Chow Town

KCK’s Maple Hill has a big barbecue secret

Big Q beef, ribs, fries and beans combo.
Big Q beef, ribs, fries and beans combo. Special to The Kansas City Star

No surprise if you’ve never heard of Big Q Bar-B-Q on Maple Hill in Kansas City, Kan.

Although Big Q’s fan base is large, you wouldn’t know it unless you were there during an especially busy lunch or dinner hour. A diverse swath of humanity stops by to dine in or carryout daily at the off-the-beaten-path destination.

Customers arrive solo, in couples and in groups. Construction workers, road repair crews, soldiers, law enforcement officers, elected officials, business executives, office workers, busy moms and dads stopping between errands while the kids are in daycare or school, and first-timers who found Big Q while en route from KCI via Siri, Around Me or other search tools.

Co-owners/pitmasters Rusty Quick and Gary Wright have greeted and fed their loyal customers with the help of Big Q’s friendly, efficient staff, for 30 years in the same location.

Don’t expect fancy appointments at Big Q. It is not a white tablecloth, wood beams, brick and high ceiling kind of place. You could count on one hand the number of barbecue joints with solid granite table tops, however. And where else can you choose to eat barbecue in a sunroom?

Quick and Wright proudly stand with the old school of Kansas City pitmasters. They barbecue in Big Q’s original brick pit, fueled with 100 percent hickory.

True to the Anthony Rieke method that the Quick family learned at Rosedale, Quick and Wright hang their untrimmed, unskinned pork slabs in a brick pit fueled with flaming, smoking hickory logs. The ribs, along with other meats on grill racks, smoke slow and low to a juicy tenderness loaded with natural umami.

Every item on Big Q’s menu has its fans. I wouldn’t throw bones at any of it, but I’m especially partial to the beef, ribs, beans and fries combo. I prefer naked barbecue with a pool of sauce on the side for dipping.

It is no problem if I forget to ask for sauce on the side at Biq Q. Quick and Wright don’t drown their barbecue in sauce. There’s a squeeze bottle of sauce and ketchup on each table if you want more.

They started the business as a way to provide for their families and put the kids through school. Those goals are accomplished. Now it’s apparent that the other driving force all along is their love of barbecue.

Although the kids are through school, Quick and Wright aren’t stopping after they celebrate Big Q’s official 30th birthday on April 16. They agree that running Big Q “is a labor of love.”

Love and barbecue were never meant to be a big secret on Maple Hill. When you’re anywhere near, by chance or by choice, get some Big Q barbecue and say “Happy Birthday!”

Big Q Barbecue is at 2117 S. 34th St. in Kansas City, Kan., 913-362-6980. The restaurant is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Watch for Biq Q’s new website.

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.