Kansas City; In Which We Go for Barbecue

We went for barbecue! We were in Kansas City, Missouri, so we had to. Kat and her husband Rob, Kelly and Kip, Kate and I went. Bill is a vegetarian and it just didn’t seem like it was going to be as much fun for him, so he passed on this excursion.

As it turned out, we actually went for Barbeque; specifically Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, complete with the variant spelling. ¬†Over the rest of the trip I had two people inform me that we had picked the “wrong” barbecue place and the only real barbecue was Gates Barbecue; thus capturing the passion and partisanship this type of meat cooking excites among the folks of Kansas City.

The Arthur Bryant restaurant we chose was in a slightly run down neighborhood. It’s an old-fashioned two-room storefront with the menu on a sign above the counter (you can see it there) and a line that after we got there snaked out the door and around the corner in to the parking lot. Apparently Bryant’s process is more sauce-based, and Gates is more spice-rub based. You couldn’t prove any of that by me.

Arthur Bryant's Menu

Arthur Bryant’s Menu

The tables have pristine white linen tablecloths and crystal vases with — ha! Just kidding! What’s one thing a BBQ place won’t have? Linen (or even cloth) table coverings, because who could afford the laundry costs? What’s one thing they will have? Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of paper napkins.

I had the pulled pork sandwich because I almost never have pork and I was curious. It really does come on white bread that is the consistency of Wonderbread. Since the bread is mostly a staging area for mounds of succulent, sweet-tangy, tender meat, and since I didn’t eat it, I didn’t really care. I ordered coleslaw as a side, and a peach iced tea because I had never had one and it sounded regional.

The meat was… well, succulent, tender, all of the above, and way too much for me to eat. This was the only time on the trip that I regretted the lack of a fridge in the room. The coleslaw was crunchy, with a creamy dressing that was also tangy. It provided a counterpoint to the pork and allowed me to rationalize that I was eating “vegetables” so it all okay. About the peach tea, well, now I can say I’ve had one.

Kate had a beer and I think that was the right choice. I’ll know for next time.

Taking pictures of the cooks and food preparers seemed to be a regular thing, and this lady was engaging and funny… and pretty expert at what she was doing.

This lady made my pulled pork sandwich.

This lady made my pulled pork sandwich.

Kat ordered the burnt ends, which don’t sound great, but will surprise you. They are the charred ends of the tri-tips. She gave us bites, and they were delicious. If/when I ever go back, I will try some of the beef-based selections. And when I go back, I will check out Gates so that I have given BBQ a fair appraisal.

The food comes in plastic baskets like you used to get at A&W, for anyone who ever went there. The joint was packed and loud. Forget having a serious conversation… but I was too busy eating to really miss that. I looked out the window and saw the street light up. A few minutes later it did again. I said, “Is there a storm?” Sure enough, it was lightning. We couldn’t hear the thunder over the crowd noise in the restaurant.

My one secret hope on the trip was that I would get to experience a Missouri thunderstorm. We went outside to a downpour of dime-sized drops of warm rain, arabesques of lightning and the slow rumble of thunder all around us. I was thrilled. And I would say I was the only one of our party who was.

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