In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chow Towners in need of barbecue had three options: homestyle, streetside barbecue carts and occasional barbecue feast celebrations or political rallies.
It has been said that there were hundreds, if not thousands of streetside barbecue vendors back in the day. If you’re lucky, you can find a few today.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Chow Towners couldn’t enjoy the ambiance of sit-down barbecue in the shelter of a building until the early to mid-20th century. Tennessee native Henry Perry, the Father of Kansas City Barbecue, sold barbecue pork, beef, opossum, woodchuck and raccoon from his outdoor stand downtown as early as 1907.
Later he moved into a building at 17th Streets and Lydia Avenue. Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue continues the Henry Perry legacy today. Anthony Rieke opened Rosedale Barbecue in 1934. It is the oldest continuously operated barbecue joint in Kansas City.
Gate’s Bar-B-Q was established by George Gates in 1946. Russ Fiorella opened Smokestack Barbecue in 1957. It evolved into today’s Jack Stack, founded by Russ’ son, Jack Fiorella.
At these and other early restaurants, workers learned the barbecue basics and went on to establish their own restaurants. Many of the more than 100 active Chow Town barbecue restaurants today were spawned from those early restaurants where the next generation of proprietors learned the art and business of barbecue.
With the rise of competition barbecue and the founding of the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) in the 1980s, a new source of barbecue joints emerged: barbecue contest champions. Three best-known and most successful that I know of are Oklahoma Joe’s, Smokin’ Guns, and Jon Russell’s. I highly recommend all three.
After a recent trip to Blue Springs with Chef Paul Kirk, here’s another I recommend: Plowboys Barbeque.
Todd and Audrey Johns and Todd Johnson are the proprietors of Plowboys, which is located at 3111 South Missouri 7 in Blue Springs.
Todd, the head pitmaster, was the 2009 American Royal World Series of Barbecue Invitational Grand Champion. Johnson is the chief financial officer.
The service is friendly and efficient. You order and pay at the counter and then pick-up your barbecue when your number is called.
After grazing through the entire selection of meats and sides, I rated the appearance, tenderness and taste of Plowboys barbecue meats — pulled pork, brisket, burnt ends, pork ribs and sausage — in the 8 to 9 range of the KCBS judging scale, where 9 is excellent.
My personal favorites were the ribs and burnt ends. The kissed-with-smoke ribs were lightly rubbed and sauced, not drowned in overpowering seasonings. The other meats were lightly seasoned with rubs. Sauce was served on the side, so you can sauce or not, your preference. That’s the way I like it. The meats looked good, tasted great and were easy to chew.
Of the sides — two styles of coleslaw, cheesy hashbrowns, regular fries, sweet potato fries, and pit beans — my favorites were the pit beans, both types of fries, and the cheesy hashbrowns. Next time I’ll make a Carolina-style sandwich with the pulled pork and coleslaw. It will be delicious.
Expect to wait in line. Be calm. Be patient. Plowboys barbecue is worth the wait.
Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He 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’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”