Before the Civil War; before the fires and floods; before the Missouri River changed course, leaving Weston landlocked, the Lewis & Clark expedition camped here. Hemp and tobacco farming thrived.
Young Buffalo Bill Cody and descendants of Daniel Boone lived here — and where you stood on the question of slavery or abolition was a matter of life and death.
Established in 1836, Weston was one of the largest port cities on the Missouri River, exceeding St. Joseph and Kansas City in population by 1850.
Today’s Weston, a community of less than 2,000 people north of Kansas City in Platte County, is a popular destination for history buffs, shoppers in search of unusual finds and people who love good eats and drinks. Tin Kitchen is the most recent establishment to enter the Weston culinary scene.
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Weston resident Brian Nowotny, a fellow ribs judge at the recent Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, told me about Tin Kitchen in the judges tent while we waited to receive our onsite judging assignments. My friend Gary Bronkema and I decided to check it out.
Sean O’Malley, formerly of O’Malley’s Irish Pub, a popular historic establishment in Weston since 1976, is Tin Kitchen’s pitmaster. The O’Malleys sold the pub in 2012 and started renovating a former hardware store on Main Street, taking pains to preserve the historic character of the space while making it appealing and functional for diners. Tin Kitchen opened in October 2014.
Thanks to Sean and his sibling co-owners, Kathleen and Barbara, the former hardware store’s vintage tin ceilings were preserved throughout the establishment. Family patriarch Pat O’Malley is often on the premises to mentor and help out where needed. Tin Kitchen’s barbecue sauce and 24-Hour Slaw recipes are originals from family matriarch, the late Barbara O’Malley.
Q Sandwich: Beef brisket, cheese, onion rings, barbecue sauce — you’re thinking Z-Man, as did we. What you get, however, is juicy, tender pecan smoked pulled brisket topped with melted cheddar and battered fried onion pieces. Tin Kitchen’s Q Sandwich is a standout. We loved it.
Hand cut fries: Skin on, thin cut, deep fried, crispy and delicious. Enjoy them while they’re hot.
Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich: Juicy, tender pork with a perfect butt/bark ratio, kissed with mellow pecan smoke and garnished with 24-Hour Slaw, unlike any slaw I’ve enjoyed in North Carolina, Kansas City or Memphis. You could call it a Weston North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich. We called it superb.
24-hour Slaw: The name gave me pause, thinking that any slaw that marinates for 24 hours will be totally limp. Happily, this shredded cabbage slaw is both limp and crispy with a flavor punch of subtly delicious seasonings that dance well together.
St. Louis cut spareribs: These neatly trimmed St. Louis/contest-style pork ribs are perfectly tender, smoked to the bone with a sweet glaze and rub hinting of chili seasoning similar to Memphis’ Rendezvous. Most judges will give these ribs their highest score. We knocked off one point for sweetness, but that’s a matter of personal taste.
Baked Beans: Get ready for something different. Your spoon or fork will stand upright in these beans. Bean lovers and bean counters savor Tin Kitchen’s thick combo of kidney, pinto and prepared white beans, baked with a mix of brisket, pulled pork and barbecue sauce: different and delicious.
Barbecue Sauce: Mrs. O’Malley’s thick, tomato-y sauce with herbal/molasses accents and a sweet/sour balance doesn’t promise much when tasted alone. Put a small amount on any barbecue meat, however, and it comes to life as an excellent complement.
We deferred sampling the TK Burger, Green Chili burger, smothered fries and pulled pork nachos for a return visit.
Cigar aficionados: don’t miss visiting with Corey Frisbee, proprietor of Weston Tobacco Co. down the street from Tin Kitchen. He hand-rolls and sells quality cigars and a variety of related products directly below a historic tobacco auction barn.
Bottom line: Sean O’Malley’s mentor, barbecue legend Mike Mills, taught him well. What Sean is producing with his Ole Hickory pecan fueled pit is good enough to make Jayhawkers whistle Dixie, and so are the sides.
Tin Kitchen is located at 509 Main St. in Weston, 816-640-0100, www.tin-kitchen.com/.
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.