Chow Town

Three KC barbecue restaurants on national ‘35 Best Ribs’ list

Joe’s Kansas City ribs
Joe’s Kansas City ribs

The Daily Meal has released its annual list of America’s 35 Best Ribs: #2 Joe’s Kansas City, #4 Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque and #11 Fiorella’s Jack Stack in Kansas City.

Joe’s Kansas City was last year’s leader. The popular barbecue restaurant gets kudos for its “deeply burnished shade of red thanks to a rub heavy with paprika, cumin, brown sugar and chili powder. These ribs are postcard-picture-perfect, and you’ll most likely find yourself snapping a photo of them before you even take the first bite.”

A possible bone of contention: Texas scored 10 spots (including #1 Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas) — up four total spots from last year. Missouri won just four. And Kansas City split the honors evenly with St. Louis stalwarts Bogart’s Smokehouse #30 and Pappy’s Smokehouse #8.

“We all know there should be a dozen Kansas City restaurants on that list,” says Karen Adler, as we ate lunch at Burnt End BBQ in Overland Park the day after the results were released. “In Texas, when you’re eating barbecue, you’re eating brisket. That (Texas rules the ribs list) makes no sense.”

Adler’s Pig Out Publications is the only company specializing in barbecue and grill cookbooks. She’s also one of two Kansas City women (including the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s Carolyn Wells) in Thrilllist’s “12 of the Most Important Women in BBQ” earlier this summer.

“We were astounded by the passion this topic stirred in our panelists,” says restaurant city guide editor Kate Kolenda of the Daily Meal in an accompanying video of the highlights.

The food web publication culled recommendations from readers for “killer ribs” then asked 40 rib experts to par the list of 100 down to 35. Judges included Kansas City Barbeque Society members and co-authors Baron of BBQ Paul Kirk and Chow Town’s own barbecue blogger Ardie Davis.

Kirk says the look of a rib is important in his judgment. He looks for ribs that “looks like (its) something I would like to taste or eat — you eat with your eyes. It should be a reddish-brown color; it should be moist and tender, with some texture — not falling off the bone. I want to taste the flavor of the pork with a little smoke.”

Davis, founder of the American Royal International BBQ Sauce, Rub & Baste contest and author of the upcoming “Barbecue Lover's Kansas City Style: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions” by Globe Pequot, says that “regardless of breed, expense, and cooking method, perfect ribs look delicious, are easy to chew — and to you, they’re delicious. The meat easily tugs off the bone … but is not overcooked to a mushy consistency.”

They should also have a “kiss of smoke” and “not bitter; lightly seasoned with complementary seasonings if any … no hint of lighter fluid, fish or other flavors that don’t belong on ribs,” he continues.

But perhaps Davis’ most memorable quote: “Perfect ribs resonate deep down in your primal DNA.”

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