With the start of training camp this last week, football season is now officially upon us. I have to say that as a Chiefs blogger that is music to my ears. We can finally start talking about what is happening on the field as opposed to just speculating over who’s opinion will ultimately be correct. So it would stand to reason that my first post after the start of camp would be about camp, right? Well, no. This last week while most KC fans were pouring over every little tidbit of information that was coming out of the opening of camp I was on a 5 day road trip with my wife. So there is no way I could add anything of importance to the already fantastic camp coverage that AA is dishing out this week (next week will be a different story). What I can talk about after my trip is something that most KC fans are equally passionate about, BBQ. My road trip included stops in Memphis, St. Louis, and Kansas City where I ate at some truly legendary BBQ joints. So I thought this week I’d share my BBQ experiences and then turn it over to you guys so you can share your best BBQ experiences and cast your vote for who has the best BBQ on the planet. Maybe you’ll even be inspired by something you read and will incorporate some BBQ into your next game day experience (if you weren’t already).
Now, let me start with a disclaimer. I am not the world’s leading expert on BBQ. In fact, many of you can probably add a lot more to the discussion when it comes to KC BBQ then I can. So if you disagree with my take on BBQ I openly invite you to share your thoughts in the comments. Then the readers can make up their own mind.
Alright, let’s start with my stop in Memphis. I had never been to Memphis before and I was really excited to eat some of their BBQ. After KC, Memphis may have the next best BBQ tradition on any single city in the world. Now, even though I might have been content eating BBQ for every meal, I was on a trip for my wife and I’s anniversary so I decided one BBQ stop in each city would probably be best. That made my decision in Memphis a tough one. There are literally dozens of good BBQ places to choose from. The most famous is the Rendezvous near downtown and Beale Street. However, after reading some reviews online the consensus was that even though Rendezvous was the most famous, the BBQ was actually better at some lesser known places. After considering some places like Tom’s and Corky’s I ended up picking Central BBQ. Wow, it was a good choice. I wanted to try a little of everything so my wife and I shared a 1/2 slab rib combo with pulled pork and smoked turkey. We got their homemade chips and BBQ beans as sides and then split an order of their pulled pork BBQ nachos.
The ribs fell off the bone, the pulled pork had an amazing smoky flavor, and the nachos were AMAZING. They had three different sauces, their traditional, a hot, and a vinegar based sauce. I’m not a huge vinegar sauce fan and the hot tasted a little too “tabasco-y” for my liking. The regular sauce was very good though. There wasn’t a single thing that wasn’t VERY good. In the end, individual items at our other two stops stood out over anything at Central, but it was the only stop where I thought everything was great. If you are ever in Memphis, I would definitely check it out.
Next, we were off to St. Louis. Now, I know some of you will refuse to believe that St. Louis has anything to offer KC fans in the area of BBQ. I understand where you are coming from and I admit that St. Louis doesn’t have the history or reputation for BBQ that either KC or Memphis has. I just ask, that as BBQ fans, you hear me out because the place we went to is 100% worth checking out if you are ever in St. Louis. That place is Pappy’s Smokehouse.
Going into the trip, Pappy’s was the place I expected to be my least favorite. That having been said, the reviews of the place were excellent and even though it’s a fairly new place it has quickly become the top BBQ place in St. Louis (Roper’s Ribs is also well known, but the reviews of Pappy’s were better especially from people that weren’t from St. Louis). Much like the famous KC BBQ havens, you should be prepared to wait in a long line at Pappy’s. We went at 11:30am on a Monday and still had to wait in line for 30 minutes just to order. It was worth every minute. I ordered a 1/2 slab combo with sweet potato fries, fried corn on the cob, and added an order of pulled pork.
Let’s start with what didn’t really impress me. The pulled pork was just good, not great. It lacked the really smoky flavor that Central had. Also, the sauces at Pappy’s were just okay. My wife really liked their “Sweet Baby Jane” sauce, but it was a little too sweet for me. The regular and hot were good, but not memorable to me. However, the fried corn on the cob was really good (and different). The sweet potato fries were possibly the best I have ever had. Finally, the ribs were AMAZING!!! I was really surprised. After trying the sauces and not being blown away I wasn’t expecting the ribs to be that good. They are made with both a Memphis style dry rub but also are cooked with some sauce on them. However, no sauce is added after they come off the smoker. The result is this BBQ bark like crust on them that was about the best thing I have ever tasted. I know I’ll probably never be allowed back in KC after saying this, but they may have been the best tasting ribs I’ve ever had. Also, the people at Pappy’s were great. The owner came in while we were there and was a super nice guy. Their smoker is right on the street outside the restaurant and when the guy taking the ribs out of the smoker saw me taking a picture, he actually brought the platter of ribs right up to the window.
So if you are ever in St. Louis, do yourself a favor and go to Pappy’s Smokehouse. Forget the fact that you are in St. Louis and just go as a BBQ fan. You won’t regret it.
Finally, on our way home to the Wichita area we stopped in KC for one last BBQ stop. I had never been to Oklahoma Joe’s before and I decided that it was time for me to try their legendary Z-man sandwich. For those that aren’t from KC or aren’t familiar with Oklahoma Joe’s they are actually located in a gas station at 47th and Mission (I think they have opened up a couple more locations now, but this is the original).
Now, just because they’re located in a gas station doesn’t mean you won’t wait in a long line. We were there at 1pm on a Tuesday and still waited for about 35 minutes to order (and I was told that wasn’t long at all). Even though Oklahoma Joe’s has a lot to offer, their famous menu item is the Z-man sandwich that consists of their beef brisket smothered in BBQ sauce and melted provolone cheese and topped with a couple of onion rings. My wife and I split a Z-man and a slab of ribs.
I’ll start by saying that the Z-man 100% lived up to the hype. I REALLY wished that we had each got our own Z-man and just split a 1/2 slab of ribs. The Z-man was probably the best thing I have had in the three major KC BBQ places that I have been to (Oklahoma Joe’s, Arthur Bryant’s, and Gate’s). Also, true to the KC tradition the sauce at Oklahoma Joe’s was by far the best I had on the trip. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Arthur Bryant’s and Gate’s, but I think this sauce may have been my favorite of the three (admittedly, I haven’t ever had Jack Stack). The only let down was that the ribs were just okay. Don’t get me wrong, they were good and with that great sauce on them I had no problem finishing my half of the slab, but the ribs at both Central and Pappy’s were better in my opinion. I also wish that I would have tried the pulled pork there so I could have compared it to the other two places.
I don’t know if it’s possible for me to pick a favorite between the three stops. Oklahoma Joe’s had the best sauce and the Z-man was amazing. Pappy’s had those amazing ribs and the sweet potato fries and fried corn were great too. Central may not have had anything as good as the Z-man or Pappy’s ribs (although those BBQ nachos were close) but they were the only place that didn’t have something that was just okay (like Pappy’s pulled pork or Oklahoma Joe’s ribs). So I highly recommend all three places to any BBQ lovers out there, with the “must try” list including Oklahoma Joe’s Z-man, Pappy’s ribs and sweet potato fries, and Central’s BBQ nachos.
So now it’s your turn Addicts. Where is your favorite BBQ place? Have you been to other great BBQ places outside of KC that fellow traveling Addicts need to check out? With football season about to get underway it’s a great time to plan road trips to go watch your favorite team play. Those road trips are always that much better when they include a stop for some great BBQ. One last side note, if you’re planning a trip to KC or any other major city check out tripadvisor.com. They have reviews and ratings of all the restaurants, hotels, and attractions in all the major cities and you can easily find the top places to check out while you’re there. That’s how I found most of the places on our road trip.
So now I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the great BBQ debate so please fill up the comments section with all of your favorites.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
p.s. – is anybody else suddenly hungry?