Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que founder Jeff Stehney invited The Star to step into the restaurant’s test kitchen to get a first taste of menu items in development for County Line Ice House due to open in February 2018 in the Power & Light District.
“I love the idea of broadening the menu to appeal to more people,” Stehney says. “To me, it’s a natural evolution.
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Stehney hired Cary Taylor as a managing partner and the company’s corporate chef. Last week, they ran through menu options ranging from starters, to bowls, to barbecue tacos and burgers.
A proprietary house-ground burger blend topped with smoked provolone and fried onion rings on a bun with Joe’s barbecue sauce and pickle chips. It’s a variation from the original best-selling brisket sandwich of the same name. Served with Star reader’s favorite Joe’s KC seasoned fries.
Stehney: “The goal was ‘How would a barbecue guy approach a hamburger?’ You really can’t smoke a hamburger.… Anybody who tries is making a mistake. Hamburgers need to be cooked fast … but we do have a little technique that we’re doing with the way we grind, and what we grind, and how we grind, that has a barbecue component.”
Taylor: “I think people are going to love this sandwich just as much as the Z-Man.”
How it tastes: The magic translates to a juicy burger surprisingly well. They’re mum on whether ground brisket is part of the blend.
Pickled jalapeno peppers are stuffed with a mixture of pulled pork and mixed with cream cheese and provolone. Based on previous in-house tastings, the amount of cheese was bumped in the search for more melted gooey-ness.
Taylor: “I was basically wanted to create a hybrid version of a jalapeno popper and a mozzarella cheese stick. I think that’s an appetizer that speaks to a lot of different people.”
Stehney: “We want our cheese stringing out of there. (Takes a bite.) Wow! I think this is a home run.”
How it tastes: A spicy, meaty mix with the crunch of a well-done breading also offers lots of cheesy satisfaction.
Baby Back Rib Basket
Baby back ribs are glazed with one of Stehney’s competition sauces and stacked in a basket. They are deep-fried and brushed with a competition glaze and served with pickle chips.
Taylor: “We thought the best way to have a rib basket was to use a more narrow rib … kind of a pork equivalent to a chicken wing.”
Stehney: “We’ve never done loin-back ribs at Joe’s … and what I really like about this is you took my competition glaze recipe that we’ve used for years and incorporated it into the sauce. This is something that, number one, is crispy. It’s smoked and braised, then allowed to cool and cut individually and dropped into the fryer to get crispy, then dunked in the glaze.”
How it tastes: Reminiscent of Asian-style rib preparations. Slightly spicy with plenty of smoke. They’re sticky and finger-licking good.
Fried Chicken Salad
A mix of iceberg, romaine, green and red lettuces and shredded cabbage with a Southwestern flair (roasted corn, fresh cucumber, pinto beans, radish slices) served with a housemade chipotle-ranch dressing. The lightly breaded smoked fried chicken tenders hot from the fryer; the tenders will do double-duty as an appetizer and kids menu item.
Taylor: “What we’re doing is putting pans of water so the smoke (from the cooker) gets into the water, and we’re taking that water and adding a specific weight of water to create a brine … that tastes of Missouri white oak.”
Stehney: “Every time I’ve had that first bite of tenders I can tell it’s unique, but it’s not overpowering. We’re trying to expand smoked meats, but I don’t want to hit people over the head with too much smoke.”
How it tastes: The chicken has a light breading and a rich, smoky flavor. (The greens debate; it will likely be served in a deep bowl, but expect to see a mixed salad rather than composed like a Cobb salad; it cuts down on kitchen prep time and allows for a more “homogenous” entree.)
Smoked Carnitas BBQ Tacos
Crispy smoked pork shoulder on gluten-free tortillas with guacamole, salsa verde, fresh onion and cilantro.
Stehney: “The idea here is really ‘What else can we do with pork?’ Not necessarily leftover pork, but pork is the most cost-effective animal that we buy and … it certainly makes sense to do a taco with it. … But we’re not just taking pulled pork and throwing it in a taco.”
Taylor: “What makes it different is that we’re using very unctuous smoked pork, cooling it down and then dicing it and then we’re giving sort of the carnitas treatment. Whereas carnitas is usually pork shoulder that has been slowly fried in its own fat, almost like a higher-tempeature confit, we’re actually cooking it and finishing it up in a hot skillet, so you’re getting smoke and some crispiness and then we’re finishing it with our housemade (citrus) salt.”
How it tastes: The very fatty and crispy delicious bits of pork are divine. Nicely seasoned — although I did not get a strong citrus note — with fresh accompaniments. Definitely delicious.