In case you had any doubts, barbecue ice cream is a bonafide hit.
“It was the perfect storm of everything,” said David Friesen, owner of Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, where lines stretched out the back door of his Waldo shop most of Sunday.
That’s when he debuted the Joe’s KC Burnt Ends & Sauce flavor, timed to coincide with National Ice Cream Day. Friesen made 40 gallons, or about 800 scoops.
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Kansas Citians began lining up an hour before the shop opened at 11 a.m., and employees continued to scoop until 9 p.m.
Social media helped fuel the fire, although there were also those who flashed a few puke emojis or screamed NO!
Can’t quite get your head around a meat ice cream? The ice cream starts with a sweet cream base swirled with barbecue sauce caramel and smoky bits of candied burnt ends.
Reached the morning after by phone, Friesen was exhausted but thrilled with the turnout, which included both neighborhood regulars and new customers. “It was the perfect cross-section of Kansas City,” he said.
Betty Rae’s never ran out of the flavor, but Friesen closed his seven-day-a-week operation on Monday to give his employees the day off — and make more barbecue ice cream: “We’ll pick it back up on Tuesday.”
If you didn’t get a taste, Friesen plans to offer the flavor for a month.
“We’re going to make as much as we possibly can,” Friesen said, noting he’s still working out the logistics of the collaboration. “We’re really taxing Joe’s …. they’re selling a lot (of barbecue) because of the New York Post thing.”
Coincidentally, the same week of the ice cream debut, The New York Post named Joe’s the best barbecue restaurant in the country. Joe’s KC could not say whether there was a bump in mail-order sales because it was already running an “aggressive” sausage promo.
Joe’s KC founder Jeff Stehney said jokingly about the ice cream’s success, “I told Cary (chef for Joe’s KC and liaison for product delivered to Betty Rae’s) that it would be nice to be able to make a little money on the ice cream. …”
But America’s top barbecue restaurant doesn’t have the facilities to serve ice cream. Last week, the company sent out an internal memo telling employees to provide directions to Betty Rae’s.
On Monday morning, lines at Joe’s KC’s original gas station location at 47th Street in Kansas City, Kan., was already longer than usual and the parking lot was full. Restaurant sales were up 10 percent Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week over the previous two weeks’ sales, company officials said.
“These are the kind of things we see when the Royals are in the thick of it,” said Doug Worgul, Joe’s KC director of marketing, as he walked outside to check the line. “When people get in a celebratory mood, they like to eat their barbecue.”
Meanwhile, Betty Rae’s Friesen will decide at the end of the month whether his ode to Kansas City’s favorite food will become a year-round flavor or a seasonal, limited-edition one that customers can look forward to each summer.
After tasting an early test batch, I’m guessing it has the legs to become a regular flavor.
Curious about other unusual flavors available around town? Check out Sriracha, rose petal and saffron, pandan and more.
Jill Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor.