What’s in a name? That which we call smoked meat by any other name would smell as sweet. Or would it?

There are certain geographic locations that when attached as an adjective to a type of food produce a finite non-negotiable definition of that particular food item. The Chicago Style Hot Dog, Philly Cheesesteak, and New York Style Pizza are a few that come to mind.  Take the Chicago Dog for example. Beef hot dog, poppy seed bun, tomato slices or wedges, chopped white onion, yellow mustard, pickled sport peppers, dill pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt are required components of this regional treat.  Could you add other ingredients and make it good?  Sure, bacon, sauerkraut, chili and shredded cheddar could all be added or substituted and you would still have a tasty hot dog.  However, you would not have a Chicago Dog.  I feel Kansas City BBQ (just like Memphis, and Carolina, and Texas BBQ) fall into this category of geographic food icons as well.  There are things you just have to have to be considered KC BBQ.  In my opinion and experience to be considered Kansas City BBQ here are the basics:

1) Smoked meat.  This seems obvious, but the meat (any kind, really) should have a very distinct smoke presence.  If a rub is used, there should be a flavorful bark that forms from the caramelized sugar and spices during the low and slow cooking.  It should be moist, tender, and generally bursting with flavor.

2) Side dishes.  Though some disagree with me, I believe the side dishes are a critical component in KC BBQ.  BBQ beans are the most traditional of the sides and usually include some sort of meat, and sweet and spicy flavors that compliment and add layers of flavor to the whole meal.

3) Sauce.  This is what adds the “KC” to KC BBQ.  Traditionally a tomato and molasses base with a concoction of sweet, spicy, tangy and herbaceous flavors that are unique to the particular restaurant or pit master, and compliment the meat.  Carolinas use mustard, Memphis uses vinegar, and Texas doesn’t use any.  But a good KC sauce is unmistakeable.  The sauce should not be required to eat the meat, but rather add a depth of flavor that makes our BBQ uniquely our own.

That said, you would think that including “Kansas City Style BBQ” in the name of your restaurant you would have at least those three things honed in, and totally locked down.  That brings us to Winslow’s Kansas City Style BBQ.

The wife and I were cooking dinner with some friends and we all met up at the City Market to gather some fresh ingredients for our meal.  We figured being there already, it would be a perfect chance for us to visit Winslow’s Kansas City Style BBQ.  My wife and I arrived first, and went in to get a table.  As we walked in to the bar area there was no host/hostess, and no real direction on whether it was wait to be seated, or seat yourself.  We kind of just stood there for a minute.  The bartender looked at us and said nothing.  Two servers walked past us to put orders in at the bar and said nothing.  We finally decided to wander into the main dining area where we saw a sandwich board that told you to seat yourself.  The disinterest of the staff was an ominous sign regarding service.  The dining room was spacious and pretty crowded.  We were going to have 7 people in our party and there were only a couple of tables open so we sat down at a 4 seater waiting for something else to open up.  Our server checked in with us only a couple minutes after we sat down, which was totally expected based on how busy they were.  We ordered drinks and the fried green bean appetizer and told the server we would be moving as soon as a larger table opened up.  He told us no problem, and had our drinks out to us quickly.  Our app followed shortly thereafter, and then a larger table opened up and we shifted over while waiting for the rest of our group.  The server didn’t miss a beat and had our drinks refilled right after we moved.  Needless to say, our expectation of service improved drastically form when we first entered.  A quick note about the dining room; there was a large metal sign on the wall essentially soliciting franchisees for Winslow’s.  This same notification was printed on the menu as well.  Not there is anything wrong with this, it just struck me as very unusual.

Our friends arrived shortly after we moved tables and we got our order together with a divide and conquer mentality and landed on two of their three meat combo plates, and a 1/2 chicken dinner for the adults, and the kids got sandwiches.  The sandwiches are presented differently on the menu than most places.  It is more like a choose your own

This was one of the "Sandwich Factory" offerings

adventure novel than a menu.  You are encouraged in the “Sandwich Factory” to mix and match a meat or meats to one of their seven, yes seven, sauces to find your favorite combination.  I can see this being a kind of fun idea and a draw to bring people back IF executed well.  However, this really doesn’t ring true to me as “Kansas City Style” BBQ.

 

 

 

My Thoughts on the Food:

Fried Green Bean App

Fried Green Beans (appetizer) – These came out hot and crispy.  They were cooked well, although the breading did not have much depth of flavor.  It was more of a texture contrast than anything else.  These were served with a Habanero mayo that I did not find spicy at all.  It did not taste bad, I just never would have guessed Habanero pepper in it if it was not in the description.  Overall, they were pretty decent.

Sliced Brisket – The brisket had a nice smoke ring, but for some reason, it not take on much smoke flavor.  It was a little thicker cut than some but not what I would call a “thick cut”.  I suppose a “medium cut” would be an appropriate description.  The pieces that had good bark had nice flavor from the rub.  All of the beef was pretty dried out though.

Ribs – These did not have much meat on them.  The meat that was there had a nice pink smoke penetration and good smoke flavor.  The ribs that came on our platter originally were almost inedible, however.  They were almost devoid of meat, and what was there was totally dried out.  We pointed these out to our server and without hesitation he brought out a new serving to our table.  The second batch was significantly better, but still pretty dry.  Kudos to our server though for replacing them with absolutely no resistance.

Pulled Pork – This was more of a hand pulled pork than a fork shredded pork so the pieces were more “chunked” and larger than you might expect.  The pieces we got had virtually no smoke penetration or flavor.  We also had almost no pieces with any kind of bark on them.  What we had was somewhat bland and a little dry.  I would like to think that had we gotten some of the outer pieces of the shoulder the flavor would have been more present, but what we had was quite unremarkable.

Chicken (1/2 bird) – This was one of the more tender and moist of all the meat.  I actually found this kind of odd because, from experience, I know it is pretty easy to dry out a smoked chicken.  Based on the dryness of the other meats I did not have high hopes for the chicken.  It did not take on much smoke flavor and the rub seemed to be almost exclusively applied to the outside of the skin so there was not much flavor from the rub on the meat itself. I’m not much of a chicken skin guy so I didn’t investigate any further.

Chicken Wings- First of all, I found it just a little odd that these were offered as a main meat choice for the platters.  Some places offer smoked chicken wings, but it is usually as an appetizer.  Oddity aside these were not good.  They were just completely dried out.  You know the scene in Christmas Vacation where Clark W. Griswold cuts into the beautiful turkey only to have it pop like a balloon and a puff of steam escapes?  Yeah.  They were like that.  The only discernible flavor in the rub used was black pepper.  I don’t know if we just got a bad batch, but these could easily be left off the menu in my opinion.  I did eat these last and was pretty full at that point so unlike the ribs, I just let it go and did not mention it to the server.

Bone Dry Wing

Turkey – Now I know I said in the review for The Stack I would not even bother with turkey or ham unless there was something of note.  This was of note.  It was actually one of the better meats we got that day.  There was a mellow yet very present smoke flavor.  It had a nice texture that was more consistent with “real” turkey versus the processed deli style served at a lot of places.

Ham – I’m only mentioning this to re-enforce a point.  The ham was pretty dry.  It was nice and salty and had some smoke, but like most everything else, was dry.

 

Sides:

Potato Salad

These were all average at best.  The best of them in my opinion were the sweet potato fries.  They were crinkle cut and somewhat crispy.  They had a brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkle on them that added some complexity to the flavor.  they were good, not great.  The regular fries were a steak cut, and not crispy at all.  The beans did not have much flavor other than “bean”.  There was no smoke, no meat, no sweet, not much of anything.  If you are a regular reader, you know beans are not my favorite BBQ side anyway, but these were just totally uneventful.  The potato salad was creamy and a little tangy from mustard.  There was not much flavor there otherwise.  The coleslaw had a vinegar based dressing and celery seed was the primary spice.  Like the other sides this appeared to be of the pre-packaged/ supermarket variety.

Sauce:

Original Sauce

Most places have, at MOST, three sauces.  Winslow’s has seven.  They are; Original, Maple Apple, Bourbon Bacon, Habanera Hot, Blackberry Rum Chipotle, Pepper Jelly, and Mustard Paint.  Seriously.  SEVEN!  In my notes I just said “ck website”.  I was confused from the onset.  Like I said, we had five of the seven (we left out Mustard Paint and Pepper Jelly.)  The original did not have much going on.  It was a tomato based sauce with good consistency but not much flavor.  In all fairness, I had the original last because I didn’t even notice it was on the table until the end of the meal and there is a good chance my sauce taste buds had been blown out by the other four we had.  The other four kind of just ran together.  It really

4 of the additional 6 sauces

was sauce overload.  My somewhat limited notes said the Maple Apple was decent and worked well with the pork.  The Bourbon Bacon reminded me of Rouge Ales Bacon Maple Ale.  That is not a good thing (as almost anyone I know that has had that beer can confirm).  The Habanera Hot was pretty much just that.  The Blackberry Rum Chipotle was decent, but just had too much going on in my opinion.

 

The Hard Data:

Location: 20 East 5th Street Kansas City, MO 64106

Service Type: Table service

Alcohol Served: Full Bar, separate from main dining area

Website: http://winslowsbbq.com/

Price:

Sandwich $8.99-$9.99

Combo Plate: $14.99 (come with two sides)

Slab: $19.99

Sides: $1.99 (larger sizes also available)

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

n/a

4/10

Sides

n/a

4/10

Sauce

n/a

6/10

Service

n/a

7/10

Value

n/a

5/10

Overall Grade

n/a

C

 

Summary:

Elwood’s Take:

I’m not going to lie.  I was very disappointed in our visit to Winslow’s.  With a name like Winslow’s Kansas City Style BBQ and having been in business for as long as they have I had really high expectations.  I guess one of my biggest problems is Winslow’s in no way represents what KC BBQ should be to me.  Maybe I would have been more lenient if it was just called “Winslow’s BBQ”, but like I said from the onset, when you put that phrase on your food a definite preconceived notion is formed.  Also, once I  read more about the whole franchise angle after the fact it made me think the restaurant in the City Market was more of a BBQ showroom than an actual BBQ joint.  The best part of our visit was our server, and I feel bad I did not catch his name.  Unfortunately his efforts, though valiant, were not enough to overcome lackluster food and just too damn many mediocre sauces.

Jake’s Take:

I wasn’t able to make my schedule workout to join Elwood on this outing, so I am basing this entirely from reading his post.  Does anyone else think it is a bit tacky to try to solicit your diners to buy into a franchise of your restaurant when you are basically misrepresenting yourself as a “Kansas City Style Barbeque” restaurant and doing a poor job of quality control (see Elwood’s note on the ribs and chicken wings), a poor job finding direction in your menu (seven somewhat odd sauces), and a poor job of preparing your meats so they have nice smoke coloring and a unique flavor profile that sets you aside from the rest.  It seems like they may be trying too hard to create a catchy restaurant platform that can be replicated in other cities than making good, edible barbeque.

 

Winslow's BBQ on Urbanspoon

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