It’s been rough going the last couple of weeks with everything that I’ve had to deal with on the personal front. Given where my head has been, it doesn’t feel appropriate to write along the lines of my typical entries.
The last three weeks have been focused on hospital visits, trying to play catch up at work and then hustling back to my hometown to be with my family to handle everything that comes up when you have a parent that passes away.
In between dealing with the emotional baggage and logistical issues the last several days, I’ve tried to take a couple breaks. Frankly, I’ve needed it. I haven’t spent this much time back in Kansas City for a while now and I figured I might as well take advantage of some of the things that I miss from here. Number one on that list is Kansas City barbecue. (Over the past three weeks I figured that I’ve had KC barbecue at least four or five times, and I plan on making a huge take-out run for some more before hitting I-35 north en route back to the Twin Cities.)
Now, I’m not a true foodie or anything but I do consider myself a snob when it comes to barbecue. There weren’t many options that I found when I lived in Los Angeles and surprisingly I did find a great place down in Miami, but when it comes to Minneapolis there are almost no options. I’m continuously on the lookout for decent barbecue in the Twin Cities but I inevitably end up disappointed. (Don’t even get me started about Famous Dave’s.)
There are a ton of options here in Kansas City, and I’m not even going to scratch the surface here in this posting. Gate’s Bar-B-Q is solid but not as good as I remember, and Jack Stack Barbecue is a little too high brow for my taste.
Now I’m normally an Arthur Bryant’s guy. The history, the atmosphere, the smoker, the Red Creams, the fresh cut fries, the vinegar based sauce and the burnt end. You cannot beat that place. (The first time I went there as a kid I ordered a chicken sandwich. And what did I get on my plate? A smoked half-chicken, bones and all, on two pieces of wonder bread. Classic.)
Now I’m not going to disparage Bryant’s – it is an institution and it will always hold a special place in my heart. But I have recently fallen for Oklahoma Joe’s. There is just something about a barbecue joint that is located inside a working gas station that you have to love. The onion rings are outstanding, the short-ends are terrific and the brisket is amazing. Oklahoma Joe’s doesn’t take reservations and the wait in line to order food before being seated can stretch up to 50 people deep. And let me tell you it’s worth every second of waiting. I’ve never felt as much a carnivore in my life as I have while eating at that place. (And yes, I know that this is really, really visceral.)
I’ve had some good dry run ribs in Memphis and some great smoked barbecue in Austin, but I’ve found nothing that compares to the breadth and depth of barbecue in Kansas City. Now I’m sure that my hometown bias has something to do with it, but if money was no object and if I was trying to decide between driving 15 minutes to a barbecue place in Minneapolis or catching an hour flight to Kansas City for some of the grub, there would not even be a discussion. Get me on that plane and get me straight into town. Ribs…brisket…rings….fries….burnt ends….I’m getting hungry as I type.