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Saturday, July 28, 2018
Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City, KS)
It may be touristy, but Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que is one of the big names in smoked meat. In fact, Anthony Bourdain, R.I.P., listed it as one of thirteen places to eat before you die. This famous joint has youthful new rivals on both the KC and MO sides, such as Q39 and Slap's, but I came to Kansas City for Joe's.
Their original "gas station" location actually does still have functional gas pumps, although I'm sure that barbecue is the bigger draw. I anticipated a line for Saturday dinner hours, but not to the degree that I found. At 6:30pm, there were easily sixty people between me and the front door. After twenty minutes, I called Joe's from the outside just to see what the wait time would be on a to-go order. Even that would have been another forty-five minutes, so I figured I might as well stick to the plan and dine in. Around 7:15pm I finally made it indoors, where I waited another forty-five minutes before even ordering. Geez, I hoped this place would live up to the hype.
While in line, I noticed an advertised special called the "Hogamaniac Dinner." Pulled pork, sausage, two ribs, and two sides. I briefly considered this porky combo, but people don't come to Joe's for the sausage. They come for the ribs and The Z-Man sandwich, so that's what I did. I grabbed a half-slab dinner with Kansas caviar and a Z-Man on the side.
If you're like me, you have no idea what "Kansas caviar" is. Well, best I could tell, it's a colorful mix of edamame, corn, shredded carrots, roasted red peppers, and pickled onions with some sort of a sweet, lime vinaigrette. In short, the caviar was crisp and vibrant. I absolutely loved the pickled onion, which is where most of the flavor came from. This side dish would have been perfect served alongside a big bag of tortilla chips.
My ribs looked amazing, to say the least. They had a beautiful dark red crust and a very evident smoke ring. There was also plenty of visible seasoning, so I knew that I was in for a treat. I tasted a great saltiness with hints of pepper, which is what I would describe as "competition-style" seasoning. The ribs were tender, juicy, wonderfully smoky, and excellently cooked. I don't have one single negative thing to say about them.
The Z-Man has a mysterious, nondescript name, but don't let that scare you away. This bad boy is piled high with brisket, melted provolone cheese, and two crispy onion rings on a Kaiser bun. Yum! The super crunchy onion rings were a perfect compliment to the savory, smoky brisket, and the cheese just tied it all together perfectly. The brisket itself was very tender, particularly in its thin-sliced form. I'm not normally a fan of barbecue sauce, especially with my beef, but Joe's semi-sweet sauce worked well here.
Was Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que the best I've ever eaten? No, to be blunt. But it was extremely good and probably worth the hour-and-a-half wait.
UPDATE (September 13, 2018): I found myself perusing Joe's website, and I stumbled across a new sandwich: The Rocket Pig. This hunk of deliciousness comes with pulled pork, bacon, fried jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and a sweet-hot barbecue sauce. If I'm ever back in Kansas City, I'll definitely have to do a little compare and contrast with The Rocket Pig versus The Z-Man. I can't wait!
Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que
3002 W 47th Ave
Kansas City, KS 66103