You can’t go wrong with any barbecue in town. There’s something for everyone, and if you ask 20 people to rank their top spots, you’ll probably get 20 different lists.
Personally, I had a lot of barbecues in my day. So I will give my top five, plus a few honorable mentions.
Gates Bar – BQ
One of the classics. There are six locations across the metro – my favorite is the one on Emmanuel Cleaver Street, but it’s well worth venturing to the location on State Avenue in Kansas City, KS if you’re in the mood for some chicken wings.
As far as the list goes, the best barbecue ever for your buck at KC is the Nooner. This magical meal is sliced burnt ends and your choice of steak on a bun with a side of fries for $5.99 (price may vary since the last time you were) on weekdays between 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM You can still get Nooner is outside lunch hours and on weekends but the price goes up a bit – but believe me, it’s still worth it.
Outside of nonner, I love a mixed platter – a generous mix of ribs, beef, pork and fries – if you get extra hungry, as well as ordering a side of beans. The classic “beef on a bun” sandwich is loved by many, and you can not forget about strawberry soda or delicious local beer.
Above all else, just get ready for “Hey, can I help you?” To be shouted in decibels at the level of an arrowhead upon arrival.
Joe Kansas City Bar-B-Q
A favorite of many, Joe’s KC – formerly Oklahoma Joe – is the sturdiest and roundest barbecue in town in this writer’s opinion. Its three locations (all on the Kansas side) serve up delicious meat cooked to perfection – it’s no wonder why the line often gets pushed out the door and sometimes loops around the building during peak hours. However, the line is worth the wait and moves faster than you might expect.
My go-to at Joe’s is Z-Man’s jumbo, cheese fries and sweet tea. What is Z-Man, you ask? Per Joe’s menu, it’s “slow-smoked beef brisket, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crunchy onion rings, on a toasted kaiser roll.” There are variations, too, with chicken, pulled pork, or even portobello mushrooms for the non-meat eater.
I’m also biased towards Rocket Pig when it’s time to switch things up, and I know many who love Carolina Pork Sandwich. Some go straight for the ribs and/or the burnt ends. That’s fine too – like I said, it’s all amazing.
BBQ pig duel
This underrated joint is a bit further away, with locations in Liberty, Missouri (the original) and Legends in KCK (next to the Mercy Park kids’ park where Sporting Kansas City plays). I would suggest Liberty if possible because that has a great brewery attached called 3Halves Brewing.
Fencing especially for their own specials. Every day they have an exclusive menu item, whether it’s the rib eye on Wednesday, the burger smash on Thursday or the brisket philly on Saturday. These specials can change, so be sure to call ahead or check their social media pages to see what they have on offer.
My personal favorite at Jousting is the aforementioned Brisket Philly. That’s exactly what it sounds like plus more – minced breast meat, peppers, onions, and jalapeños on a toasted baguette. It’s one of the best BBQ specialty sandwiches in KC
If you’re looking for something more traditional, take the burnt pork ends or The Jester, the latter of which is a brisket sandwich with Texas toothpicks and smoked quality. Don’t forget the cheese corn – it’s on the spicier side but complements every dish well. Oh, and the banana pudding. Get the banana candy.
One of KC’s coolest barbecue joints, the Q39 is young but has become a staple fairly quickly. A bill will definitely fall here, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for a comfortable seating experience.
If you get anything at Q39, please, get the “best wings on the planet”. No, seriously, that’s what they’re called, and they live up to the title if you ask me. The perfect amount of crispness and tenderness with a sweet chipotle barbecue glaze that carries a hint of spice. Just perfect.
What you get is up to you. Personally, I enjoy the Burnt End Burger, although it can be a challenge in your mouth. The judge’s plate is nice if you want to try a little bit of everything, and it’s shareable (unless you’re a cannibal like me). I have a friend who is totally obsessed with Smoked Beef Brisket Poutine. Really, it’s an embarrassment of fortunes (BBQ).
Slap’s is also relatively new to the game, has a great mix of quality and quantity, and their pricing isn’t far from affordable. Make sure to get there early in the afternoon – they stay open until 7pm but often sell out many of their menu items a few hours earlier.
I feel like a broken record when I say you can’t go wrong with any of their food, but it’s true. I usually get a burnt end and a sausage group or a Mike Johnson’s sandwich, the latter of which includes jalapeno cheddar sausage, brisket, lettuce, BBQ sauce and white sauce on a pretzel bun. Wait, white sauce, you say? A fad for sure! no. It’s legit, and you should ask for more on the side.
Speaking of sides, Slap’s features my favorite side dish at KC: baked potato casserole. Please, please get this if you go to slap. thank me later.
- Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque: Another classic, Bryant’s BBQ has a loyal following in and out of KC. I personally love the beef and pork combo sandwich with a side of beans. Their sauce is on the tougher side with vinegar instead of tomatoes, but it offers a different, unique style that many, including myself, enjoy.
- Back Toy BBQ: New to the barbecue scene, this Thai-KC BBQ blend delivers some of KC’s best and most unique flavors. My favorite dishes include the X Man sandwich or pineapple fried rice with a side of macaroni and cheese.
- Char Bar: Westport seating with one of the best patios amongst KC BBQ joints, this place has delicious sandwiches, unique apps, and great sides. I love the jalapeno bread with cheese.
- Harp Barbecue: Tucked inside Crane Brewing in Raytown, Missouri, this joint is only open Fridays and Saturdays and lasts until sold out. Arrive early (like 30 minutes before opening) if you want a good spot in line. It’s worth it – Harp has some of the best meat in town.
- Jack Stack BBQ: For many people in KC, this is the #1 spot. It’s worth a visit to one of their six spots if you’re in the mood for some seating and some of the best sides that KC has to offer. I suggest any entrees, sandwich and/or lamb ribs. Wait, sheep? Believe me, they are thin and legit.
- LC’s Bar-BQ: Another mainstay classic, LC’s has the best burnt ends in town. Don’t expect to see anything fancy on this list. There’s no need – they just let their meat do the talking.
I’ve heard great things, but you haven’t visited them yet
- Technically, I visited BB’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ, but I was a little kid so I only remember the atmosphere, not the food. However, if you enjoy some jam while eating, this is the place. They charge a cover on nights with bands, but that’s reasonable.
- I’ve heard great things about Chef J BBQ, a artisanal Harp-like barbecue area with limited hours and an open till sale menu.
- Same goes for the Night Goat BBQ which is only open on Sundays from 11am-3pm at Fox and Pearl.