Kansas City–style barbecue is one of the world’s best methods of slow smoking meats. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in the early 1900s, this style of barbecue uses a specific technique and flavor profile to deliver the most tender, most succulent, and most delicious meats in the world — without exaggeration. Travelers can find Kansas City barbecue all over the country — from street vendors to five-star restaurants — but there’s no place like the origin when it comes to providing traditional and tasty barbecue meats.
The cooking methods for Kansas City meats can vary wildly, and while slow smoking is by far the most common — as it provides the deepest flavor while retaining a desirable texture — grilling and frying are also viable preparations for some of the meats used in the style. Unlike many barbecue styles, Kansas City also does not limit the variety or cuts of its meats. Beef, chicken, turkey, mutton, and even fish have been served under the umbrella of Kansas City style.
This is largely because the fundamental signature of Kansas City barbecue is the taste. The barbecue sauce used in the Kansas City style is full of flavor, perfectly complementing the meats and offering a variety of spice levels to satisfy every taster. While every restaurant — and every native of Kansas City — has their own spin on the classic recipe, traditional barbecue sauce is tomato based with a delightful sweetness and tang. It’s certainly worth experimenting with more than one location to find your exact favorite meat and sauce.
After checking into one of the centrally located hotels in Kansas City, MO — definitely not Kansas City, Kansas — travelers have the prime opportunity to explore the city’s barbecue offerings. These are some of the best purveyors of the fine Kansas City style, and well worth a trip to Kansas City for their meats alone.
Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue
The name can be confusing, but this barbecue joint offers true-to-style Kansas City barbecue. Renowned chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain named this restaurant one of “The Top 13 Places to Eat Before You Die,” demonstrating the outstanding quality of the meats found in its smokers. Located in what was once an old gas station, this joint offers plenty of atmosphere with its world-class ribs, briskets, and pulled pork — not to mention its award-winning sauces.
The namesake of the restaurant, grill master Danny Edwards comes from a long line of barbecue professionals. However, his family’s recipes have remained virtually unchanged throughout their long and troubled history, promising diners a traditional barbecue feast. Slow smoked, hand-cut meats are treated with extreme care, which creates a first-class feel in a comfortable barbecue joint.
Dealing with some traditional and some more unique meats, the chefs and grill masters at Gates offer patrons sausages chicken, and more from their famous pit. In business since 1945, chefs here have been refining recipes for almost 70 years, so their sauces and sides are near perfection. This Kansas City staple has plenty of locations around the city, so travelers can stop in no matter where in the area they’re headed.
Arthur Bryant’s is perhaps the most famous Kansas City barbecue joints in the world, and many consider it to be the best barbecue restaurant in the city. Filled with patrons from all walks of life, this joint has a coveted spot right next to the Municipal Stadium, bringing it much-needed foot traffic in its early days, and keeping it a Kansas City landmark today. With two simple and beloved sauces smothered over a variety of much-loved slow smoked meats, this place is legendary to travelers and natives alike.
B.B.’s Lawnside Barbecue
While the food can stand alone at this spot, the restaurant provides diners a feature unrivaled in other barbecue joints: blues music. While the dining room itself isn’t particularly adorned, diners don’t spend much time staring at the walls, preferring to watch the jam sessions and formal concerts performed by everyone from local garage bands to touring award-winning artists. While the main dishes are absolutely stellar — the pork is particularly well prepared, both in rib and pulled forms — their appetizers are delectably unique: buffalo shrimp, slow smoked chicken wings, burnt ends soup, and the infamous bar-b-que sundae.