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Los Angeles Times – Kansas City barbecue, the art of the heartland

I have to admit, I don’t usually read, or think good things about the Los Angeles Times – but I have to give huge credit to Catharine Hamm, who really seems very wise.  At Pork Barrel BBQ, as two guys from Missouri, we love Kansas City BBQ and the KC Style of BBQ – especially Oklahoma Joes, Arthur Bryant’s. Gates and Jack Stacks – read this article to understand her brilliance!

Kansas City barbecue, the art of the heartland

By Catharine Hamm

Los Angeles Times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Please don’t tell the family this, but they’re not the only reason I return to Kansas City whenever I can. I love them, of course, but I can talk to them on the phone. We can e-mail. We can Twitter, for crying out loud.

But barbecue is something you have to do in person. And it is best done here in the heartland. Sorry, Santa Maria, Calif. No disrespect to your juicy tri-tip. Forgive me, Lexington, N.C. Your pulled pork is fabulous. And a tip of the hat to you, Memphis, Tenn. Ribs at the Rendezvous are always memorable.

But Kansas City has made an art of this science of slow-smoked meats. So when business brought me back for 36 hours, I knew I could partake at least five times – if I didn’t mind barbecue for a late breakfast. And I didn’t, mostly. But I’ll explain that in a minute.

What I want to explain now is how Kansas City became a barbecue mecca and why you’re not going to hear me talk extensively about Arthur Bryant’s or Gates.

The barbecue legend started with Henry Perry, who is said to have opened a barbecue shack in the early 1900s in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Perry had an employee, Charlie Bryant, who eventually bought him out. Bryant had a brother, Arthur, who took over, opening what writer Calvin Trillin called the best restaurant in the world: the self-named barbecue apex that’s been at 18th and Brooklyn for a half-century or so.

Bryant’s has it all: the feel of a joint that’s just this side of grubby, the ribs that are just this side of heaven, which is where Arthur Bryant (and his brother and his brother’s former boss) now reside, I am certain. Taste the ribs or the sliced meats (or get them to go in the butcher paper) and you cannot help but believe.

Gates, meanwhile, traces its roots to George Gates, who also is said to have worked with Henry Perry. When you enter any Gates restaurant (there are six, including one up the street from Bryant’s), you’re greeted with, “Hi, may I help you?” which always unnerves me because I’m usually having a mental tussle: ribs? Burnt ends? Sliced beef sandwich?

There’s really no wrong answer. In nearly 20 years of Gates-going, I have never had anything less than fabulous, smoky, rich, and tender.

So in this discussion of barbecue, let’s put aside Bryant’s and Gates, because you cannot top perfection.

But you can compete with it. And in this last trip (and two before it), I ate my approximate weight in barbecue just to see if I could find a contender or two.

If you’re K.C.-bound this year – and you’ll find plenty to love about it if you are, including that prices for these feasts often run less than $15 a plate – I offer these suggestions, old and new, fancy and not. My list is by no means complete, because there are said to be about 80 barbecue places here, although recent news reports suggest the economy may have finished off a few of them.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack

If you’re in the mood for Spanish Moorish architecture and many of the city’s 200 fountains, choose the Jack Stack on the Country Club Plaza.

Up till this trip, I’d eaten at the Stack’s at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kan., and I loved the food. But this time, I chose the Country Club Plaza location in Kansas City, Mo., for a dinner with my cousins and my adopted aunt.

For every meal on this trip, I ordered burnt ends, which are a tribute to Arthur Bryant, who is credited with figuring out that chopping off and serving the crispy parts of the brisket could delight the masses.

Burnt ends aren’t incinerated the way a burger gets when it’s too close to the flame. The best ones are tender in the right spots and chewy-charred in spots. Jack Stack’s were right on. (The Poor Russ sandwich is made of burnt ends, and previous encounters with that gets my stamp of approval.)

Stack’s also has ribs: pork and beef, of course, and also crown prime rib and lamb, which I’ve not tried. The sides are stupendous: The beans have a wonderful smoky flavor, and the cheesy corn bake side dish is so good I’d go just for that.

Stack’s Plaza location is the kind of place you’d take out-of-town guests if you were trying to show them everything that’s right with Kansas City. The decor is rich and warm and unobtrusive.

The Plaza is also close to my new favorite place to stay (next to Chez Cousin, of course). Southmoreland on the Plaza, 116 E. 46th St., 816-531-7979, www.southmoreland.com, is a 12-room (plus Carriage House) B&B full of antiques.

I stayed in the Satchel Paige room. With a business rate of $109 and a breakfast worth getting out of bed for (great muffins, pastries and quiche), I found it more than satisfactory.

Danny Edwards

I’d regret my full breakfast only slightly upon arriving at Danny Edwards a little after 11 a.m. Every one of the 70 or so seats was taken, and when a table opened, my college friend Cindy and I grabbed it.

This Southwest Boulevard location in Kansas City, Mo., is new for Danny Edwards, whose father, Jake, was a barbecue legend. Danny (also known as Lil Jake) moved out of an 18-seat downtown shop a couple of years ago to this exposed-beam spot where “Gary B!” and “Mike W!” ring out as heaping plates of ribs and sandwiches come pouring out.

A bite of the burnt ends explained why Gary B and Mike W and, on this day, Cindy M and I were crowding the place: They were crispy-chewy with just the right amount of sauce. I think I am in love. Again.

Brobecks Barbeque

Please, purists, don’t hurt me. I tried Brobecks in Johnson County, which opened in November 2007, and I liked it. A lot. The problem: Brobecks is not, strictly speaking, Kansas City barbecue. Instead, it relies on rubs, not sauces (although it has sauces too).

So I strayed off the farm and tried this Tennessee barbecue. I had the Tennessee Porker – pulled pork – and it was worth every guilty mouthful. But I also did the burnt-end dinner (served dry, without sauce) and found it delicious.

We also loved the steak fries and, most of all, the homemade potato chips, and Cindy noted that Brobecks gets extra credit because it offers dessert. We had to skip it because we were headed to our next stop.

Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que

Minutes before the clock struck 9 p.m., we walked into Hayward’s, also in south Johnson County. I’m sure the folks would rather have stuck shards of glass in their eyes than serve one more customer, but we were on a mission, and they were gracious.

I’ve been a big Hayward’s fan almost since it opened in 1972 about two miles north of where it is now. I’ve never had a bad bit of barbecue there, but that night wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (though we did love the sweet potato fries). The 220-seat restaurant is not too jointy, not too snooty – you could take the in-laws and they’d feel comfortable.

We were near Gates (the Leawood location). I wanted to try it again. Or we could swing over to Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kan. Maybe we could make it to 85th Street and B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ in Kansas City, Mo., where the smoking pit is more than a half-century old. But I just couldn’t. One more mouthful and I was sure I was going to drop dead.

At least I would have died happy.


Know Your Barbecue Styles

The word “barbecue” is thought to have derived from the Taino and Carib peoples of the Caribbean and South America, who slowly roasted meats over a bed of coals called a barbricot, which the Spanish pronounced “barbacoa.”

In his book Savage Barbecue, author Andrew Warnes theorizes that Europeans who encountered this way of cooking mixed the word “barbacoa” with “barbarian,” and the word “barbecue” was born.

It’s not always easy to say what barbecue is, but purists will say what it is not: It is not grilling meat over an open flame. Barbecue is a slow method of cooking – low heat, lots of time, lots of patience. Sauce may play a part, but might not be part of the cooking process.

Here’s a look at some of the regional differences.

Kansas City Barbecue. The sauce tends to be tomato-based, with molasses or brown sugar. It doesn’t soak in; it sits on top. Meat may be beef, pork or poultry.

Texas Barbecue. Beef brisket is king, and the sauce is spicier and thinner than the K.C. version.

South Carolina Barbecue. This is pork (shredded or pulled), and the sauce might be yellow, because it’s mustard-based. Coleslaw is part of the picture.

North Carolina Barbecue. Sauce tends to be more vinegar-based, with pepper. In the western part of the state, it may have a hint of tomato.

Memphis Barbecue. Relies on spiced rubs; sauce may be an afterthought.

Kansas City-Area Spots

Fiorella’s Jack Stack
4747 Wyandotte St.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-531-7427
www.jackstackbbq.com

Other locations:

13441 Holmes Rd.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-942-9141

101 W. 22d St.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-472-7427

9520 Metcalf Ave.
Overland Park, Kan.
913-385-7427

Brobecks

4615 Indian Creek Parkway
Overland Park, Kan.
913-901-9700
www.brobecksbbq.com

Danny Edwards

2900 Southwest Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-283-0880

Haywards

11051 S. Antioch
Overland Park, Kan.
913-451-8080
www.haywardsbbq.com

Gates

1325 E. Emanuel Cleaver Blvd.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-531-7522
www.gatesbbq.com

Other locations:

1221 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-483-3880

10440 E. 40 Highway
Independence, Mo.
x816-353-5880

3205 Main St.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-753-0828

201 W. 103d
(103d and State Line)
Leawood, Kan.
913-383-1752

1026 State Ave.
Kansas City, Kan.
913-621-1134

Arthur Bryant’s

1727 Brooklyn Ave.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-231-1123
www.arthurbryantsbbq.com

Other locations:

1702 Village West Parkway
Kansas City, Kan.
913-788-7500

3200 N. Ameristar Dr.
Kansas City, Mo.
816-414-7474

 

Pork Barrel BBQ CEO’s Mom Gets a Weber Genesis 300 Series Gas BBQ Grill

While on vacation at his parents house in Florida, Pork Barrel BBQ CEO’s Mom asked for a new grill. We picked her up a Weber Genesis 300 Series Gas Grill – here’s a video on the easy set-up of this cool gas grill. Want more on bbq grills and bbq smokers?
 
Visit http://www.PorkBarrelBBQ.com or http://www.porkbarrelbbq.blogspot.com. Also be sure to visit Weber at http://www.weber.com.
 
 

Pork Barrel BBQ’s Secret Hamburger Soup Recipe with Video

 

 
Here is an updated post of a family favorite – Pork Barrel BBQ’s Secret Hamburger Soup Recipe – the entire family will love it – recipe below and a video on how to cook it!
 

Ingredients

1 Yellow Onion
1 lb Carrots
1 Stalk Celery
2 Cloves Garlic
1 lb Ground GRASSFED Meat or Lamb
3 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 Cup Short Grain Brown Rice
1 tablespoon Dried Ground Thyme
1 tablespoon Dried Organic
3 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoon Pepper
 
Directions
Chop onion into small pieces, peel and cut carrots (small pieces), and peel and cut celery (small pieces) and dice garlic.
Heat Olive Oil in large stock pot. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic to pot. Add salt and pepper. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes until soft. Add ground Beef or Lamb and cook until brown. Add 1/2 of Thyme and Oregano and stir. Add rice and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour – until rice is tender. Once rice is tender, add remainder of Thyme and Oregano and stir.. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy – and best of all – only one pot to clean up!
 

Pork Barrel BBQ Now Available in Washington D.C. at Wagshal’s Market and Deli

Pork Barrel BBQ is proud to announce that Wagshal’s, the premiere Washington D.C. butcher, market, deli and caterer now carries our award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and All American Spice Rub. We are very grateful and humbled that Bill, Brian and Aaron Fuchs, the owners of Wagshals, would carry our products. We are pretty crazy about BBQ, but I can honestly say that I’ve never ‘met people so committed to unique, high quality foods as the folks at Wagshal’s. They gave us a great tour, fed us smoked prime brisket sandwich (more on that in a future post), and sent us home with Iberico Pork to cook (they are the only place in the United States to offer Iberico pork). Here’s a shot of their deli managed by Brian Fuchs and his team:

Another shot of the deli:
Heath and Brian Fuchs looking at their special line of ready to eat gourmet foods:

They also have a huge catering operation, and are especially great at catering upscale weddings:

Here’s a shot inside their catering kitchen – be sure to note Bill Fuchs’ modified smoker in the corner (I was CRAZY jealous of it):

Oh, did I mention that they have some of the highest quality, unique cuts of meat in all of Washington D.C.? Here’s Heath and Aaron Fuchs with some great dry aged beef:

What is happiness? Having a great meal at Wagshal’s with Bill, Brian and Aaron Fuchs – be sure to visit them in Washington D.C. and learn all about them at http://www.Wagshals.com or visit them on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/wagshals.
 

The Making of Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce!

How do you make BBQ sauce for thousands of people? Get to know Tim Ashman and Ashman Manufacturing in Virginia Beach, Virginia! Here’s a video of Pork Barrel BBQ’s trip down to take their award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and bottle it so you can have it in your home! Order your Pork Barrel BBQ sauce here!
 

Award Winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce Now Available – Buy Yours Today!

 

We are proud to announce that the Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce – recently voted one of the best BBQ sauces in the nation at the 2009 Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle – is now available for purchase for just $5.49 a bottle at our website PorkBarrelBBQ.com! For pork, beef, poultry and fish, our Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce is the perfect way to give your food a tangy, tasty flavor with a perfect smokin’ kick! Hungry yet? Click here to be one of the first to try our award winning Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce.

 
We are also proud to announce the updated packaging of our All American Spice Rub – and our updated price – only $5.99 a jar! It’s the same great rub, you just get more of it at a price all Americans can afford! Now is the perfect time to stock up – click here to order.
 
 Really Hungry for Pork Barrel BBQ??

If you want to try both the Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and All American Spice Rub – click here to get the Pork Barrel BBQ Picnic Pack – a bottle of sauce and jar of rub for ONLY $10!

If you are really hungry – or just want to share Pork Barrel BBQ with your friends – order a case of the Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce or All American Spice Rub (that’s 12 bottles or jars) and get 50 cents off per bottle or jar at checkout – that’s like getting a free bottle or jar per case!

 

Pork Barrel BBQ Passes 15,000 Followers on Twitter

We’re proud of many of our accomplishments at Pork Barrel BBQ, but one that sticks out to us is the success we’ve had on Twitter. In the 5 months we’ve been on Twitter we’ve been able to build a loyal following and are proud to announce that we’ve passed 15,000 followers and are well on our way to 16,000. If you’re not following us on Twitter please go to http://twitter.com/porkbarrelbbq and follow us. We post a lot of our breaking news on Twitter first and frequent coupons for discounts on our products.

 

Heath, how did you get into BBQ?

Since Brett and I started Pork Barrel BBQ I’ve been asked dozens of times by friends, family and customers how I got into BBQ and why I decided to turn my love for it into a business venture. Although there are a number of reasons that influenced my decision, none was as big of an influence as my dad, Rex Hall.

 
The picture above was the first BBQ contest I ever participated in (and I was lucky enough to be working with my dad) – it was held in Jefferson City, Missouri at the Jefferson City Public Library in the mid-1990’s. We’ve come a long way since then and when I say “we’ve” I mean my dad and I and our quest to always provide the best BBQ to our friends and family that we are capable of providing. Thanks again dad!

I’ve posted before on how important his love of the grill was and how much it has influenced me and helped get me to where I am today. Growing up my dad was like the postal delivery man of the grill – rain, sleet, snow, hail, sun, fog, hot, cold it didn’t matter, winter, spring, summer and fall he was outside grilling up chicken, ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, quail, corn, potatoes and just about anything else that can be grilled for our family meal.

So the most complete answer to how I got into BBQ and decided to turn my love for it into a business is because of my dad, a great teacher of many lessons to me. He taught me how to BBQ – from lighting a fire to seasoning meat. He, along with my mom, taught me that no star was out of my reach if I wanted to hold it in my hand – all I had to do was reach for it and work hard. They taught me the importance of doing whatever you are doing to the best of your ability – no one can ask more if you do your best. They also taught me about the importance of integrity, honesty and good communication – all traits we promise to bring to Pork Barrel BBQ on a daily basis.

Dad, thanks for sharing one of your passions with me because without your guidance and lessons there would be no Pork Barrel BBQ today.

 

Greatest Compliment Ever – Customer Says Pork Barrel BBQ is better than Kansas City BBQ Giants Arthur Bryant’s & Gates

I was following Pork Barrel BBQ on Twitter the other night when Pork Barrel BBQ received the greatest Barbecue compliment ever from http://www.twitter.com/claffee in a tweet:

@claffee Had a bbq rub taste test on the Iberico pork ribs the other night – @porkbarrelbbq beat Arthur Bryant’s and Gates in my opinion!”

We’ve never met @claffee (but he clearly has great wisdom and should be followed on Twitter) – but he clearly has some great taste – because he is 1) using Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub, and 2) is eating Iberico pork ribs.

For those of you who don’t follow meat – Iberico ribs just recently became available in the Washington D.C. market thanks to the amazing folks at Wagshals and Jose Andres. We did a post on heritage breeds of pigs earlier this year – so if you want to learn more about the topic, read Heath’s post here.

We are incredibly humbled that someone would compare our products to Kansas City BBQ greats like Arthur Bryant’s and Gates BBQ. We will keep working hard to deliver great BBQ at prices all Americans can afford. As two guys from Kansas City, we hope Pork Barrel BBQ’s dry rubs and sauces someday have the reputation of Arthur Bryant’s BBQ and Gates BBQ.
 

Just Attended a Great Block Party with BBQ – Affirmed Why We Started Pork Barrel BBQ

My family just attended a great block party – of course, I was attracted to the BBQ grills. I took a photo of the three BBQ grills that had been rolled out of several backyards to create the temporary kitchen on the lawn. The food (burgers, hotdogs and bratwurst) was excellent (I had three brats and didn’t have to cook at all!), and the entire experience just affirmed why we founded Pork Barrel BBQ. There is something uniquely American about a great BBQ that lets people forget their worries and come together as a community. Particularly in these economic times, where there just seems to be an extra pressure surrounding everything, it was truly amazing to watch how 75 people celebrated the good things in life. If you want to bring this celebration to your backyard – be sure to try our All American Spice Rub!