Chow Town

At Winslow’s, KC barbecue and history mingle

Winslow’s pulled pork, spareribs, burnt ends, fries and creamy coleslaw.
Winslow’s pulled pork, spareribs, burnt ends, fries and creamy coleslaw. Special to The Star

Winslow’s BBQ embraces more Kansas City history than any other barbecue joint in Chow Town.

Its location alone settles the claim: the City Market, site of early river commerce, politics, gangster wars and, more recently, the home of the Steamship Arabia Museum. Winslow’s didn’t exist until 1971, but it fits right in as an integral part of Kansas City history.

As I noted in my “Kansas City BBQ Pocket Guide” (1992), barbecue belongs in City Market. In that spot where the tradition of bartering and selling fish, fowl, meat, eggs and produce, fresh from the rivers, pastures and truck farms of America’s Heartland is alive and thriving, it is fitting that buyers and sellers have a great place to feast on barbecue and socialize.

The late Don Winslow, “Sultan of Smoke,” opened the place more than four decades ago with his mother, Addie. After Don’s untimely death, his brother Dave maintained the Winslow legacy until selling the business to his friend Gerry Heldrich. Heldrich, his son Gerard, pitmaster Steve Douglas and staff are committed to keeping the Winslow legacy alive and moving forward.

Many Chow Towners go to Winslow’s for the burnt ends and thick-sliced Texas-style beef brisket. Everyone loves the tender, pull-off-the-bone and kissed with hickory smoke pork spareribs. Burnt ends, brisket and ribs — with crispy fries and fresh-from-the-market creamy coleslaw — keep bringing me and thousands of other loyal customers back to Winslow’s. Don’s original sauce and Gerry’s spicy sauce are available but not needed.

Weekends are especially busy. Winslow’s outdoor patio seats 300 when the main dining room and bar are full to capacity. The place sometimes hops with live music on weekend evenings. Don “Sultan of Smoke” Winslow would be proud of what’s happening at his establishment in City Market today.

Winslow’s BBQ is at 20 E. Fifth St. in Kansas City. Its phone number is 816-471-7427, and it can be found on the Internet 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.