One thing I’ve observed on this trip that surprised me is the concentration of BBQ restaurants: most of them seem to be clustered at the west end of the city, some even on the Kansas side of the state line. This is unlike Memphis, where there was seemingly one on every corner regardless of what end of town you were on. I’m suspecting there’s some historical/social reason for this, but hell if I know what. Anyone who knows is welcome to explain. Anyway, onward…
Speaking of that state line cluster, the next place on the itinerary for the day was Oklahoma Joe’s, which is in Kansas City, KS. For this trip I actually found myself praising the freeway system I damned yesterday, because I covered the distance from my hotel on the opposite end of town in 15 minutes.
The restaurant is in a gas station building. Which you can still get gas at. Which I imagine leads to some very easy jokes at times having to do with side effects of eating large amounts of meat. We have a BBQ place back home that also shares space with a gas station, but it doesn’t tend to have lines out the door at lunch time. Eh, I didn’t have anything else planned right away, and the line moved pretty fast.
Once inside (did I mention this place is busy? And small?) you smell the smoking process & hear blues music, & see the awards the competition BBQ team that started this place won. You also see the occasional surprisingly small person trying to eat their huge brisket sammiches. I ordered the ribs & brisket dinner:
The ribs were good, of course. Nice deep smoke & a rub that more accents what was already there than attempts to transform, juicy and tender. The brisket though was the star, ribbons of glistening beef with an interesting spice note to them I can’t quite figure out…it’s like the rub they do for their beef leans more herbal than most, subtle but noticed when you suck on the juices. Whatever it is, it works. As far as sauces, they have their original KC style on the table plus a hot version called Night of the Living BBQ (the bottle artwork is a cartoon of pigs attacking a guy like they’re zombies) — I preferred the original on the brisket & the hot on the ribs.
After this, for awhile I just drove around seeing what was what (good news: I found the Negro League Baseball museum / bad news: it’s closed on mondays. Trying again tomorrow) until I was hungry again, then I dialed in another BBQ place. Once I broke from the freeway & passed a college, then saw the familiar pattern of church/liquor store/liquor store/pawn shop/liquor store, I said to myself “I do believe we are driving through the Hood”. It is KC, after all. This was the place:
I assume the fencing in front of the windows is to make hurling a brick through them difficult, in case someone who works there pissed somebody off. It’s a small place, with the smoker right behind the counter you order at.
In case someone thought I was kidding…
Having heard about “burnt ends” (beef briskets are shaped such that one end is narrower than the other. The end that doesn’t produce even slices is then shoved back into the smoke for a few more hours & chunked up — hence, “burnt ends”), I decided to order a burnt ends sandwich…
Folks, to state the obvious for a moment, this is not a “sandwich”. This is a pile of meat, with sauce, on bread. You are not picking this up under any circumstances. If told at gunpoint “pick this sandwich up with your hands”, I’d be as good as dead. The meat took on a character where it was tender yet still providing decent bites per chunk, and gushingly juicy. The sauce…eh. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly great either, it was kinda just there. At least it didn’t get in the way.
The plan for tomorrow is to go to the Negro League Baseball museum & actually get in, then try a couple more BBQ places. Tonight, I’m watching the Lakers go down in flames, accompanied by a frosty beverage or two.