Chow Town

McGonigle’s: A Chow Town icon known for its meat, barbecue

McGonigle’s babyback ribs and brisket sandwich.
McGonigle’s babyback ribs and brisket sandwich.

The barbecue business as we know it today owes a great deal to 19th century immigrant butchers in Texas and elsewhere who discovered that barbecue turned tough meats customers wouldn’t buy for home consumption into tender, flavorful meat that sold for a profit at the market. There was no longer a need to discard it.

The meat market barbecue tradition is still alive and well in Texas, as well as here in Chow Town, thanks especially to owner and president Mike McGonigle at McGonigle’s Market on Ward Parkway at 79th Street in Kansas City.

McGonigle revived the butcher and pitmaster tradition here a dozen or so years ago when he stoked up his vintage Southern Yankee cooker and some Ole Hickory cookers and went full tilt into the barbecue business.

If you haven’t been to McGonigle’s yet or lately, it’s time you paid a visit. McGonigle’s has been the best-known secret among Chow Town competition barbecue teams for years.

McGonigle hasn’t tallied the numbers, but teams in the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle, coming up soon on June 27 and 28, and the American Royal Barbecue, Sept. 20 through Oct. 5, have purchased tens of thousands of pounds of McGonigle’s brisket, pork ribs, pork butt and chicken over the years. Many credit McGonigle’s meat as a key to their success.

McGonigle’s is also the place where barbecue sauce makers hope to repeat the KC Masterpiece success story. Legend has it that McGonigle’s is one of the prime locations where Dr. Rich Davis market-tested his new KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce 35 years ago.

It flew off the shelves and the rest is history. Today KC Masterpiece takes prominent humble space on the bottom row of McGonigle’s vast local and national barbecue sauce selections.

How’s McGonigle doing with the barbecue? It’s good enough to stand alone as a separate business that rivals Chow Town’s best barbecue joints. I’ve had the ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends and brisket sandwiches and gave all four high marks on appearance, tenderness and taste.

In other words, it looks good, it’s easy to chew and the smoke-kissed meat slathered with Blues Hog sauce made me glad I live in Chow Town.

The only side I’ve had thus far is the cheesy corn. Delicious. Friends have raved about McGonigle’s pit beans. They’re on my list to try next time.

As for the quality of meat from McGonigle’s meat counter, I barbecued babybacks, Sheboygan-style brats and Italian sausages for Father’s Day and they were a big hit with everyone.

McGonigle’s is rich with Chow Town history. It’s a prime example of how the marriage of meat, hardwood and know-how made our town famous for barbecue. Granted, the meat market and barbecue tradition was already more than four decades old when Bill McGonigle, Mike’s father, opened the Ward Parkway market in 1951, continuing Bill McGonigle’s grandfather’s meat market legacy going back to 1882.

More than five decades after the Ward Parkway market opened, Mike McGonigle decided to smoke and sell barbecue to go or to enjoy at picnic tables on the grassy tree-shaded lawn next door. McGonigle got up to speed quickly.

McGonigle’s friendly, efficient, knowledgeable staff, fantastic selection of top quality meats and food truck barbecue fresh from the pit makes it easy to see why 79th and Ward Parkway is one of the most popular barbecue destinations in Chow Town.

McGonigle’s Market is located at 1307 W. 79th St., Kansas City. It’s telephone number is 816-444-4720 and is located on the Internet at

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.”