I’ve returned to Chow Town’s new Q39 twice since my first visit last month. Each time I’ve been wowed by chef/pitmaster/owner Rob Magee’s mastery of the art and science of barbecue.
Besides consistent food quality and signature dishes, Magee knows that a key to success in the barbecue business is customer relations.
Hayward Spears, for example, recognized thousands of his Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que http://haywards-bbq.com/ customers by face and name. To this day, after selling the business to Eric Sweeney last January, Hayward shows up often to mentor Sweeney and welcome customers.
Our group of four barbecue buddies and former colleagues was greeted by none other than Rob Magee himself when we walked through Q39’s front door last week.
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Craig, Bill and George, from Topeka and Lawrence, respectively, and I had enjoyed a morning and early afternoon touring the Roasterie, stocking up on sauces at Original Juan’s, and touring Boulevard Brewery. We were hungry for barbecue.
We started with shareable onion straws and mac and cheese with herbed bread crumbs. Buffalo Sweat and Velvet Rooster on tap, brewed by Tallgrass Brewing Co. in Manhattan, Kan., was a perfect complement. Outstanding brews with outstanding starters.
The last time I ate at Q39, Magee asked me if I had tried the sausage. I hadn’t, but promised to try it on the next visit. Bill and George loved their burnt ends burgers. Craig thoroughly enjoyed his Judges Plate of brisket, ribs, pulled pork and pit beans.
And I liked the house made chipotle sausage so much that I forgot to take a picture. Served as sliced thick coins the circumference of brats, lightly sauced on a bun, Q39’s chipotle sausage has a satisfying balance of fat-to-lean that delivers a wallop of flavor without excessive grease.
It is meaty and not overspiced. The kiss of smoke and chipotle is a palate pleaser.
Of course I ordered a bowl of white bean cassoulet with my sandwich because I can’t go near Q39 without stopping for a cassoulet fix. If my dream of owning a bean soup diner had ever come to fruition, I’d have begged Magee for his recipe and would serve his cassoulet every day.
My Aunt Maude’s Bean Soup and Tootsie Tomanetz’s Texas Pinto Beans would also be on the permanent menu.
Halfway through our lunch I did a double-take when two friends walked in: Carolyn Wells, executive director of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, and Steven Raichlen, culinary writer, TV personality and novelist.
I didn’t ask, but my guess is they were on a barbecue crawl that may have included stops at LC’s, Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s, Johnny’s, Jon Russell’s, RJ’s and Plowboys.
Apparently not starving for more barbecue, they politely ordered small samples. We briefly chatted, took some pictures and I left them to their business at hand.
What’s trending in Chow Town barbecue today? Q39, McGonigle’s, Johnny’s, RJ’s and Plowboys for sure. Plus our ever-popular Oklahoma Joe’s. Que up and enjoy.
Q39 is located at 1000 W. 39th St., Kansas City. Its telephone number is 816-255-3753. Its web site is located at www.q39kc.com.
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.”