“It certainly feels good to be in their company,” says Plowboys’ founder and chief pitmaster Todd Johns.
Johns ranks Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, Jack Stack (which did not make the 10Best list) and Joe’s Kansas City as the “barbecue gorillas” — with Q39 a “600-pound gorilla and growing.”
Q39’s Rob McGee announced expansion plans earlier this week, and he’s in Chicago with visitkc.com this weekend to promote tourism to Kansas City (see Twitter hashtag #HowWeDoKC). Q39 ranked 8th on the USA Today list.
Meanwhile, Plowboys — a former competitive team-turned-restaurant in 2013 — now has two locations, one in Blue Springs and another downtown, and is experiencing its own double-digit growth spurt.
“I don’t know if we’re 200 or 400 (pounds) or what, but the point is we’re growing, and now we’re not the one no one has heard of,” Johns says.
Burnt ends are the restaurant’s second or third best-selling menu item, depending on the day. It is available regularly at the Blue Springs location but only on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Kansas City location.
What does it take to turn burnt ends into what USA Today calls “barbecue gold”?
Plowboys starts with 28-day certified Angus beef brisket and hand trims off the points only. (Some restaurants mix the brisket’s flat in as well.)
At Plowboys, the hand-trimmed points are cooked for five hours then double-wrapped in plastic wrap to allow the meat to braise in its own juices for another three to four hours.
The USA Today contest started by asking local barbecue experts, including Chow Town’s blogger Ardie Davis, Rod Gray of Pellet Envy and Kansas City-based lifestyle blogger Shanley Cox, to put together a list of 20 top spots in Kansas and Missouri.
Nineteen of the 20 top contenders came from Kansas City. Over the past month, readers voted for their favorites.
The Top 10 USA Today winners
1. Plowboys BBQ in Blue Springs
2. Joe’s Kansas City BBQ, Kansas City, Kan.
3. Squeal Like a Pig (SLAPS) BBQ, Kansas City, Kan.
4. Danny Edward’s Boulevard BBQ, Kansas City
5. Johnny’s Barbecue, Mission, Kan.
6. Bogart’s Smokehouse, St. Louis
7. R.J.’s Bob-Be-Que Shack, Mission, Kan.
8. Q39, Kansas City
9. The BBQ Shack, Paola, Kan.
10. Woodyard BBQ, Kansas City, Kan.
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor, lead restaurant critic and blog curator. Reach her her at email@example.com or @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc on Twitter.