Review: Oklahoma Joe’s / Gates Bar-B-Q (Kansas City)Author: WIBIA | Filed under: Food Reviews, Location: Kansas City, MO, On The Road
When traveling, I like to eat, drink and listen to some tunes. In my opinion, there isn’t a better way to understand a city and their culture outside of their food and music. Kansas City is known for jazz and barbecue. Barbecue in Kansas City is about beef brisket and burnt ends. To be honest, I am not a brisket lover. Well, correct that, I wasn’t before this trip. Out of a four day trip, I only had barbecue twice. In hindsight, I should’ve had it every day as there was some above average meals (Spin Pizza and Urban Table), but nothing like the quality of the barbecue.
My first stop was at Oklahoma Joe’s. A barbecue joint that is situated in a Shamrock gas station. At 2:00, the line was out the door, it took us 35 minutes to order. Funny enough, the line also included Frank Haith, the men’s basketball coach at Missouri. It was fun to watch the Mizzou fans taking their picture with them and the KU fans not even giving him the time of day. That rivalry is legit, that is for sure.
Oklahoma Joe’s, started in 1995 from a championship barbecue team. They have a million awards, were on Man v. Food, No Reservations and Bourdain said Oklahoma Joe’s is one of the thirteen places you must eat before you die.
What I Got: Jumbo Smokey Joe; $7.29. Beef and pork on a bun, with fries and beans included.
The sandwich was huge. The meat was saturated with sauce and mixed together. I usually would prefer the meat to be separated and then stacked and the sauce on the side. They delivered it mixed with a good amount of sauce on it. I was disappointed, but then I took a bite and it was awesome. Great smoky flavor with a thick sauce. Basic and boring, but hey, you are not here for the bun, right? The pickles were excellent and served as a reminder that I really don’t eat enough pickles.
1lb of brisket.
A lot of barbecue joints have great meat, but horrible sides. Oklahoma Joe’s has the best barbecue beans that I have ever had. A three bean mix with drippings and some burnt ends in it. Top shelf. Oklahoma Joe’s is worth the hype and worth the wait. Part of me thinks that it is a little overhyped due to it being in a gas station, but it is really good barbecue and a must have on any trip to KC.
My next barbecue adventure brought me to Gates Bar-B-Q. Gates has been around Kansas City since 1946 and after you eat there, you can see why. There was about a twenty minute line for dinner, you order at the counter and go from there. There were a few things that I found annoying, the drink machine was behind the counter, so you had a server. Also, they didn’t have pulled pork, so brisket or ribs are really your only choice. The interior reminded me of an old fast food place. To be honest, it was kind of a dump.
What I Got: Half slab of ribs, Long End. You also can order the Short End, totally your choice. It was around $13.00. We got fries as well. I will not mention them as they reminded me of the type that you would get at a bowling alley. The beans were a step above canned, not worth talking about as well.
The ribs were excellent. They are not as red in real life as the picture shows them. My barbecue palate is not refined enough to tell you what they smoke the ribs with, but they were lean, fall of the bone and I smelled the smoky flavor on my hand the next morning. They sauce was thin with a lot more vinegar than Oklahoma Joe’s. However, they were a good match for the ribs. The original sauce was pretty tame, but the spicy had a strange delivery. The heat came about five seconds after you had a bite. I had a bite, thought that I got the mild and then the heat came in. The star of the show at Gates was the Burnt End Sandwich. My girlfriend ordered it and I ate my fair share for sure.
Would I Buy It Again? Yes and Yes. Oklahoma Joe’s is a Kansas City staple and I can’t imagine there is better brisket. Kansas City is known for their brisket and Oklahoma Joe’s is arguably Kansas City’s best. That should say it all. Gates was excellent as well, but for my money, Oklahoma Joe’s wins this throwdown.
The one things that I realized is that if you have barbecue in Kansas City, it is going to be good. There are so many barbecue places that if you are not serving top shelf grub, you are not going to make it. Also, I realized, barbecue in Indianapolis is pretty awful. Squealer’s is good, but good for Indianapolis. All in all, Kansas City is a great city to visit and it is hard to beat a pint of Boulevard and a half slab of ribs.