Second Generation Barbeque

Original Smokestack Barbeque

What started as Smokestack, a single barbeque house by Russell and Flora Fiorella in 1957, has blossomed into a nationally known, four location restaurant that ships it’s smoked meat anywhere.  Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbeque is owned by the oldest son of Russ and Flora, Jack.  He opened Fiorella’s Smoke Stack of Martin City in 1974.  Soon he would expand to Overland Park and separate his restaurant from the rest of his family by blending a new name with the history his family built over the last twenty years.  The original Smokestack on Hickman Mills closed it’s doors in 2006 and the last of the Smokestack restaurants on Wornall road just recently closed in December of 2011.  Though the Smokestack name is gone, the barbeque that Russ and Flora started has lived on through Jack Stack in such forms as their famous hickory pit beans and the Poor Russ sandwich.

Elwood and I took our families to Fiorella’s Jack Stack of Martin City on Saturday night.  So far, this is the longest we have waited at a barbeque restaurant.  We arrived to a packed parking lot and even more crowed restaurant.  At most restaurants, people who are told they have an hour wait end up leaving or grumpily waiting because someone in their party just has to eat there.  Well, we were told there would be an hour wait so of course we stayed.  While waiting, I noticed that everyone else waiting was in good spirits and no one was complaining about wanting to go somewhere else.   That is a sign of a restaurant with a loyal following.

The restaurant was well prepared for the waiting customers with vibrating pagers to hand out.  They also had reading material such as the specials for the day and week on a well kept chalkboard, magazine articles, and other artifacts from the restaurant’s history on the walls to keep customers occupied while they wait.  There were, of course, many reminders of their catering service and of their nationwide barbeque shipping.  After about forty minutes, our pager vibrated, signaling us it was time to dine.

Dining Room

Our waitress escorted us through a labyrinth of dining rooms, each decorated differently but with a theme of old classic Americana.  The room we were seated in had a feeling of a 1920’s club house with dark wood paneling and a dark green ceiling that had ornate brass chandeliers and many decorations that included pigs as a clear nod to the pork that is a major building block of barbeque.

As we sat down, the waitress was attentive and took our drink orders immediately.  We noticed that there was already ketchup (ha ha), salt, pepper, and Jack Stack’s KC All Purpose Rub on the table.  I always find in interesting and fun when restaurants include rub on the tables to season the fries or anything with some additional bbq flavoring.  Interestingly, Jack Stack offers other non-barbeque options from their hickory smoke grill.  If you have a non-barbeque lover at the table, you may point them in the direction of the filet mignon, New Zealand rack of lamb, or the Chilean sea bass, among others.  Elwood and I were quite ravenous after not eating lunch so we quickly decided on two different barbeque combos from the menu; the “Roundup,” including sliced beef, pork, ham, and pork spare ribs, and the “Kansas City Combo,” with burnt ends and turkey.  For side dishes, we had fries, creamy coleslaw, cheesy corn bake, cheesy potato bake, and hickory pit beans. The waitress assured us the food would be out shortly, and she was right.  The coleslaw arrived first, followed shortly by the platters and other sides.  They filled the table.

Jack Stack Platters and Sides

My thoughts on the food:

Sliced Beef: The beef had a great texture and smoke ring.  All of their meat and some other items on the menu are smoked with hickory.  The tender beef had a nice hint of barq on the outer edge and was sliced thin but not quite deli style.  All in all, a pretty good brisket.

Sliced Pork:  The pork was a bit of a disappointment for me.  Not because of the flavor, but the cut of meat.  The amount of fat overshadowed the amount of edible pork.  I spent more time picking out the right bite than actually eating it.  This may not be the normal experience, but for me, it turned me off the sliced pork.

Sliced ham and turkey:  I lump these together because they were oddly similar.  I made the comment that if I were blindfolded, I probably couldn’t tell the two apart.  They were moist, but neither had a truly distinguishable difference in texture or taste.  The saltiness of the the ham wasn’t present nor was the common fowl qualities in taste that smoked turkey can bring out.

Burnt Ends:  They were sliced in a single row and plated directly from the brisket.  It was clear that they were all from the same cut but the consistency was a little off. The outer blocks were moist and pulled apart easily.  They had a nice barq and were served with a light covering of sauce.  The chunks of burnt ends that were in the middle of the row were a bit more dried out.  They were still fairly tender and edible, but a little disappointing that they weren’t nearly as moist as the first two I tried.  The beef flavor was incredibly present through each bite.  It was almost like they could have been dipped in au jus before plating.

Hickory Pit Beans

Ribs:  These were probably my favorite.  The first bite came clean off the bone, leaving the surrounding rib meat still attached.  This was a perfect bite.  The seasoning was ever present and the meat was cooked perfectly down to the last bite.  At first glance they appeared a bit dry, but the meat next to the bone was moist.

Cheesy Corn Bake






Sides:  These were the heroes of the meal.  Every side dish from Jack Stack was a winner.  The creamy coleslaw was finely chopped, sweet, and had a hint of celery seed throughout.  The cheesy potato bake was made with new potatoes that were thinly sliced with a nice herb seasoning mixed throughout the cheese and then baked to a golden brown crispy top.  The cheesy corn bake was amazing.  The first bite makes you smile and the rest make you want more. The full corn kernels were in a thin cheesy sauce with a hint of garlic and sliced ham mixed throughout.  The fries were thick cut and served hot and crispy.  Finally, the

Cheesy Potato Bake

hickory pit beans are officially the bar to which all other beans are rated against.  The brown sugary, meaty, smoked pit beans are one of the best things to come from the Fiorella family.  The tradition continued in Jack’s restaurants from the original 1957 Smokestack recipe that made them famous.

Original, Spicy, & Hot Sauces



The Sauce:

The original sauce was sweet and tangy, a bit thick, and almost exactly what I think of in a Kansas City BBQ sauce.  We also tried the spicy and hot versions.  They all look identical, which was interesting.  Many restaurants try to reinvent the wheel with a hot BBQ sauce.  They used the same platform and increased the intensity.  The spicy sauce was a bit more tangy up front than the original, with a slightly hot finish from black pepper.  The hot sauce warms up to you much faster than the spicy.  The heat lingers for a while and can overpower the lesser meats such as ham or turkey.  Overall, they had good flavor and the hot was well done, not just hot for the sake of being hot.

The Hard Data:

Location: 13441 Holmes Rd, Kansas City, MO 64145

Service Type: Table service

Alcohol Served: Full Bar *If you enjoy Boulevard Brewing Co, you may note that they have Dry Stout on tap here, which is a rarity.



Sandwich $9.50-$13.75 (includes one side)

Entrees Plate: $13.95-$26.50

Combo Plate: $17.45 -$ 29.45

Slab: $26.50 with two sides

Sides: $3.00 – $4.95




Jake Rating

Elwood Rating
















Overall Grade





Jake’s Take:

Walking into the Martin City Jack Stack location, you immediately feel like you have set foot into a Kansas City BBQ institution.  There was history on the walls, but the restaurant was completely clean and maintained to the point that you wouldn’t know if the building was one hundred years old or if it opened last week.  I would recommend this to anyone entertaining guests from out of town or to locals looking for a great barbeque restaurant with the best array of side dishes that I have seen.  Some may disagree with me, specifically those who compete, but barbeque is not meat alone.  The side dishes, especially in Kansas City, complete the entire barbeque experience and are right up there in importance.  They also have a quick and easy carryout area with designated parking for those who prefer to bring it home.  So those (like me) who love to smoke their own meat at home and enjoy it with a great helping of hickory pit beans can pick up large quantities in a hurry.


Elwood’s Take:

To me Jack Stack is the perfect “all purpose” BBQ restaurant.  It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a nice sit down place with upscale entrees (prime rib, Chilean sea bass), are a hardcore bbq enthusiast looking for traditional KC bbq (assortment of sandwiches, ribs, platters and sides), or are needing an event catered.  Jack Stack has all of those bases covered.  I also really like the fact that you feel just a comfortable there on a date or at a celebratory dinner as you do grabbing a sandwich in shorts and a t-shirt after a round of golf.  Along with that thought, you can go to Jack Stack and get a very budget friendly meal, or you can splurge and get a really special one.  On our visit Jack Stack did everything well, and there were quite a few things that were simply fantastic (did we mention how good the side dishes are?).  Sure there are places where I may have rated the meat or sauce higher, but very few places have the total package that Jack Stack offers.  Despite the 40 minute wait we had I totally agree with what our hostess told us as we reached are seats, “Don’t worry, it’ll be worth the wait.”

Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue (South K.C.) on Urbanspoon

5 thoughts on “Second Generation Barbeque

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  5. I loved the old smockstack restaurant. I was eating there when President Kennedy was shot. My father and I loved to talk to Russ and hear about the history of him starting burnt ends. I moved to the east coast and don’t make it back to KC much but I’m glad that the family tradition lives on

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