Olathe was so named by founder John T. Barton and associates in 1867. They understood “olathe” to mean “beautiful” in the Shawnee language.
Olathe was founded a year ahead of Kansas statehood and more than two decades before the Model T was in mass production.
It was a long ride by horse-drawn carriage from the two Kansas Cities to Olathe. Today, Olathe’s niche in metro Kansas City’s southward expansion is minutes away via modern highways.
Olathe has four excellent barbecue restaurants today, with more on the way. The Rub Bar-B-Que, newest of Olathe’s stellar lineup, features a refreshing blend of traditional and gourmet barbecue delights, thanks to the creative talents of chef/pitmaster Dan Janssen.
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He explained that the name is similar to ones named Rub in Chicago and Detroit, but they’re not affiliated with the Olathe restaurant.
“We use Rub to refer to all the good stuff that we put on the meat,” he said.
Rub (often styled RUB) was born in 2011 when fellow competition barbecue teammates, Dave Tines, Kevin Boetcher and Dan Janssen decided to take a leap and give it a try. Dan’s background as an experienced professional chef, combined with what he has learned as an award-winning competition pitmaster, resulted in a barbecue restaurant that hits high marks on appearance, tenderness and flavor.
It is barbecue cooked to perfection, served with an explosion of complementary flavors. I love it.
I was, however, skeptical about the Hillbilly Bowl.
It was a given that a bowl so named would have no resemblance to the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, poke sallet, skillet cornbread and fresh green beans from the garden feasts that Aunt Mae and Cousin Geraldine used to serve us when our family visited them in their Ozark home during my childhood. The main use we had for small bowls back then was cereal or haircuts.
My friend Gary and I agreed that our Hillbilly Bowl, consisting of burnt ends, sugar-crusted cornbread and pit beans, topped with crispy onion straws, was absolutely delicious. Likewise was the platter of ribs, brisket, pulled pork and burnt ends we sampled on the side, along with Kate’s cheesy corn and Carolina slaw.
Today the best place to imagine the beauty that John Barton saw in the original Olathe landscape is at the Prairie Center, a 300-acre oasis of native grasses, wildflowers, trees, wetlands and wildlife near downtown Olathe. Whatever the season, you’ll see “beautiful” each time you visit.
Rub is in a strip mall on the edge of Olathe prairie. What’s most beautiful there is inside in bowls and on platters.
If Barton could magically time travel to Rub and gaze upon a Hillbilly Bowl, he would exclaim, “Beautiful!” And he would savor every bite.
Rub is at 10512 S. Ridgeview Road in Olathe. Its telephone number is 913-894-1820 and can be found at www.therubbarbeque.com.
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent release is America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with Chef Paul Kirk.