Kansas City loves its barbecue.
The American Royal World Series of Barbecue annually attracts more than 500 pitmasters to the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS, eager to have their barbecue sauce and meats judged the best in the country. That love for BBQ carries over to Kansas Citians' homes, where locals seek to create their own sauces and smoked meats.
They also love to visit local BBQ joints, for some of the best barbecue west of the Mississippi River. With so many selections, choosing a place to enjoy the best BBQ in Kansas City is like letting a child loose in a candy store, overloading their circuits.
What makes Kansas City barbecue so popular? As part of the “Barbecue Belt" — stretching from the Carolinas in the east and Missouri and Texas on the west, as well as almost the entire Deep South — Kansas City is famous for using thick molasses and tomato sauce, creating a darker, sweeter BBQ sauce than other areas.
KC BBQ also incorporates all meats into its repertoire, rather than just relying on pork or beef. However, burnt ends, credited with being invented at Arthur Bryant's, is strictly a Kansas City BBQ thing.
While locals try to create their own BBQ sauces, nothing beats a meal at one of Kansas City's top BBQ eateries. With more than 100 BBQ restaurants and food trucks, we've carved the list down to the top 10 for the best BBQ in Kansas City.
Beginning as a catering business, the family's Kansas City-style sauce and smoked meat created a following, so they opened A Little BBQ Joint, which quickly caught on with BBQ fans. Known for their sides, such as baked beans and cheesy corn, the barbecue joint's automobile décor adds to the All-American cuisine theme.
Located near the famous 18th and Vine District, and a short walk or drive from the Negro Leagues Baseball and American Jazz Museum complex, the original Arthur Bryant's is where Kansas City BBQ started.
Arthur Bryant's Barbeque is famous for creating burnt ends, but its repertoire extends to smoked meats, such as ham, pulled pork, sausage and ribs. With a couple of sides, you have a meal fit for a president or celebrity. Arthur Bryant's has long hosted politicians, athletes and celebrities, such as Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
Located in the Westport entertainment district, Char Bar isn't your typical BBQ joint. You can order your meat traditionally prepare or add zip to it. The Burnt Heaven sandwich is a combination of smoked burnt ends, smoked sausage, fried jalapeno and creamy coleslaw on an egg bun topped with chipotle mayo for a spicy and tangy taste. Char Bar also offers guests an outdoor play area, where adults can play cornhole, bocce ball and croquet.
With five locations in KCMO/KCK, Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue is a favorite with first-time visitors to Kansas City. There's something special about having your initial Kansas City BBQ experience at Jack Stack. Between its ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, it ranks among the best BBQ in Kansas City. Be sure to leave room (that will be a challenge) for dessert, as you'll want to enjoy Mom's carrot cake with pecans.
With six locations in the metropolitan area, Gates Bar-B-Q has called Kansas City home since 1946. Known for its unique and tasty sauces, Gates has earned its reputation among the best BBQ in Kansas City. From a full slab of barbecued ribs to mutton, diners can find something different on the menu than other BBQ joints.
For a truly diverse meal, order the three-meat combo of ribs, beef and ham. Add your favorite flavor of Gates BBQ sauce and you're set for a special dining experience.
Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe's, Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que changed its name to honor the city that created its BBQ style. Joe's original location in former gas station is a must-visit. It's not unusual to see people standing in line for an opportunity to sample some of the finest BBQ ribs in the metro, as well as unique sandwich combos, such as a pulled pork variation with a sweet-hot glaze, bacon, pepper jack cheese and a BBQ mayo, topped with fried jalapenos. Joe's Kansas City has four locations in the area.
Local celebrities since being featured on the Netflix series “Queer Eye," the Jones sisters continue to run their small BBQ joint in KCK. Serving a lunch crowd from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Jones Bar-B-Q is known to sell out, so you'll want to get in line early. The sisters grew up helping their dad, who opened the BBQ joint in 1970. Fifty years later, Jones Bar-B-Q is still at it, as well as selling their famous sauce to-go.
A relative newcomer in the Kansas City barbecue scene at seven years old, Plowboys BBQ has been creating rubs and sauces for competitions since 2001. Already considered some of the best BBQ in Kansas City, Plowboys BBQ is also known for its nachos with homemade chips, special cheese sauce and a choice of BBQ meat toppings. Their smoked meats come from award-winning rubs. Plowboys BBQ may have started in Blue Springs, but they've quickly expanded to three spots around Kansas City.
Located between the Westport entertainment district the Crossroads Arts District, Q39 continually ranks as the best BBQ in Kansas City. With special dishes featuring burnt ends and brisket, this is a special treat. The apple slaw is so delicious, you may want to order a plate of it for your meal. Q39 added a second location in Overland Park, but the original spot is a must for your first visit.
Growing from two brothers' barbecue competition team, Squeal Like a Pig, Slap's BBQ opened as a small eatery. Among its specialties is the burnt end combo, which includes additional meat and sides, such as cheesy corn, baked potato casserole and baked beans.
With a wide range of apartment communities, Kansas City offers some of the best BBQ in the country and a long list of attractions.
From Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, National World I Museum and Memorial and Boulevard Brewery to the NFL's Super Bowl champ Chiefs and MLB's Royals, you'll find Kansas City a friendly area with tons of shopping, entertainment and a great music scene.