Chow Town

Optimism is smokin’ on Vivion Road

If you love barbecue, step inside Next Year’s Winner
If you love barbecue, step inside Next Year’s Winner Special to The Star

“We’re Smokin’ Optimism” sums up the philosophy at Next Year’s Winner BBQ and Catering in Northmoor.

Optimism, smoked or unsmoked, is contagious. It drives progress. And it’s a heck of a lot more fun than pessimism.

Why would a business with optimism as their philosophy be named “Next Year’s Winner,” especially since their competition barbecue team of the same name has been competing at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue for more than 20 years?

The “next year’s” notion reminds me of a sign at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, Texas: “Free Beer. Tomorrow.”

Here’s how Steve Christian, owner/pitmaster, explained it:

He and some barbecue buddies were competing one year at the American Royal. As has been known to happen, especially on Friday nights at the Royal Barbecue, the team was having such a good time partying that they didn’t pay attention to their cooking. Beef brisket, for example, can take up to 18 hours, sometimes more, of low and slow smoking to reach the desired level of tenderness.

If you party all night and put your brisket or pork butt in the pit at sunrise, you risk having tough brisket and butt by turn-in time, even if you wrap the meat in aluminum foil and crank up the heat, in essence steaming the meat.

When it dawned on them that they were too late to cook a winning entry, someone said, “What the heck. Let’s be next year’s winner.” The name stuck, and the team started winning awards the next year and beyond. One of their most prestigious awards is First Prize in Pork at the American Royal in 2010.

When you eat at the restaurant or have your event catered by Next Year’s Winner, you’ll taste proof that Steve Christian has been tending the pit instead of partying. His ribs, brisket and pulled pork draw easy Kansas City Barbeque Society maximum 9s on appearance, tenderness and taste.

Customers who routinely stop by for a BBQ Sundae say you have to try one. Layers of rib tips and barbecue beans topped with coleslaw and a bacon wrapped glazed smoked meatball as the traditional sundae “cherry” make it a barbecue feast in a jar. If you don’t want to mess with eating it from a jar, order a “deconstructed” sundae.

Besides delicious pit beans and coleslaw, Christian’s other popular sides are cheesy potatoes, potato salad, and jalapeno cheesy corn.

Lately, Christian has eased up on competition barbecue to concentrate on attracting and keeping a loyal customer base.

“It’s like now I’m competing every day,” he said.

The good times will roll for him again at the American Royal and elsewhere, but for now be glad that the next time you’re near the 2300 block of Vivion Road — by chance or by choice — Next Year’s Winner is there to feed you with some quality barbecue. You can’t beat smoked optimism.

Next Year’s Winner BBQ & Catering is in the Vivion West Shopping Center at 2306 N.W. Vivion Road, Northmoor. Its telephone number is 816-587-4227 and Next Year’s can be found on the Web at

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.