In the Beginning… Part II

Gates and Son’s Barbeque is an icon in Kansas City.  It is one of only two restaurants that traces it’s history back to Henry Perry.  Now that we have been to Arthur Bryant’s, Gates gets their chance to shine.

Growing up, as in most Kansas City households, there is a family barbeque favorite.  It doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best, but you go there because your parents went there and their parents went there.  Tradition and loyalty are an immense part of the barbeque culture in Kansas City.  Where I grew up, my parents went to Gates.  That being said, I have not eaten there in about ten years because other barbeque restaurants around town now get more of my attention.

Parking Lot Entrance

Today, Elwood and I spent the afternoon at Kansas City’s own Boulevard Brewing Company with our friend Dry White Toast (DWT) before heading out to the Gates location that Ollie started at 1325 E Emanuel Cleaver Blvd.  I should probably mention that we had been drinking for several hours at this point, so though we hope it has not affected our ability to accurately rate and describe the meal, there is a distinct possibility that this is the case. Anyway, as we stepped out of the car, our noses tilted a bit to the sky as we first noticed the delightful hickory aroma in the air.  Needless to say, we were all ravenous after hours of beer drinking and were ready to conquer one of Kansas City’s oldest barbecue establishments.  There is plenty of parking at the entrance and it is clearly marked with “Hi” and “Bye” signs. I had never been to this location, so it was a new experience for me.  Elwood and DWT had never eaten at a Gates restaurant either (carry out only).  Many of the regular customers know what they want even before waling in the door, but if this is your first time, you may want to take a look at their menu online to get an idea of what to order.  As you walk through the door in most of their locations, the first thing you will hear, at an incredible volume that cuts through all other conversations going on, is “Hi may I help you?”    Be ready to shout back your order.  If you need some more time, don’t worry.  There will likely be a line of people ahead of you.  There was an old sign next to the line with some original menu options.  Looks like we have come a long way since then.  You can no longer order brain or snout for 15¢ and it’s hard to find ears on the menu anywhere these days.

The restaurant entrance is set up to handle a large line in two ways.  You walk in to the left for the carryout line or to the right, which takes you deeper into the restaurant for the dine-in line.  Walking through the line, I first noticed the decoration that brings you back in time to an earlier period of Kansas City’s glory days.  The waiting area for carryout is shaped to resemble an old trolly car. Wall decorations and paintings set the mood for barbeque.  There was an attendant walking by the line that gave us some direction and let us know we needed to grab a tray and take it to the counter to order.  The cafeteria style service is quick and efficient.  There are a few pictures of their meat entrees and the side dishes are behind the glass for you to see when you place your order.  They have Pepsi products as well as Boulevard Pale Ale, Bud, Bud Light, Coors, and Coors Light on tap.  There was also a mini bar service that appeared to have a small selection of wines in the little bottles from hotels and airplanes.

Belt driven fan

There were four different seating rooms that I saw, each themed and decorated differently.  The one we chose had an old jukebox with pictures of historic Kansas City on the walls.  There was a large picture of Gates Ol’ Kentucky Bar-B-Q on the left.  DWT pointed out the awesome belt powered ceiling fans.  There were about five ceiling fans with an elaborate belt driven system linked together to a motor on the wall.  It brought you back to a different era.  Before we made our way to the table, we passed the sauce bar where they had Gate’s Original, Extra Hot, and Sweet & Mild.  We filled a container of each and then picked out our table.  The entire ordering process from door to table was quite organized.  Admittedly we were the only ones in line at the time, but i can imagine it flowing seamlessly with another fifty people in line with us.

Sauce Bar

As we sat and ate, a delightful attendant named Miss Jamison built a rapport with us, heckling us a bit for this being our first time to her Gates restaurant.  She made sure there was nothing we needed and came back a few times to check up.  She was not a waitress because we picked up our own food and humongous drink in line.  She was there to simply make sure our experience was enjoyable, but more importantly, memorable. The best part of the entire evening, other than the food, was as we were sitting after the meal.  Miss Jamison brought out a to-go glass to that I could bring the rest of my soda home with me.  Elwood took the second half of his mixed plate home for his wife.  Anyway, Dry White Toast had a piece of meat stuck between his teeth and was picking at it with his straw.  From across the room, Miss Jamison took notice and brought him a couple of tooth picks within a few seconds.  I can’t remember if I’ve ever had that level of service and attention to detail.  Needless to say, we all sat there with our jaws dropped for a moment.  It was the end of a great night of barbeque.

My thoughts on the food:

Ribs: They fell apart as soon as they were touched.  The meat was incredibly tender, but

Mixed Plate with Fries

not a lot of smoke taste.  They covered them with a light layer of sauce.

Ham: The ham was part of the mixed plate, which was covered in sauce.  Some restaurants need to cover their meat in sauce to mask taste, or dryness.  This is absolutely not the case here.  It was tender with just enough salt.  The sweet and mild sauce was a good compliment to the ham.

Beef:  We had beef two ways.  It came on the mixed plate as well as part of DWT’s two meat sandwich.  Both ways were tender, moist, and flavorful.  There was a nice smoke flavor in the brisket and they again did not need to be sauced, but it was a nice compliment to the meat.

Burnt Ends Sandwich

Burnt ends:  They came in the form of a sandwich on a long bun.  It was shredded instead of chunked.  The ends were still moist and carried the hickory smoke flavor with them.  They were a bit fatty, but that is to be expected.

Pork:  This was a bit unusual for barbeque restaurants around here.  We typically find pulled pork on the menu, which is actually what DWT though he was ordering.  It is actually sliced pork.  The flavor was still good, but it did throw us off a bit trying to figure out where the pork was on the sandwich.

Two Meat Sandwich

Sides:  We tried the fries, beans, and roasted potatoes. The fries were served hot and crispy.  They were consistent in color, texture, and size.  The fries were not seasoned but I didn’t feel like they were lacking, just a different way of doing things.  They were great to dip in each of the sauces.  The beans were smokey sweet.  They had chunks of beef in them and good consistency throughout. The roasted potatoes were a neat change that are not found on many barbeque menus.  They were lightly seasoned and were pretty tasty.  They were firm on the outside and soft on the inside, just as they should be. I noticed potato salad and coleslaw as I ordered.  They were both lightly sprinkled with a seasoning, possibly their bbq rub, but I didn’t get to try them out this round.

Decor

Sauce:

The Original sauce is widely popular throughout Kansas City and can be found in many grocery stores.  It is vinegar based and thinner than many barbeque sauces.  It will run all over your plate if you aren’t careful.  There is a distinct spice that will stick with you till the last bite.  For being their signature sauce, it is spicier than you might expect.

Extra Hot: It brings the heat.  If you want to kick it up a notch or two, go for their extra hot sauce.  It initially tastes very similar to the original, but give it a moment.  Your taste buds will soon start telling your brain to slow down cause it catches up pretty fast.  The nice thing about this sauce is the flavor.  Some sauces are hot for the sake of being hot. This carries a good flavor along for the ride.

Sweet and Mild:  This sauce complimented ham and pork well.  It was much smoother than the previous two sauces and had much less of an after bite when you were done.  It makes you come back for another bite.

 

The Hard Data:

Location: 1325 E Emanuel Cleaver Blvd.  Kansas City, MO 64110

Service type: Cafeteria style

Alcohol served: Yes, tap beer, Boulevard Pale Ale, Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, also what looks like a type of mini bar with a few cocktails

Website: www.gatesbbq.com

Price:

Sandwich: $6.95-9.55

Plate: $16.75 (enough for two people)

Slab: $19.50

 

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

9/10

9/10

Sides

8/10

8/10

Sauce

8/10

8/10

Service

10/10

10/10

Value

8/10

8/10

Overall Grade

A

A

Summary:

Jake’s Take:

This Gates restaurant blew me away with the level of detail they take in making sure you are happy.  In Kansas City it can probably be said (in dark alleys or soft whispers) that some restaurants are still thriving and surviving on their reputation from a past generation.  It is one thing to serve barbeque for decades.  It is an entirely differing thing to serve barbeque for decades and still treat each day like you are fighting to make your business a success.  While some may have given that part up years ago, Gates embodies different characteristics in their restaurants.  They still believe there is something to be said for service.  A good attitude and staff goes a long way in making a lasting impression on your customer.  Gates staff are all trained in their world headquarters at 4621 Paseo in Gates College of Bar-B-Q Knowledge, better known as Rib-Tech, before they start working in the restaurants. There were license plates from four states in the parking lot of this Gates restaurant on a non busy, almost empty Sunday night.  If this was their first time enjoying Kansas City barbeque, they made a good choice tonight.  The food and service justify the price to me.  It was a bit higher than some other barbeque restaurants, but once again, they have been doing this since the 1946 and can charge a premium.

 

Elwood’s Take:

I’m not an icon of anything.  That said, I imagine that would be an incredibly tough position in which to be placed.  After being told how great you are for so long you would have to think that one would become complacent and stop really trying.  I mean, look at U2 after “Achtung Baby” or Favre after Green Bay.  Gates Bar-B-Q is a certifiable barbeque icon.  Because of this they could rest on their laurels and still rake in the cash based on reputation alone, but they don’t.  From the staff (Miss Jamison is INCREDIBLE.  You could tell her primary concern was to make sure our experience was great, and she was having a blast doing her job.),  to the ham which can easily be a throw in at other places without much attention to detail, to the original sauce that is far more interesting than most “standard” or “house” sauces. (Seriously, it is far more spicy, in a good way, than I ever would have expected and really sticks with you.) it is easy to see why Gates has stood the test of time to become one of the true BBQ icons in the United States.  Miss Jamison chastised us, and rightfully so, for being Kansas Citians who had never visited a Gates restaurant.  Miss Jamison, I promise, I’ll be back.

 

Gates Barbecue on Urbanspoon

One thought on “In the Beginning… Part II

  1. Gates Barb-B-Q has been a part of my life as a customer and a employee .Trained by the best [CB] Clarence and working and managing that wonderful store on 40 highway ,I saw the experience and pride each employee gave in each dish that was given to its customers .Gates Bar-B-Q is known world wide it can be a Royals ,Chiefs or K.C International. that special Ollie Gates has put his stamp of approval on it. Continued success ;Karl Butler President Galaxy Veterans Empowerment of USA

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