sounds) and the Champion Cheesecake.  The doughnuts were cinnamon and sugar dusted fried dough balls and served with a raspberry and a chocolate sauce.  The cheesecake was accompanied by a chocolate ganache, dulce de leche and pecans. We actually found that dipping bites of cheesecake in the raspberry sauce from the doughnuts was quite tasty as well.  I highly suggest if you have not completely gorged yourself on smoked meats to give some of the desserts a shot.

*I have no idea what awards they won, but I concur.

Champion cheesecake

Champion cheesecake

The Hard Data:

Location: 1000 W. 39th St., Kansas City, MO

Service type: Sit down with servers, Bar

Alcohol Served: Full bar

Website:  www.q39kc.com

Price:

Dinner Plates: $14-$19.50

Sandwich: $6.50-$10.50  (no side included)

Slab: $29 (full rack, pork spares)

Side: $3-$5

 

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

10/10

10/10

Sides

9/10

9/10

Sauce

8/10

8/10

Service

8.5/10

8.5/10

Value

8/10

8/10

Overall Grade

A

A

Summary:

Elwood’s Take:

Hopslam

Hopslam

Like I said above, Q39 offers a full bar.  We generally don’t partake in libations when we do reviews unless we have some time to kill.  This is for no reason usually other than when we do these reviews we try to encompass as much of the menu offerings as reasonably possible based on the people present and that’s not cheap, so plunking down another $4-$10 for a beer, wine or cocktail just kind of runs up the bill to the point of sticker shock.  However, after we finished our meal I glanced behind the bar and noticed a green ball atop a Bell’s tap handle and realized they had Bell’s Hopslam on tap which may be one of my favorite beers from anyone. (Yeah, I know that beer comes out in February and I’m posting this review in May.  I’ve been busy. Shut up.) At that point the beer geeks in both Jake and me took over and we ordered a round.  That is also the point when we decided to add the dessert to the meal and made it just kind of a “hang out for a while” meal.  And that is when it clicked.  That is when I truly got the appeal of Q39.  Beyond the fantastic BBQ it is just an easy relaxed place to grab a meal, or make it an evening and grab a drink with your significant other or a group of friends.  Why, in Kansas City, would you expect a cool hangout spot to have anything but World Class BBQ?

Jake’s Take:

It took a couple of trips to Q39 for me to understand what they really have going for them. This place is just a flat out neat experience.  You may notice on your first visit that this isn’t your typical BBQ joint.  It’s different.  I’ll admit that I had sticker shock when I first glanced at the menu.  But once my meal was served, the value started to sink in.  You don’t typically find the kind of care in plating a BBQ meal as you will see at Q39. After my first bite, I was hooked. My mind was conflicted. Do I accept this new place, less than a year old at the time, as an awesome soon-to-be Kansas City BBQ landmark? Well, after reflection, I sure do.  They are successfully changing the experience of BBQ while serving some of the finest smoked meats you will see anywhere.  I recommend giving them a try.  Don’t worry if you have to go back a couple of times until you understand how great this places really is.  I did.

 

Click to add a blog post for Q39 on Zomato

No Bull Quick Hitter: Slap’s BBQ

 

There have been a slew of new BBQ places that have opened in the KC area in the past 18 months or so.  One of those, Slap’s in KCK on about 6th and Central (which is an acronym for the Squeal Like a Pig competition team) is a lunch only joint that has generated some really positive buzz so I’ve been wanting to try it out.  Jake and my schedule’s don’t really line up for us to do a lunch review, but luckily for me friend of the blog, Dry White Toast (DWT) who has joined us on a couple of reviews, has been able to meet for lunch a couple of times and we have made it down to Slap’s twice in the last month.

Slap’s is only open 11:00-3:00 and in my experience 3:00 is pretty optimistic.  Both times I’ve been recently I arrived between 12:00 and 12:30 and while we were there for an hour or so Slap’s either started to, or completely ran out of food.

Pork & Sausage at Slap's

Pork & Sausage at Slap’s

They offer your standard KC BBQ variety of meats, brisket, pork, sausage, burnt ends, ribs and a nice selection of sides as well.  They have 2 sauces, a standard and a hot.  Both work well with the food and the standard is a little sweeter than you’d expect from a traditional KC sauce.  Both times I’ve visited I grabbed a sandwich.  The first one I tried was a pulled pork and sausage combo.  Pork is great, but the sausage was fantastic.  It is a beef Polish sausage Slap’s brings in from a butcher in Lockhart, TX and it is one of the best I’ve had anywhere.  It was so good that I tried it with the sliced brisket on a sandwich on my next visit.  That one didn’t disappoint either.  Absolutely a great pair of BBQ sandwiches.  Another point of note, the staff is super friendly and welcoming.  They seem genuinely happy you walk in the door.

Beef & Sausage at Slap's

Beef & Sausage at Slap’s

The long and short(end) of it; if you are a fan of hidden gem type BBQ joints like I am and you find yourself in KCK around lunch time, drop by Slap’s and try out some delicious competition inspired smoked meats.

Check them out on Facebook here

A Perfect Kansas City BBQ Night

Woodyard Sign

Jake and I have been wanting to head to Woodyard BBQ for quite a while to do a review.  Woodyard has a really nice brick patio that sits adjacent to their brick BBQ pit and makes for a really transparent dining experience.  It is almost like eating your meal in the kitchen.  As you can imagine, however, an outdoor patio dining experience isn’t exactly pleasant in say, February, so we waited for the weather to turn warm and set our cross-hairs on one of the more unique BBQ places in the KC area.

One of the most obvious features that is unique to Woodyard BBQ is the giant and literal wood yard behind the main building(s). You can buy all kinds of smoking woods in bulk chunks and logs for your own restaurant, competition BBQ team, or backyard pit.  In fact, that is all that Woodyard BBQ used to sell.  Although they have been selling wood for decades, they have only been selling their own BBQ for less than 10 years.The wood yard

Jake and I arrived ahead of our wives and had time to enjoy a cold barley-pop on Woodyard’s quaint brick patio that sits in front of the main building and along side their workhorse brick BBQ pit.  Between the sight of the Boulevard Brewing Company logo emblazoned on the back of the pit, the smell of BBQ smoke in our noses, and the taste of (Boulevard) Pale Ale on our palates coming from the Sporting KC pint glasses, I’m not sure you could have a more perfect Kansas City evening.

Boulevard Beers on a perfect nigh

Boulevard Beers on a perfect night

Smoker

Smoker

Conveniently for us Woodyard BBQ offers what they call the “Merriam Mixer” which is a combo plate with darn near every meat on their menu.  We filled in the sides and added some smoked chicken wings and our meal was set.

 

My thoughts on the food:

Brisket: The brisket was sliced thin and had a visible

Sliced brisket

Sliced brisket

smoke ring.  It was not trimmed as lean as some which helps maintain a juicy tender texture, but leaves some visible pieces of fat.  Personally I like brisket pretty lean so I just discarded the fat and continued to enjoy.

Sausage

Sausage

Sausage: The sausage had a very soft bite and reminded me of a good quality breakfast sausage.  It was very tender and had a very mild smoke flavor.

Pork:  The pork was shredded fine and very moist.  Small

Pulled pork

Pulled pork

diced bell peppers were mixed in with the pork.  The smoke was very present and was my favorite meat overall.  (As a side note, the pork is 1/3 of the “Ps” in the Triple P sandwich that Woodyard offers.  The other two are ham and house smoked bacon.  It also has smoked provolone cheese and is every bit as fantastic as that sounds.  In fact, I put it on my Mount Rushmore of KC BBQ sandwiches. A post on that topic will be down the road. )

Burnt ends

Burnt ends

Burnt Ends:  These were a little chewy.  The smoke was ever present as you’d expect and the beef flavor was right on.  They were served lightly sauced and, the texture was my only gripe, and that was minimal.  Overall they were quite good.

Ribs: The ribs still had the silverskin on which I don’t love, but overall the flavor was really tasty.  The bark had a unique flavor that came from the distinctive rub Woodyard uses.  They were fall off the bone tender and one of the meats you should definitely try at Woodyard.

Wings:  Like most of the meat these had a very mild smoke flavor and were quite moist.  The skin was crispy enough that they were most likely fried as well.  These were not spicy like traditional wings, but had a very BBQ feel to them.

Turkey and Ham:  The one thing of note at Woodyard is that these meats were not overly salty.  Many times they taste like processed, salty deli meat, but that was not the case at Woodyard.

Sides:

Potato salad

Potato salad

The potato salad was our favorite side at Woodyard.  It tasted homemade and had little shards of red potato skin.  It had a well balanced creamy dressing and small chunks of egg and green onion as well. The coleslaw was a perfectly acceptable.  It was more a creamy dressing and was pretty much a right down the middle BBQ side dish.  The beans did not have any chunks of meat which would have added quite a bit to them.  They did have small pieces of onion and a bit of black pepper bite to them but overall were kind of uneventful.  The fries were of the

Fries

Fries

shoestring variety and fried crisp.  If you have been to Woodyard in the past and enjoyed their baked potato wedges they have been replaced with the french fries.

Sauce:

The regular sauce was consistency that held its form without running.  It was a mildly spiced sauce that had a hint of vinegar that gave some bite.  The spicy sauce was similar to the regular but had a cayenne pepper heat that built as we ate it.  I preferred the heat in the spicy sauce to the regular, but both are pretty good.

Hot (left) & Regluar (right)

Hot (left) & Regular (right)

The Hard Data:

Location: 3001 Merriam Ln, Kansas City KS, 66106

Service type: Counter with meal served to your table

Alcohol Served: Bottled and Draft beer

Website:  www.woodyardbbq.com

Price:

Dinner Plates: $9.95 (2 meat) $15.95 (4 meat) $29.95 (Merriam Mixer, 8 meats)

Sandwich: $7.45 – $9.45 (specialty)

Slab: $19.95

Side: $1.75 (single) – $8.95 (quart)

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

8/10

8/10

Sides

8/10

7/10

Sauce

7.5/10

7/10

Service

7.5/10

8/10

Value

7/10

7.5/10

Overall Grade

B+

B+

Summary:

Elwood’s Take:

To me Woodyard BBQ is a great example of the sum being grater than the parts.  It just so happens that the parts on their own are pretty good too.  Combine the well executed traditional BBQ offerings and the truly unique dining experience either on the patio, in the boat house or one of the few tables in the main building and you get one of the coolest BBQ joints in the city.

Jake’s Take:

The smoker right on the patio allows you to enjoy the glorious smoke wafting through the air.  The overall ambiance is what draws the TV shows and BBQ lovers from all over the country.  The experience alone is worth the trip.  Once you are there, sample your favorite meat and sides, they are all pretty good.  Then sit back and enjoy the carefree meal in this distinctive BBQ joint.

Woodyard Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Smokin’ Fresh Street Side BBQ – Food Truck

Smokin' Fresh Street Side BBQWe came across the Smokin’ Fresh food truck while attending a car show this summer.  From the moment they fired up the smoker in the parking lot, we knew we had to check it out.  After speaking with one of the owners, we discovered that they are an all-natural, organic BBQ food truck.  We thought this was a pretty neat concept.  While we hear of the farm-to-market trendy movement everywhere, one doesn’t necessarily associate it with Kansas City barbeque.

IMG_0388After checking out the menu, we both decided to try the pulled pork sliders with the heirloom tomato salad.  It was a warm summer day, so the heirloom tomato salad was quite refreshing.  The chunks of tomato were topped with basil, feta cheese crumbles, and avocado.  The balsamic vinegar and olive oil brought an extra flavor profile that blended well.

The pulled pork sliders were topped with finely shredded slaw and BBQ sauce.  The sweet and tangy sauce and rub on the pork was complemented by the slaw, making this warm sandwich palatable on a 90+ degree day.  The pork had a subtle, yet present smoke flavor and was very moist and tender.  More than anything, we noted how sweet it was.

IMG_0389While our experience with this food truck is quite limited, I’d recommend giving them a try if you see them out and about. It seems like they have a good thing going.

Pulled Pork SliderHeirloom Tomato Salad

Smokin' Fresh Streetside BBQ Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Don’t Judge BBQ By Its Strip Mall

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

After a long day at work, Elwood and I decided it would be a great day for some barbeque.  We got the wives in on the plan and pointed our compasses in the direction of Jon Russell’s BBQ in Overland Park.  JR’s is a relatively new establishment in the area and we have been excited about checking it out.  It looks like they will be expanding to a second restaurant soon.  If you have ever been inside this location, you could see how they might outgrow it.

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

The dining room

The restaurant is very unassuming, set in a strip mall not far from a large soccer complex that undoubtedly provides for large rushes of business on busy weekends.  The long and narrow dining room has a small seating area with high top tables along the wall.  The counter is located in the center of the restaurant with the kitchen tucked behind.  We noticed immediately that the restaurant was clean and tastefully decorated in a modern industrial style with stained concrete floors and stainless steel.

As usual, we prepared by checking out their online menu and stepped up to the counter to order immediately.  I think we missed their Saturday dinner rush by arriving just a tad later than our normal.  My Ferrari was having car trouble that night so I had to take the Lambo instead.  Okay, back to reality.

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Combo plate with turkey, ribs, and pork

We ordered two Grand Champion Combo Plates and a Jon Russell sandwich.    This allowed us to sample the most variety of meats and sides.  The plates were served with bread to make sandwiches if you so choose.  Our meal was delivered to the table quickly and we were then asked if we would like sauce.  It turns out they had six sauces to offer, so we took them all.  The waitress was kind enough to label them for us.  Looking at the sauce tray was reminiscent of opening a box of Russell Stover’s assorted chocolates and trying to decide which one to try first.  They all sounded so good but looked very similar.

My Thoughts on the Food:

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Brisket

Brisket:  It was sliced thin and had good texture and pull.  The smoke ring was consistent in each slice and the combination of smoke and beef flavor mixed will.

Sausage:  The sausage was moist and very tender.  We found the peppery flavor to balance well without being overpowering.

Ham:  The smoke flavor was quite mild as in most ham, but it was tender and not overly salty.

Turkey: It was tender and tasted like turkey.  My wife ate most of it per usual.

Pulled Pork: This is a great example of pork.  It was very tender but not soggy like you find

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Pulled pork

when it has been steamed in the warmer all day.  There was excellent smoke penetration and coloring.  I was served some delightful pieces with bark that melted in my mouth.

Ribs:  These were perfect.  They were served just how I would imagine they do in competition.  Each rib was sliced perfectly and evenly.  The smoke penetration and color was right down to the bone.  Each bite pulled clean from

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Ribs

the bone, leaving the rest of the meat completely affixed to the rib.  I truly had a perfect bite.

Burnt Ends:  Wow. Oh my goodness. Wow.  That should pretty much sum up in no uncertain terms how we feel about these.  They may in fact be the best burnt end in the city.  The flavor of their rub and the smoke is evenly distributed throughout each bite but does not detract from the flavor of the beef.  Bravo!

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Burnt ends on the Jon Russell sandwich

Sides:

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Little Jon’s Pit Beans

Little Jon’s Pit Beans:  They were oniony and had nice chunks of brisket. The smokey beans had a sweetness to them with some heat that sneaks up on you.

Cheesy Corn:  The corn was served with a light cheese sauce and had ham cubes and herbs throughout with just a pinch of pepper for good measure.

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Cheesy corn

Mac n Cheese:  This was pretty uneventful.  The cheese was a bit thin on the mac but not bad.

Seasoned Fries:  Nice and crispy with salt and cracked pepper.  They were pretty standard fries but they make for a great way to sample all of the sauces.

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

Seasoned fries

Sauce:

Honey & Spice “Original”: This was sweet but not too sweet.  It is a really good “House” sauce.

Smokin’ Ghost: Sweet with heat that follows.  It is a bit fruity with notes similar to mango.

Raspberry Jalapeno: This was not very hot, despite the name.  It was more of a sweet sauce but had good flavor.

Pineapple Pablano:  This was a bit thicker than most of the sauces and had an Hawaiian flair.  I’ve never been on a Hawaiian luau, but I imagine this sauce would complement one quite nicely.

Cherry Chipotle: The thickest of all of the sauces had some small chunks of cherries throughout.  It was sweet but had a slight tartness.  The flavor of the cherries really pops.

Blueberry Habanaro:  This was spicier than the rest but the blueberry was overly present.  We both agreed on the term “funky” when describing it.

Jon Russell's BBQ Kansas City

The sauces

 

The Hard Data:

Location: 12094 W 135th St.  Overland Park, KS  66221

Service type: Counter with meal served to your table

Alcohol Served: Bottled beer

Website:  www.jonrussellsbbq.com

Price:

Dinner Plates: $13.49 – 3 meats with 2 sides

Sandwich: $6.99 any sandwich

Slab: $23.99 with 2 sides

Side: $1.95 – 2.79

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

9/10

9/10

Sides

9/10

8/10

Sauce

9/10

10/10

Service

9/10

9.5/10

Value

9/10

9/10

Overall Grade

A

A

Summary:

Jake’s Take:

I was taken back by how good Jon Russell’s is.  I have been to quite a few Kansas City BBQ joints while over the last couple of years of Nobullbbq.  It takes a lot for me to be wowed anymore.  Jon Russell’s did it.  I’m looking forward to their expansion at about 135th and State Line.  They will be just a bit closer to me and will hopefully have more seating to accommodate the rushes.  I have a feeling that they are around for the long haul.  If you haven’t had the chance to check them out, do yourself a favor and order the burnt ends.

Elwood’s Take:

The first time I ate at Jon Russell’s was about a year ago and I distinctly remember not expecting much as my wife and I pulled in the lot.  I also remember sending Jake text messages along the lines of, “Holy crap, we have to get here and do a blog review for this place.” and “Seriously. Best. Burnt. Ends. Ever.” as soon as we started eating.  Since then JR’s has become one of my regular BBQ stops and it always delivers top quality BBQ and service that is exceptional.  Repeat readers here may recall I have beaten up on some places for having too many sauce varieties and none of them being particularly good.  While Jon Russell’s offers 6 sauces, all but one pairing a pepper and a fruit, they are all distinct and all work well with the meat.  I think my favorite would have to be the Raspberry Jalapeno, although, the meat has enough flavor on its own it really doesn’t require the sauce at all.  In the past year JR’s has solidified a spot in my BBQ rotation and I look forward to trying out their new location.

Jon Russell's BBQ on Urbanspoon

When Being Lazy Turns Into Good BBQ

K&M Sign

K&M Sign

On one of those nights where you just don’t feel like cooking the family and I made an impulse decision to check out out K&M BBQ in Spring Hill.  Because we went on a whim, Jake was unable to attend.  We arrived about 7:30 and the ample parking lot was packed.  This is usually a good sign, and this time was no exception.  As we entered we found a clean, very well maintained dining room adorned by a combination of cowboy hats and old cowboy movie posters.  We were quickly shown to a vacant table where we found menus and the obligatory bucket ‘o sauce.  Since it was just three of us, the Family Style Dinner, which includes ribs, two meats, two sides, fries, and bread fit the bill nicely.  We chose beef and sausage as our two meats and coleslaw and beans for sides.  We also noticed some seasonal specials on the menu which included “Buffalo ribs”.  At first I thought these might be ribs from an actual buffalo, which intrigued me to no end, but I then found out after reading the description that they were actually pork ribs that got fried and then coated in Buffalo wing sauce.  I love all things cayenne pepper/Buffalo sauce so I was still thoroughly intrigued and they were available by the bone so I added one to the order to check it out.  Our food came out lightning quick and we eagerly dug in.

My Thoughts on the Food:

Sliced Beef

Sliced Beef

Beef: The beef was served in kind of sliced/falling apart/chopped style.  It was lightly sauced and very tender.  It had a nice balance of smoke to the natural beef flavor and the sauce complemented it nicely.

 

 

 

Sausage: The sausage was obviously handmade and a very high quality product.  It took on tons of smoke flavor as the visually prominent smoke ring would lead you to believe.  I did not love the spice mixture though.  There was just something about it that my palate didn’t appreciate.  I don’t know if it was fennel, which if you have read this blog before you know I am not a fan, or something I couldn’t identify.  However, I don’t think this is an indictment on the meat itself.  Like I said, it is a high quality meat, it just didn’t align with my personal taste.

Sliced Sausage

Sliced Sausage

Ribs

Ribs

Ribs:  These were agreed upon as the favorite item on the plate by all three of us.  As with the other meats the smoke presence was great.  They were tender and came off the bone with a clean bite like they should.

 

 

 

Buffalo rib:  This was a smoked pork rib that was fried and then coated in a Buffalo wing

Buffalo Rib

Buffalo Rib

sauce.  By frying it a nice crisp crunch formed from the bark which added a nice snap to the texture.  The wing sauce was what i would consider a standard “medium” wing sauce.  The vinegar tang of the sauce cut through the rich pork fat of the rib and made a nice combination.

Sides:  The beans were pretty sweet but had some smoke flavor as well.  There were big chunks of beef that added a nice texture and a meaty flavor.  The coleslaw was quite mild and had an understated sweetness.  It was fresh and made for a good side dish that complimented the meal.  The fries were crinkle cut, hot, and crispy.  They were pretty standard and given the quality of the rest of the food they met my expectations.

Beans & Slaw

Beans & Slaw

BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauces

Sauce:  The standard sauce leans toward the sweet side but has enough vinegar tang to be balanced.  Celery seed was the most present spice to my tongue.  The spicy sauce is just that, a spicy take on the original.  It has more black pepper flavor and more heat as you would expect.  The heat builds in the back of your throat and will sneak up on you.  I tend to like my sauce more on the spicy side and at K&M this held true.

 

White BBQ Sauce

White BBQ Sauce

K&M offers a white BBQ sauce as well.  While seen in BBQ from Alabama, specifically the Northern part of the state, I have yet to see it in any of the places I have had BBQ in the KC area (or St. Louis, Memphis, and South Carolina for that matter).  This stuff was crazy.  It was a mayo base and had the consistency of a thick mayo.  There was definitely a horseradish/wasabi element along with a tangy-ness I didn’t expect.  If I had to guess, I’d say the seasoning came from a combination of black pepper and a BBQ rub.  Overall I thought it was a really interesting sauce that I kept going back to dip fries.  However, I had a hard time finding a meat that I would use it on in place of the regular or spicy sauce.

The Hard Data:

Location: 603 N. Webster St. Spring Hill, KS 66083

Service type: Sit down table service

Alcohol Served: Beer Bottles

Website:  www.kandmbbq.com

Price:

Dinner Plates: $6.49-$13.49

Family Style Dinner: $27.99

Sandwich: $5.79-$11.99 (for the Killer Combo)

Slab: $18.99

Side: $2.49-2.99

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

na/10

8.5/10

Sides

na/10

7/10

Sauce

na/10

8.5/10

Service

na/10

9/10

Value

na/10

8.5/10

Overall Grade

na

A

Summary:

 

Elwood’s Take:

If there is one thing that stood out to me about the food at K&M is the consistent presence of smoke where it is supposed to be.  It drives me nuts when I order BBQ and there is no discernible smoke flavor in smoked meat.  Based on this visit K&M does a great job of delivering really good quality BBQ.  There is also enough diversity of the menu (all you can eat catfish of Tuesday nights, buffalo ribs, smoked salmon and a host of sandwiches) that as we were eating I was already planning on what I want to try next time I visit. The white BBQ sauce and seasonal specials like Buffalo ribs show a lot of creativity which helps K&M stand out in a saturated BBQ market. Another thing worth mentioning is that our service was great.  Our server was really on the ball, had the food out really fast, and kept our drinks topped off the whole time.  She even, unprompted, brought us to go cups right before we were about to leave.  I strongly suggest that if you find yourself in the Southern part of the KC metro, or if you just want to take a BBQ excursion,  take the time to check out K&M BBQ.

K & M Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

From the far Eastern stretches of the city

Pork n Pit BBQ

We are back in the saddle again after taking a break and a Memphis road trip.  We decided to venture eastward to Lee’s Summit, MO for our next barbeque exploration.  Our sites were set on Pork N Pit BBQ.  Elwood and his wife met up with my wife and I to get back into the swing of things.  Before heading out, we tried to do our homework a bit so that we have an idea how to best conquer the menu.  I’ll tell you though, Pork N Pit didn’t make it easy for us.  The website we found appears to be something from the early days of the internet, as in straight out of 1992.  We won’t hold that against them though.  The act of even having a website is a plus in our book.

Dining Room

Dining Room

We arrived at about 6:30pm on a Saturday night.  This happened to be roughly ten minutes before the big dinner rush.  We quickly found that the prices posted on their website were no longer accurate to the tune of 16% higher than we anticipated.  Once again, who are we to scoff at the price of great BBQ.  It may just be worth it.  We stood in line for about a minute and received our order about 3 minutes later.  They were ready for the dinner service. Looking around the restaurant, we found the

Table Covering

Table Covering

pig motif throughout the tables, walls, and figurines, adding BBQ charm to the dining room.

We ordered two family packs, including 2 lbs of meat, 4 sides, and one slab of ribs.  At the price of about $58 together, we were told it does not come with any bread to make sandwiches out of the 2lbs of meat. So we begrudgingly ordered a single bun for one dollar so that my wife could make a sandwich.

My thoughts on the food:

We were able to split the 2lbs of meat in to quarter pounds of turkey, brisket, pulled pork, and burnt ends.  We also had a full slab of ribs.  One thing that rang true across all meats was that adding sauce helped.  Those of you who enjoy their smoked meats for the full flavor that the smoke brings out and for the bark created by the rub will understand what we mean by that.

Served in Styrofoam Containers

Served in Styrofoam Containers

Burnt End

Burnt End

Burnt Ends: They were moist and had pretty good smoke flavor.  There wasn’t any real bark to speak of though.  I attribute this to the way they are prepared for service.  All of the meat seems to spend a decent amount of what I can only imagine is a steam bath.

Brisket: This is sliced thick then chopped.  It stayed moist and the beef flavor was there, but it did loose some of the smoke flavor because of the moisture.. There wasn’t much bark to speak of either.  Again, it seemed like it was kept artificially moist a bit too long.

Chopped Turkey

Chopped Turkey

Turkey:  They sliced the turkey thin and then chopped it.  Because of the consistency of the meat, I would really recommend spending the dollar on a bun or just buying this in sandwich form.  It was a bit hard to eat with a fork because it would fall off.  The turkey was actually pretty good.  It took on some smoke that you don’t always notice in turkey.

Pulled Pork:  The pork was decent but not very smokey.  It was quite a bit less watery than the beef or ribs and just seemed like the freshest of all the meat.  Other than that,

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

there wasn’t much flavor profile to set it apart from places that really cook pork well.

Rib Meat Falling Apart

Rib Meat Falling Apart

Ribs:  I don’t know why they were serving them in this condition.  They were extremely over done.  I understand that some restaurants tout their “Fall off the bone ribs.”  Though it may not be what judges in a competition are looking for, some cooked to this point can still have good flavor and be appealing.  Unfortunately the gelatinous consistency and runny watery substance secreting from the meat as you touched it was about an unappealing as it gets.  It was literally impossible to pick up a rib.  Most of the meat stayed on the platter and you were left with a slimy bone in your hand.  There was a coarse pepper rub with mild smoke flavor.  But once again, I don’t have any idea why they were still serving them, especially considering the price.

Full Slab

Full Slab

Sides:

BBQ Beans

BBQ Beans: They had quite a bit of beef in them for a nice hearty example of BBQ beans.  They were a bit sweet but after a while you started picking up distinct beef and bean flavors.  It was a little unevenly balanced toward the beef flavor.

Mac & Cheese: The cheese was nice and smooth and the noodles were cooked well.  It did not appear to be your typical powdered cheese mix, which was nice.

Garlic Slaw

Garlic Slaw

Garlic Slaw:  I hope you like garlic.  I realize the name gives it away, but this dish is garlicky.  It was a fresh garlic taste but after a few bites you realize it is pretty one dimensional.  There was a light dressing that was hardly noticeable.  The cabbage was fresh and crisp.

Potato Salad

Potato Salad:  The potatoes were large chunks that were a little dry when bitten, even though they were completely covered in a mustard based sauce. The dressing was

thickly coating the potatoes with a mustardy-creamy mixture of with eggs, pickles, and onions.

Curly Fries:  These were by far the best side dish.  They were fresh cut thin with the

Curley Fries Closeup

peels.  The fries were crisp with a nice seasoning of salt.

Sauce:

They had a nice sauce bar setup to make choosing your condiments easy.  All of their sauces are tomato based.  The hickory sauce was their original.  It was a bit smokey and a little sweet.  It was an average, well balanced sauce.  The hot sauce was next and it was just a little spicier than the original.  It looks pretty close to the hickory in color and texture.  The third was their habenero sauce. It was darker and thicker with a sweet start and a peppery hot finish.  None of their sauces were bad, but they do fall into the “average” category.

Hickory, Spicy, and Habanero Sauce

Hickory, Spicy, and Habanero Sauce

The Hard Data:

Location: 1803 NE Colbern Rd.  Lee’s Summit, MO  64083

Service type: Counter Service

Alcohol Served: Beer Bottles

Website:  http://porknpit.yolasite.com/

Price:

Dinner Plates: $12.75

Family Pack: $28.95

Sandwich: $7.50

Slab: $22.95

Side: $2.49

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

6.5/10

6.5/10

Sides

6/10

6/10

Sauce

7/10

7.5/10

Service

7/10

7/10

Value

4.5/10

5/10

Overall Grade

B-

B-

Summary:

Jake’s Take:

I got the feeling by the end of our visit that they were not serving up their best stuff that night.  The meat had a consistent watery moisture that felt artificial.  It was as if they were prolonging the life of it to stretch it just a little further.  The potential is there for a nice quaint BBQ joint because the small building has character.  I would just hope for a better or maybe for consistent product.  The biggest compliant I had leaving Pork N Pit was from the ribs.  They never should have been served and I find it insulting they they are asking a higher price for that slab of gelatin-like substance than some of the best rib joints in America, the top of which is located right here in KC too.  In fact, the prices are quite high for the quality of their entire menu, which is the reason their value score was their lowest category.   Charging $1 per bun with the $28.95 family pack just added insult to injury.

Elwood’s Take

If you are going to charge 12 bucks plus for a sandwich, side and drink, 23 bucks for a slab, and nickel and dime your patrons for bread on a $28 family platter there better be something remarkable about those items or the experience to justify that price.  The problem is, I didn’t find anything remarkable at Pork N Pit.  That is not to say all the food was bad. It wasn’t.  I actually enjoyed the chopped brisket quite a bit and the fries are legitimately really good.  The sauce is just fine and works well with most of the meat.  Like Jake, my major gripe food wise is the ribs.  Ours were awful.  The best way I could describe them is seasoned smoked protein jelly.  They literally disintegrated when we tried to pick them up.  And they were $23.  I think you could visit a couple times and kind of zero in on “your order”.  There are enough items that are decent to good that you could have a really nice meal at Pork N Pit.  The problem is, unless you are very proximate to their location, it just is not worth the effort.  There is too much really good BBQ in this town to drive very far and pay that much for food that is merely okay.

 

Pork N Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon

3000, er 457 Miles to Graceland

memphishighwaysign

We had been contemplating taking a BBQ themed road trip for some time now.  As much as we love our KC BBQ we have always been intrigued by other BBQ destinations across the country.  We generally operate with the notion that there are four areas that claim the best BBQ in the country (in no particular order; Carolinas, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City).  We’re sure you can get great BBQ elsewhere, however those are the four places that BBQ seems to be defended as vehemently as one’s religion.  Plus, those regions seem to have distinct styles by which all other BBQ is categorized.

Memphis BBQ Roadtrip Nobullbbq

Earlier this year we started seriously thinking about planning a trip.  As we looked at a calendar we found both of our schedules open over the long Memorial Day weekend. We then started plugging destinations into Google and decided Memphis worked well for a 3-day BBQ inspired jaunt.  We started researching BBQ restaurants and BBQ history in Memphis.  Finding many “Best of Memphis BBQ” lists on various tourist sites we found a lot of the same places being mentioned, much like they are on “Best of KC BBQ” lists.  To cut through some of the tourist hype we solicited suggestions from a Memphis BBQ blogger, whose site is similar to ours, but without the grading scale. (If you like our site, we strongly suggest checking out “Memphis Que“)  From his suggestions of not-to-miss places, and other research, (much of which centered on what would actually be open over the Holiday weekend) we came up with our plan of attack to cram as much Memphis BBQ in our gullets in a 38 hour period as we could.

We set off from KC after we finished work on Saturday, picked up our wives and drove straight through to Memphis.  Originally we planned on getting ribs the first night from Marlowe’s Restaurant and Ribs which we found out is open until 3 a.m.  However, as good as that idea sounded in Independence, MO at 5:30 p.m. before dinner, it had lost all luster by the time we rolled into West Memphis, AR at 1:45 a.m.  We punted that idea and crashed instead, recharging ourselves for gratuitous smoked meat consumption over the next day and a half.

Sun Studio, Memphis, TNSunday morning we started off by visiting Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.  Being almost as big fans of music as we are of BBQ we found this to be a fantastic spot to check out.  There was something very surreal about standing in the same exact spot Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and others recorded some of their most famous music and listening to their original recordings in that very room.  After an hour or so in one of the most hallowed of places the music industry has to offer our stomachs told us it was time to get on to why we really came to Memphis.

Sun Studio Mic

Central BBQ

Memphi BBQ Roadtrip Nobullbbq

The line is out the door

We started our Memphis BBQ journey at Central BBQ‘s Midtown location on Central Ave.  As we parked we saw the line out the door starting to wrap around the building and were immediately reminded of Oklahoma Joe’s in KC.  We counted license plates from 14 states in the lot, so it appeared other people had the same idea as we did.  The line moved pretty quickly and there was adequate seating in the indoor dining room or the

Memphi BBQ Roadtrip Nobullbbq

Pulled pork

large outdoor patio.  As we do in KC we tried to order a wide variety of offerings from the menu to get a good perspective of the whole experience.  We ended up with a combo plate with pulled pork, brisket and ribs, and two sandwiches.  We also ordered a side of BBQ nachos which is a uniquely Memphis dish (more on uniquely Memphis dishes later).  We also ended up with 4 side dishes as well; fries, chips, beans, mac and cheese, and coleslaw was on the sandwiches.  One of the things we discovered at Central and was later repeated at The BBQShop was the option for the ribs to be served “dry” or “wet”.  Dry was served with

Memphis BBQ Road Trip Central BBQ

Hot, Original, Spicy Mustard, and Vinegar

anothersprinkle of rub after cooking and we were served with a light sauce applied after cooking.  We opted for dry at both locations in order to apply sauce to our liking.  Central has 4 sauces available in the dining room.  They offered an original, hot, vinegar and mustard sauce.  What was different about the sauces vs. many Kansas City places is that the sauce is presented warm.  It makes sense I suppose, hot sauce and hot BBQ.  It was one of those things we never really thought about, but after experiencing it, we liked the idea.  Overall the food at Central was really enjoyable.  The ribs were very tender and had a good smoke presence.  They were really good without sauce and when we added sauce it brought another dimension to the flavor.  Pulled pork was moist and tender, again with a very smoke forward flavor.  Brisket was tasty, but not spectacular.  Turkey in Memphis was just like it is in KC, uneventful.  The sides as a whole were acceptable but nothing really noteworthy.  They were a nice compliment to the meal, but

BBQ nacho chip

BBQ nacho chip

nothing I’d buy in a quart and take to a family reunion to try and pass off as my own.  The BBQ nachos were great, however.  They consisted of a thick, crispy tortilla chip covered with their pulled pork, drizzled with BBQ sauce, then smothered in with shredded cheddar cheese, and sprinkled with their rub.  And yes, they were every bit as glorious as that sounds.

From Central BBQ, we spend some more time being tourists in Memphis.  We went to the Lorraine Hotel / National Civil Rights Museum.   We familiarized ourselves with the downtown area for later in the evening and drove past Graceland before heading to our dinner location.  Sunday night we had to choose between the ultimate tourist destination in Memphis BBQ world known as Corky’s and a smaller joint called Three Little Pigs (which was a Memphis Que recommendation). After some discussion, we decided to head over to Three Little Pigs.

Three Little Pigs

Memphis BBQ Road Trip Three Little Pigs

Three Little Pigs building

We pulled into this dive and realized we made a good choice.  There were a few booths

Memphis BBQ Road Trip

BBQ Plate

and tables, with little piggies all over the walls and counter top.  It was quaint and exactly what you would expect a small BBQ diner to be.  This restaurant is known for its pork.  In fact, the BBQ menu is quite simple.  Large or small sandwich and large or small plate.  Their signature and only meat is pork.  Some days they offer ribs but all days they offer pork (pulled or chopped).  We arrived after they had run out of ribs and cheese for their BBQ nachos.  So like Henry Ford once said, “You can have any thing on our menu as long

Memphis BBQ Road Trip Three Little Pigs

Pulled pork up close

as its pork,” or something like that.  Also, Benjamin Franklin once said “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.”  Since we couldn’t try the ribs or nachos, we ordered the pulled pork sandwich and the plate.  We also had fries, beans, slaw, and onion rings as sides.  The fries seemed to have a thick crisp crust almost like the batter of the onion rings that they undoubtedly fried together.  The beans were decent but nothing special.  The slaw was chopped, not shredded and was on the sweet side.  It was also served atop the pork sandwich.  Their sauce seemed to be a ketchup based sauce cut with mustard, vinegar, and spices.  There was very little added sweetness beyond the sugars in the ketchup,

Memphis BBQ Road Trip

Bag of onion rings

leaving this brown hued sauce tangy and unique.  Since they were somewhat limited on sides, we decided to order the family size onion rings to split.  Little did we know, the family they were referring to was the Duggers.  They literally served them in an AMC movie theater “Director’s Combo Size” popcorn bag.  Seriously, it was an actual AMC movie theater bag!  We had stuffed ourselves pretty well at lunch so dinner being on the lighter side (if you can really call it that) was a good choice.

Memphi BBQ Roadtrip Nobullbbq

Beale Street, Memphis

That evening we decided to check out Beale Street and the Downtown area.  Yes, it is touristy, yes it is cliche, but it was one of those things we wanted to do just so we could say we did it.  As it happens, The FedEx Forum is at the East end of Beale street.  We knew the Memphis Grizzlies were in town playing the Spurs in the NBA playoffs that weekend.  However, we were unaware that Sir Paul McCartney was playing FedEx Forum the off night between games.  It was the first time in 20 years he played Memphis and from our estimation, EVERYONE showed up.  Beale Street on its own seems to be like the KC Power and Light District times about 50.  Now imagine that if the Royals were in the playoffs (c’mon, you can at least imagine that), and literally a Beatle was playing Sprint Center.  Because of the absurd number of people on Beale we settled one street North on Peabody at the Flying Saucer’s Memphis location.  We wound our day down trying some local beers that we can’t get in KC and then headed back to the hotel to rest up for one last Memphis BBQ hurrah.

The Bar-B-Que Shop

Memphis BBQ Road Trip The Bar-B-Q Shop

The front entrance

Before we headed back KC way, we had one more meal in Memphis.  We chose The Bar-B-Que Shop on Madison, Ave.  We wanted to visit The Bar-B-Que shop for a couple of reasons.  1) It appeared on quite a few of the “best of” lists and 2) it was originally known as Brady and Lil’s, the originator of Memphis’ signature dish, BBQ Spaghetti.  Again in order to maximize the damage we ordered a platter with chopped pork, chopped beef and dry ribs.  We also ordered their version of BBQ nachos and we couldn’t leave without ordering the original BBQ Spaghetti.  When it came time to order drinks Elwood

Memphis BBQ Road Trip The Bar-B-Q Shop

Beef, Ribs, and Pork

asked our server if they had sweet tea.  The look she shot back was priceless.  It was somewhere between “Yes” and “Hey moron, you do realize that you are actually in the South, right?!”  As a side note, the sweet tea was great!  Our platter was served with beans, slaw, and Texas toast (which apparently is a rarity in Memphis).  The sides we found to be, as most on our trip were, merely okay.  Both the pork and beef were served chopped and sauced.  Both were tender and packed with flavor.  We enjoyed both thoroughly.  The BBQ nachos were good, but truth be told, we preferred Central’s version.  These had more of a generic feel to them.  They used a more typical round chip which were actually a little stale and the expected neon yellow faux cheese like you’d find on ball park nachos.  We’ll get to the

Memphis BBQ Road Trip The Bar-B-Q Shop

BBQ nachos

BBQ spaghetti in just a bit.  The sauces at The Bar-B-Que Shop came in three varieties, Dancing Pigs (the house sauce), Hot, and the one the server had to shake up because the pepper oil that settles on the top can apparently strip the paint off a Cadillac.  Seriously, she warned us 3 times about how hot it was.  The Dancing Pigs sauce (which we both bought to-go bottles of, by the way) was a bit sweeter than many of the sauces we found thus far.  The Hot was an amped up, peppery version of the original. and the Cadillac stripper was very hot, but not to the point of being so just for the sake of being hot.  It was still very flavorful and really tasty.  The ribs at The Bar-B-Que Shop were a perfect culmination of our trip to Memphis.  They were just flat out fantastic.  Again we ordered them dry, and that choice was spot on.    They were tender, smokey, and perfectly seasoned.  The crunchy crust the last application of rub just before service provided was like meat candy.  Those ribs were our “Ah-ha!” moment for Memphis BBQ.  Everything we had up to that point, at all three restaurants,  was very good to great.  But those ribs were like a light switch.  One bite and we both “got it”.  We understood how Memphis earned it’s spot at the “Grown Up’s table” in the World of BBQ.

Memphis BBQ Road Trip The Bar-B-Q Shop

Memphis style dry rib

When in Rome…

While Kansas City is known for smoking a wide variety of meat and that signature thick, sweet sauce Memphis is all about pork.  Be it pulled, chopped or in rib form Memphis does it, and does it very well.  Every pork dish we had in Memphis was extremely well prepared.

Memphi BBQ Roadtrip Nobullbbq

Central’s BBQ nachos

As hyper-regional as BBQ can be there are some dishes that are just synonymous with a particular area or city.  Even beyond a regional style there are dishes that appear everywhere in a concentrated area and are virtually absent outside of that area.  To us, the Kansas City version of a dish like that is Burnt Ends.  In Memphis, that dish is BBQ Spaghetti, and to a slightly lesser extent, BBQ nachos.  Interestingly enough, both of these dishes focus on pulled or chopped pork as the meat component.  BBQ Spaghetti was originally served at Brady and Lil’s (now The Bar-B-Que Shop) in the 1950′s they wanted to make a dish that distinguished themselves from the competition in Memphis.  They got the idea to soak spaghetti noodles in BBQ sauce and pork trimmings and serve it topped with pork and more sauce.  The result is a very sweet and smokey version of a familiar dish. When we started planning this trip we

Memphi BBQ Roadtrip Nobullbbq

BBQ spaghetti

discovered BBQ Spaghetti on almost every menu, of every restaurant we looked at visiting.  We figured where better to try this local institution than at the place that first introduced it?  Perhaps it stems from us not growing up in Memphis and this dish not being in our native BBQ lexicon, but neither one of us could really understand the mass appeal of this dish.  Not that it was bad, it just didn’t move our meter in the least.

Our thoughts on Memphis BBQ…

We have had a hard time coming up with a way to accurately describe the difference between Memphis and KC BBQ overall.  In the big picture sense we think Memphis as a whole does pork better than just about anything we have eaten in terms of BBQ.  While their sides seem to play more of a back up role than in KC and they may not offer the variety of meat that KC does, the quality of all forms of smoked pig is extremely good and that alone cements them as one of the “Meccas” of BBQ in this country.

The sauce, which is a big deal in KC, seems to usually be a tomato base with vinegar tang, spices, and mustard in some cases vs. KC’s take which is more of a tomato base with a molasses/brown sugar sweetness and spice.  The sauce in Memphis is still important overall and the vinegar tang in many of the sauces balances the fattier texture of the pork that is so prevalent.

As always, these are merely our opinions.  Overall, we both really enjoyed our little excursion to the geographically closest BBQ destination to KC and would love to go back and try even more places.  (Rendezvous was closed, as were some of the places on our list suggested from the Memphis Que blog).  Like we said above, we get why Memphis has earned the stature it has in regards to BBQ and we look forward to exploring even more of this uniquely American cuisine both in Kansas City and across the nation.

-Jake & Elwood

If you have visited any of these places in Memphis or have suggestions for our next visit, we’d love your input!

 

 

We’re Baaaaaaaccccckkkk!

Smokehouse BBQ in Overland Park, KS

This has been our longest hiatus on a review since we started the blog.  For that we apologize.  We figured we owed it to our loyal followers to get off our duffs and bring you another review.  That and after virtually no BBQ for 3 months we were just jonesing some quality smoked meats.  So Jake and I set our sights on the Smokehouse BBQ location in Overland Park.

Smokehouse BBQ has 5 locations, 4 of them in the Kansas City area.  The original one opened in Gladstone, MO 25 years ago and has been growing ever since.  As we got out of our cars the smell and sight of smoke was in the air, which is always a good sign.

Wood stack in the front of the building

When we walked in were were acknowledged immediately by someone who was on the phone.  As soon as he was free he greeted us quickly and cheerfully and we were shown to our table shortly.  The first thing we noticed when we walked in was a large bar area toward the front of the restaurant.  The dining area was huge and on the opposite side of the building from the bar.  The entire place felt upscale and was presented very well. Our server, Laurie, was really good.  Once we got to our table she brought menus, and silverware almost instantaneously and also took our drink orders.  Jake and I had perused the menu

Bar Area

online ahead of time and had a good idea of what we wanted so by the time she returned with drinks we were ready to go.  We settled on the Family Gathering meal and a BBQ combo dinner with burnt ends and sausage (my wife and daughter had joined us so we had another couple people to help with that much food).  After a quick discussion to maximize sides with Laurie, we were all set.

My Thoughts on the Food:

First, all of the meat was served generously (almost excessively) sauced.  You would think by now we would know to order it dry.  Maybe we were just rusty after our layoff, but I recommend ordering the sauce on the side.

Family Gathering Meal

BBQ Combo Plate

 

 

 

 

Rib

Ribs: These were moist and tender.  There was a nice pink smoke ring with okay smoke flavor.  Based on the smoke ring I expected more smoke favor, but they were good.

Brisket: There was a thin yet intense smoke ring on the brisket.  It was cut thin and was

Sliced Brisket

moist and hot.  There was not a lot of smoke flavor however, and the bark that was on the edges was more charred than packed with intense smoke/rub/beef flavor.

Sliced pork

Sliced Pork: This was the driest of the meat we got.  It did not take on much smoke flavor and was the least enjoyable meat we ate.  They do offer a pulled pork sandwich, although I did not notice pulled pork as a meat option on the menu.  I could have just completely missed it, but if it is available I would try that instead of the sliced pork.

Sliced Sausage

Sausage: This was offered sliced or chunked.  We opted for sliced.  It was more of a Polish sausage than an Italian sausage, which I enjoyed quite a bit.  The sausage stayed moist despite being sliced thin.  It was seasoned nicely and although it did not take on much smoke, it was pretty tasty.

Ham: It was moist and was on the saltier side of what I like in ham, but it was not bad.  Like many of the other meats we had on this visit (and honestly a lot of ham we’ve had elsewhere) it did not take on much smoke.

Beef Burnt Ends:  These were probably my second favorite meat behind the sausage.  They

Beef Burnt End up close

had a rich beefy flavor, stayed very moist, and probably took on the most smoke of all the meat.  They were a little fatty, but that is to be expected with burnt ends, and honestly I’m probably a little over sensitive to that.

Sides:

Unfortunately, nothing on this front stood out as remarkable.  None of them were bad, just nothing that I would go out of my way to bring to a backyard gathering.  The potato salad was the most unique and had a mild mustard flavor and small pieces of a white cheese mixed in.  There was also a fine pickle relish in there to add some depth of flavor and texture.  The cheesy corn was not overly cheesy and the ham that was added was somewhat invisible.  The fries were hot and crisp, but nothing extraordinary.  Beans were okay.  They tasted like a canned product with chunks of meat and some additional sugar added.  The coleslaw had a thin and creamy based dressing that packed a nice vinegar tang.  It, like the beans, tasted like a mass produced, food supply house item, albeit a well executed one.

Bean Crock

Coleslaw

Cheesy Corn

Sauce:

Smokehouse offers an original and a spicy sauce.  The original sauce is a tomato base and pretty well balanced.  There is not a dominant spice or herb that sticks out.  Overall, it is a decent sauce,  I just wish it wasn’t so heavily applied to the meat.  The spicy sauce has a similar consistency to the original.  The first flavor I got was from celery seed and was almost immediately followed by cayenne heat.  There was no shortage of heat.  This was probably one of the spiciest spicy sauces we have encountered.

Original Sauce (Left) & Spicy Sauce (Right)

The Hard Data:

Location: 7121 W. 135th St. Overland Park, KS 66223

Service type: Table Service

Alcohol Served: Full bar

Website: http://www.smokehousebbq.com

Price:

Dinner Plates: $11.95 – $28.95

Slab: $14.95-$21.95 served as platters

Sandwich: $8.25-$9.25

Sides: $1.95-$2.95

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

6/10

6/10

Sides

5/10

6/10

Sauce

6/10

6/10

Service

9.5/10

9/10

Value

5/10

5/10

Overall Grade

B-

                       B-

 Elwood’s Take:

First let me say that our service was great.  Probably top 3 of all the places we have been.  The entire presentation of Smokehouse had more the feel of a nice steakhouse rather than a down-home BBQ joint.  So, if you are looking for an upscale yet comfortable feeling dining experience Smokehouse will be right up your alley.  The food however, I found merely okay.  One of the most critical components of good BBQ’d meat, to me, is the presence of smoke flavor.  Despite the name, the smell as we pulled in the parking lot, and the smoke ring present on most of the meat, the flavor just didn’t hold true.  Combine that with sides and sauce that don’t really stand out, and a price that fits right in with the high rent district that this location resides, and you get an average BBQ experience.  Again, the service we got is what bumped the overall grade into the above average range.

 Jake’s Take:

Smokehouse BBQ was one of those restaurants that ended up being decent barbeque, though I had hoped for more.  There wasn’t really anything that stood out as remarkable, except maybe for the lack of smoke flavor in the meat, despite the visible smoke ring.  The service was excellent and our server, Laurie, truly made me feel at home.  I noticed she was like that with every table around us.  You would have though everyone in the dining room was a regular customer based on her interactions.  That kind of feeling is hard to find in any restaurant.  Unfortunately, I found value in the service over the actual taste and quality of the meal.  As a barbeque lover, I struggle to recommend this restaurant on the food alone.

 

Smokehouse Barbecue - Overland Park KS on Urbanspoon

Happy Birthday to Us!

Time Flies When You are Eating Smoked Meat

It is hard for us to believe it has been just a little more than one year ago we posted our first review.  When we started last October we had a list of 47 restaurants we planned to visit.  In the past year we have visited 19, and added 24 to the list.  So in our first year we have officially lost ground on our goal.  Oh well, I guess we will just call that job security.  Or whatever it is you would call the security that on our current pace we will be able to visit new places without repeats for the next three years or so.

What We Missed

LC’s Burnt End Plate

A few things have stuck out to us as we have looked back on our first year.  Most glaringly, we want to re-visit LC’s BBQ.  From winning The Pitch’s Best of KC 2012 Burnt End Plate (again) to still hearing from other people we know and respect how much they love LC’s, we feel we may have just missed something.  No other place we have visited thus far has had a wider discrepancy of what we have heard from others to what we experienced when we visited.

 

Gates Mixed Plate

Of course on the flip side of LC’s is Gates.  We had a great experience at Gate’s, both of us giving a solid “A” rating.  We really enjoyed the food and the service was fantastic.  However, the more we read and the more people we talk to it appears that the general opinion on Gates is that they fall into the “resting on their laurels” category.  We just did not get that feeling at all.  We figure we ought to confirm the grade we gave them, and this time we’ll likely skip the Boulevard Brewery tour beforehand and have our meal with a completely clear head.

Ya know what really grinds my gears?

I don’t know how many people that own or work at a BBQ restaurant read this blog, but the one thing that has driven us crazy is the websites for BBQ restaurants.  First off, there are quite a few good websites.  I’m not talking about those places. It amazes me how many places don’t have a site at all and am even more amazed at the ones that do and do not include their hours of operation.  I cannot even count how many time we have been trying to organize a visit and could not find the hours of operation or even a phone number on a site.  This has led us to just bypassing that restaurant until later because it is just a pain in the butt to set up our schedule to check them out.  I realize we are likely more “internet reliant” than some, but c’mon.  Virtually every business needs a website now days.  Even if it is just you name, your number, and your hours, we beg you Kansas City BBQ places, have a website and help your customers give you money.

When a Discussion of Burnt Ends goes Terribly Wrong…

Jake and I are both pretty much in agreement that if we ever found ourselves on death row our last requested meal would likely be a variety of Kansas City BBQ.  We thought it would be fun to put together a “last meal” from the places we have visited thus far.  So if a heated burnt end discussion escalates quickly and one of us kills the other with a trident, get caught, convicted, and sentenced to death,  this is what we would each pick for our last meals on this planet:

Jake-

Meats- Snead’s burnt ends (left) , The Stack ribs (center), Oklahoma Joe’s brisket (not pictured), and Roscoe’s pulled pork (right).

   

Sides- Oklahoma Joe’s fries (left) , Jack Stack beans (center), and Smokin’ Guns potato casserole (right)

   

Sauces- The Stack sweet sauce (not pictured) and Oklahoma Joe’s Night of the Living Sauce

Elwood -

Meats- Oklahoma Joe’s ribs and brisket (left), Roscoe’s pulled pork (center), and sausage from The Stack (right)

   

Sides - Jack Stack BBQ beans (left) , The Stack cheesy corn (center/ pictured w/ potato salad), and Oklahoma Joe’s fries (right)

   

Sauces - Hillsdale Bank BBQ hot (red bottle), and The Stack honey sweet (not pictured)

Four meats, three sides, and two sauces may seem gluttonous, but it’s the last thing we will eat, so what are a few extra calories right?  Also, we would love to hear what our readers would have for their last BBQ meal so feel free to share in the comments or on our Facebook page.

And Finally…

We want to say thank you to our readers.  We started this whole thing to have a central location for information about the restaurants that have cemented Kansas City’s reputation as a BBQ Mecca.  The feedback we have gotten in the past year has been overwhelmingly positive and for that we profoundly thank you.  The fact that people seem to enjoy our untrained opinion on one of the most polarizing types of uniquely American food out there makes writing this blog incredibly rewarding.  You keep reading and we’ll keep eating!

-Jake & Elwood