Get used to it.
Because you live here, friends, strangers and tourists will ask you, “What’s your favorite Kansas City barbecue joint?” Or, “Where is the best barbecue in Kansas City?” No exemptions for vegans or omnivores who don’t like barbecue. You live here. You are expected to have an opinion or to at least know what’s hot. Think of it as your civic duty.
“Best” could be: Your personal best. What does best mean to you? Do you base it on appearance, tenderness and taste, with taste most important? Does the quality of the restaurant—décor, comfort, staff and general ambiance—matter to you, or is it strictly the food? Or, if you’re not into barbecue, what others say: Zagat, Michelin, journalists, TV/radio food stars, bloggers, friends, or online chatters.
Challenge the assumption that the best barbecue is in restaurants. If it’s true, say, “My backyard,” or “At barbecue contests in Lenexa, Blue Springs, the American Royal or Shawnee.” Backyard barbecuers and contest teams often turn out barbecue that’s as good as or better than restaurant barbecue. And since the Chow Town barbecue scene is a vegan void, the backyard card is a good reply for vegans who barbecue.
A good friend, the late Stan Nelson, told me a story that illustrates the subjectivity of “best.” His story was about wine. It also applies to barbecue. The bottom line is, “The best barbecue is the barbecue you like.” Read the complete story in Stan’s words in the introduction toAmerica’s Best Ribs
Don’t run from the question. Explain that your best is a snapshot as of now. It isn’t written in stone. The barbecue scene changes constantly, like you.
Finally, if you don’t play the “my backyard” or “contests” card, give themTen Best
. Chow Town barbecue is so good that there’s not a single place everyone agrees is best of all. Same goes for your ten best and my ten best.
My 10 best are equal, like the FBI’s Most Wanted: equally wanted. Equally best.
That said, my 10 best with a few favorite dishes are:Arthur Bryant’s beef and fries with a frosty Boulevard Wheat Oklahoma Joe’s Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, Z-Man, burnt ends and fries Johnny’s ribs, rib tips, brisket and The Remus Jack Stack Denver lamb ribs, KC Strip and loaded baked potato with burnt ends Danny Edward’s Blvd burnt ends sandwich and sweet potato fries Earl Quick’s ribs, brisket and Bolo Plowboys ribs, burnt ends, pit beans and both fries Q39 brisket, pulled pork, cassoulet and cheesecake Gate’s mutton, brisket and sweet potato pie BB’s gumbo, turkey, battered fries and beans
No offense to the 90-plus other Chow Town greats. Limiting a best barbecue list to ten in Chow Town is not easy. Help me out with your own list by commenting below.