The 800 Pound Gorilla

Note: Oklahoma Joe’s has updated their name to Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I owe a confession to our readers.  I am a huge fan of Oklahoma Joe’s.  Whenever someone asks me where to get BBQ, Oklahoma Joe’s is my go to response.  In fact, whenever I feel like BBQ, Oklahoma Joe’s is usually my go to restaurant.  There it is, I feel cleansed now.  The inconspicuousness of Oklahoma Joe’s from any of our reviews may have appeared, well, conspicuous to regular readers of our blog and fans of KC BBQ.  The reason we have waited this long to review them is we both have eaten there many times, know the menu very well, and had a pretty good idea that based on our rating scale they would get a pretty strong grade.  We also wanted to hone our review style and our taste buds a bit to try to give as unbiased review as possible.  We wanted to try some places that we had never been first so we could go in with no expectations or preconceived notions and give an honest review.

After 10 restaurants now reviewed, some we have visited before some we have not, we are comfortable that our rating system works for what we do and our ability to critically eat a meal has gotten to the point that we could fairly judge a place that we knew we loved before ever writing our first review.  Through our bbq journey so far, we have learned so much and seen so many variations on the same basic ingredients and dishes.  That said, we went into our “review meal” at Oklahoma Joe’s with very high expectations.  Maybe they were even a little unfair.  We were actually a little afraid that we had built Oklahoma Joe’s up in our heads to the point they wouldn’t meet our expectations.  But it is time to address the 800lb gorilla in the room.

View of the smokers at Oklahoma Joe’s from the back of the building

Heed the sign!

We decided we would try and avoid a bit of the dinner rush and arrived at the 47th & Mission location a little after 7:30 on a Saturday night.  Apparently, there is no avoiding the rush.  Ever.  Walking to the door we noticed license plates from 18 different states.  People from all over the country have come here to find out what is so special about Oklahoma Joe’s barbeque.  The line for dinner was still wrapped out the door and about halfway along the building.  Jake mentioned, “The last time I willingly stood in a line for more than an hour was to get into Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disney World.”  Then he mentioned he was just as content standing in the line for Oklahoma Joe’s as he was in the happiest place on earth.  I can’t say I disagree with him.  I don’t know what it is about waiting in a line like this, but people seem to open up.  People who haven’t been before kind of let off this, “is this really worth it vibe” and people who have exude, “don’t worry, this is totally worth it.”  Conversations between groups tend to merge together.  The whole thing just kind of has a buzz about it, which makes passing upwards of an hour waiting for chow more enjoyable.  One thing that really struck me as we advanced our position in line is how tiny the dining area is in relation to the number of people that move through the restaurant.  There are several signs along the way that tell you not to have a member of your party snag a table while everyone else is in line.  As tempting as it may be, I suggest you follow the request.  I kept watching people leave, and almost instantly someone else sat down.  As I kept watching, I realized how blazingly efficient the staff was in clearing tables and turning them over for the next guest.  It didn’t seem to matter the size of the party, there always seemed to be a table available.  It’s like watching the movement of a fine timepiece.  It is amazing to watch it work, and in no way can I explain how it does.

Counter for the gas station that shares the building

The building itself is a bit unusual.  Not many restaurants share a waiting area with a fully functional convenience store.  And not many convenience stores have to deal with hordes of ravenous BBQ fans pouring through their doors either.  The restaurant side of the building is adorned with competition BBQ banners, and pictures of winning team members holding trophies, meats, or both.  There are also some framed complimentary articles scattered around as well.  One I found particularly interesting was one written by Anthony Bourdain claiming Joe’s as one of the 13 places you must eat before you die (Joe’s is listed at 13).  Although not over the top, the decor just adds to the perception that you are standing on hallowed BBQ ground (as you feel at quite a few establishments in KC).

After about an hour and ten minutes we got to the counter to place our order.  An now for the next thoroughly impressive part of our visit.  We had a chance while waiting in line to formulate our order to maximize variety for the review.  Cowboy dinner with beans and potato salad, Z-man with fries, smoked chicken dinner with cole slaw, 2 meat dinner with pulled pork, ham, and red beans and rice, a turkey Carolina with onion rings, 2 sodas, and 4 waters.  We rattled all of this off to the gentleman that took our order and he subsequently repeated it all in a much louder voice and seemingly without taking a breath or writing it down to the cashier down the line and she entered it spot on. The food came out exactly how we ordered about 3 minutes.  This was apparently standard operating procedure because the groups in front of us and behind us got the same treatment.  We got our food and proceeded to the dining area where, low and behold, a table for six had just opened up.

My thoughts on the food:

Ribs – These had a very flavorful crust on top and a bright pink smoke ring.  The ribs were moist and tender and had great flavor.  As I bit through the ribs the bite area pulled meat clean to the bone, but the surrounding meat stayed put just like it is supposed to.  The mixture of flavor, texture, and appearance make them an excellent example of how ribs should be served.

                     Cowboy Dinner

Brisket – Great smoke flavor, moist, lean, and just delicious.  That pretty much sums up my notes on the brisket.  The brisket is sliced thin and the flavor profile is present throughout the entire slice, not just in the barq.  I don’t know how they achieve this, but it makes for an incredible bite every time.  It was wonderful as a main meat on its own and just as good on the Z-Man my daughter got (which may be my favorite BBQ sandwich in the World).

Sausage – This was a pork sausage cut in approximately 1/4″ slices.  The sausage did not take on a lot of smoke flavor but was still very tasty.  The sausage was so moist that it fell  apart in your mouth with very little effort.  It was not overly fatty which some sausage can be and it goes really well with either of the Oklahoma Joe’s sauces.

Chicken – The chicken was moist and smoky both with the dark and white meat.  We ordered the half chicken and were surprised to find how much flavor and smoke coloring we found throughout each piece.  I usually prefer other options when I BBQ, but Oklahoma Joe’s chicken was very tasty and I’d get it again if I wanted to change up my usual.

                 Pulled Pork and Ham

Pulled Pork – The pulled pork was described on the menu as the “House Specialty” and with good reason.  It was juicy and flavorful.  My favorite bits were the ones with a little barq that lead into a good amount of pink from the smoke.  The almost sweet pork went great with the spicy “Night of the Living Sauce” that was on each table.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the pork to anyone.

Ham – In all the times I’ve been to Oklahoma Joe’s I had never tried the ham.  Mostly because ham is usually pretty uneventful at a lot of places.  If ham is simply juicy I will give it a passing grade, but Joe’s ham actually has some real smoke flavor.  This is definitely one of the better hams we have had.  Sliced thin, and served slightly sauced, the ham was a great example of how smoked ham should be.

Turkey – I assume was good because Jake’s wife ate all of her Carolina sandwich before either of us could pilfer a bite.  Jake has had it several times in the past and, like all the other meats, it is sliced thin and served very moist.  The meat on the Carolina sandwich is dressed with “Bubba’s Sauce,” which is a thin hot vinegar barbeque sauce.

Sides – Oklahoma Joe’s fries might be the single most addictive thing I have ever eaten.  They are seasoned with their BBQ rub and are served in a huge portion.  (seriously, I can put away some food, and my wife, daughter, and I usually share one order of fries).  The red beans and rice are a nice change from typical BBQ beans.  They are just a little spicy and have diced sausage and celery in the mix.  This is one of my go-to sides every time I visit.  The creamy coleslaw is very good.  It consists of crunchy green and red cabbage and carrots in a sweet creamy dressing.  The spicy version of the slaw is dressed up with a little of a spicy BBQ rub seasoning mixed in with the sweet dressing and is the standard topping (along with Bubba’s vinegar sauce) on the “Carolina Style” sandwiches.  Their BBQ beans have 3 kinds of beans and are not overly sweet.  I usually don’t order the BBQ beans, not because they are not good.  They are quite good.  I just like the red beans and rice a bit better.  Different strokes I suppose.  This was the first time I had ordered potato salad at Joe’s.  They used a whole seed mustard sauce that was a little tangy and really good.  Big chunks of celery added a nice crunch.  I will likely put the potato salad in the regular rotation of sides when i visit.  Finally, you can’t go wrong with the crispiness of their onion rings.  They top the ever popular Z-Man sandwich with two of these.

Sauce –

Oklahoma Joe’s Original sauce – This was a prototypical KC BBQ sauce.  Ketchup base that was just the right consistency to stick to what ever you put it on but not be too thick.  It was a sweet and a little spicy, but not hot spicy.  It just had a nice blend of spices to compliment the sweet.

The spicy offering on the table is called “Night of the Living Sauce” and the bottle features some terrified looking cartoon pigs.  This sauce had a similar consistency and color to the original.  However, the spices on the original compliment the sweet, the spices here are the stars and really heat up this sauce.  It is still very well balanced, the scale is just shifted well toward the “heat” side of the ledger.  The “Night of the Living Sauce” is on my Mount Rushmore of sauces.

The Hard Data:

Location: 3002 W 47th Ave. Kansas City, KS 66103

Service Type: Counter

Alcohol Served: Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat and Bud Light on tap; Rolling Rock, Heineken, Corona, Boulevard Pilsner, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, Bud, Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light in bottles



Sandwich: $5.19 – $6.49

Combo Plate: $8.79 – $12.49

Slab: $20.29

Sides: $2.29 – $4.49 (up to 1/2 gallon sizes available)



Jake Rating

Elwood Rating
















Overall Grade




Elwood’s Take:

There it is.  The cat has been de-bagged.  I am a big Oklahoma Joe’s fan.  I was actually a little apprehensive about reviewing a place that I visit quite frequently.  Although I have never had a bad experience, I was afraid that I had built them up so much that when we went to review them that they would simply be decent.  They were not.  Just as I expected, Oklahoma Joe’s was fantastic.  I’ll be the first to admit, I was still going to be regular at Oklahoma Joe’s regardless of how this review played out.  Some people may think this influenced my opinion.  Be assured on our visit to Oklahoma Joe’s they earned every bit of the score I gave them.  It was simply fantastic.  That said, I do prefer the Olathe location only because it has a larger dining area (soon to be expanded again, thanks to the re-location of the Kansas City BBQ Store that used to be attached next door), parking is MUCH easier to deal with, plus it is closer to home for me.  However, anytime I’m taking someone to Oklahoma Joe’s who has never been, I still go to the 47th and Mission location to get them the best food they will ever have at a gas station. Or just about anywhere else for that matter.

Jake’s Take:

Dare I say I was just as content standing in the line for Oklahoma Joe’s as I was in the happiest place on earth?  Maybe I am.  So what?  I can honestly say that I have been a customer of Oklahoma Joe’s for a long time and this is the place my mind drifts off to when anyone talks about barbeque.  I’m not one for standing in lines.  I love Black Friday, where I enjoy sleeping in and not dealing with the massive crowds.  However, the line to place your order at Oklahoma Joe’s seems to move faster because there are friendly people to talk to and there is a good chance they are from out of town and heard this is the place they have to try.

Like anyone, once you decide something is your favorite, you instinctively compare and judge everything else against it.  Their dedication to quality is what keeps me coming back.  They are the single most consistent barbeque restaurant I have ever experienced.  It will always taste the exact same each time you come back, no matter which location you go to.   I’m glad we finally had the opportunity to review them from the standpoint of this blog, as it opened my eyes to the many reasons I enjoy them so much.


Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

5 thoughts on “The 800 Pound Gorilla

  1. Great review. I also recommend Oklahoma Joe’s to visitors from out of town as the best all-around BBQ in town. Heck, they catered our wedding. I’ve been going there since they had a $10.99 full slab special (!) in the ’90s.
    However, while I’m thrilled for them and their success, the lines are just too much. You can call in and take it to Rosedale Park, but I’d rather have all the sauce, napkins, and utensils at my disposal. Usually, I find I’d rather get my food in 5 minutes at Quick’s (or Danny Edwards if it’s lunch time).

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