You really can’t go wrong with any BBQ in town. There’s something for everyone, and if you ask 20 people to list their top countries, you’re bound to get 20 different lists.
Personally, I’ve had a lot of BBQ in my day. So I’ll offer my top five, plus a handful of honorable mentions.
One of the classics. There are six locations across the metro — my location is on Emanuel Cleaver Boulevard, but the one on State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas is worth a trip if you’re in the mood for some chicken wings.
Menu wise, the absolute best BBQ bang for your buck in KC is Nooner. This magical meal is chopped up with burnt ends and your choice of sliced meat on a bun with a side of fries for $5.99 (price may change since last time I was there) weekdays 11am to 2pm You can still get Nooner outside of lunchtime and on weekends, but the price goes up a bit – but trust me, it’s still worth it.
Outside of Nooner, I like a mixed plate—a generous combination of ribs, beef, bacon, and fries—if I’m feeling really hungry, plus an order of beans. Many love a classic “beef on a bun” sandwich, and you can’t forget a strawberry soda or a nice local beer.
Above all, just be prepared for the “hello, can I help you?” to be shouted at arrowhead-level decibels upon arrival.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
A favorite for many, Joe’s KC — formerly Oklahoma Joe’s — is the best and most consistent BBQ joint in town in this writer’s opinion. Their three locations (all located on the Kansas side) offer delicious meats that are cooked to perfection—it’s no wonder the line often stretches out the door and sometimes wraps around the building during rush hours. However, the line is worth the wait and moves faster than you might expect.
My favorite at Joe’s is the jumbo Z-Man, fries, mac-n-cheese and a sweet tea. What is Z-Man, you ask? According to Joe’s menu, it’s “slow-smoked beef tenderloin, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings, on a toasted Kaiser roll.” There are variations, too, with chicken, pulled pork, or even portobello mushrooms for non-meat eaters.
I’m also partial to the Rocket Pig when it’s time to change things up, and I know many who are in love with the Carolina Pork sandwich. Some just go straight for the ribs and/or burnt ends. That’s okay too – like I said, everything is amazing.
BBQ Jousting Pigs
This underrated joint is a bit out of the way, with locations in Liberty, Missouri (the original) and Legends in KCK (right next to Mercy Park for Kids where Sporting Kansas City plays). I would suggest the Liberty location if possible as it has a great brewery attached called 3Halves Brewing.
Jousting is special to, well, their specials. Every day they have an exclusive menu item, whether it’s rib tips on Wednesdays, burgers on Thursdays, or Philly steak on Saturdays. These specials are subject to change, so be sure to call ahead or check their social media pages to find out what they have.
My personal favorite at Jousting is the aforementioned Philly Brisket. It’s exactly what it sounds like plus more – ground brisket, peppers, onions and jalapeño cream cheese on a toasted baguette. It’s one of the best specialty BBQ sandwiches in KC
If you’re looking for something more traditional, grab their charred pork belly tips or The Jester, the latter of which is a brisket sandwich with Texas toothpicks and smoked gouda. Don’t forget the cheesy corn – it’s on the spicier side, but complements any dish nicely. Oh, and the banana pudding. Take the banana pudding.
One of the coolest BBQ joints in KC, Q39 is new but has become a staple pretty quickly. You’ll drop a bill here, sure, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for a relaxed sit-down experience.
If you get anything at Q39, please get Best Wings on the Planet. No, seriously, that’s what they’re called, and they hold the title if you ask me. The perfect amount of sharpness and smoothness with a sweet chipotle BBQ glaze that carries a hint of spice. Just perfection.
What else you get is up to you. I personally like the Burnt End Burger, although it can be a challenge to get into your mouth. The Judge’s Platter is nice if you want to try a bit of everything, and it’s sharable (unless you’re a big eater like me). I have a friend who is absolutely obsessed with smoked beef brisket. Truly, it is an embarrassment of riches (BBQ).
Also relatively new to the game, Slap’s has a great combination of quality and quantity, and their prices aren’t too out of hand. Make sure you get there early in the afternoon – they stay open until 7pm, but will often sell out of many menu items a few hours before that time.
I feel like a broken record when I say you can’t go wrong with any of their food, but it’s true. I’ll usually get a charred end and sausage combo or the Mike Johnson Sandwich, the latter of which includes jalapeño cheddar sausage, brisket, lettuce, BBQ sauce and white sauce on a pretzel bun. Wait, white sauce, you say? Heresy, for sure! No. It’s legit, and you should ask for more on the side.
Speaking of sides, Slap’s features my favorite dish in KC: the baked potato casserole. Please get this if you go to Slap’s. Thank me later.
- Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque: Another classic, Bryant’s BBQ has a loyal following in and out of KC. Their sauce is on the harsher side with a vinegar base instead of tomato, but it offers a different, unique style that many enjoy, myself included.
- Buck Tui BBQ: New to the BBQ scene, this Thai-KC fusion BBQ offers some of the best and most unique flavors in KC. Take the brisket as an appetizer – they are a must. My favorite dishes include the X Man sandwich or the pineapple rib fried rice with a side of mac and cheese.
- Char Bar: A sit-down spot in Westport with one of the best patios among KC BBQ joints, this place has delicious sandwiches, unique apps, and great sides. I love jalapeño cheese and corn.
- Harp Barbecue: Located inside Crane Brewing in Raytown, Missouri, this joint is only open on Fridays and Saturdays and runs until sold out. Get there early (like 30 minutes before opening) if you want a good spot in line. It’s worth it – Harp has some of the best meat in town.
- Jack Stack BBQ: For many people in KC, this is the no. 1. It’s worth visiting one of their six locations if you’re in the mood for a little vacation and some of the best sides KC has to offer. I would suggest some appetizer, a sandwich and/or lamb ribs. Wait, lamb? Trust me, they are mild and legal.
- LC’s Bar-BQ: Another classic mainstay, LC’s has the best charred ends in town. Don’t expect to see anything fancy on this menu. It’s not necessary – they let their meat do the talking.
Heard great things but haven’t visited yet
- I technically visited BB’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ, but I was a little kid so I only remember the atmosphere, not the food. That said, if you enjoy some jam while you eat, this is the place to be. They do charge a cover on nights with bands, but it’s reasonable.
- I’ve heard great things about Chef J BBQ, an artisanal BBQ spot that’s similar to Harp with its limited hours and open-until-sale menu.
- The same goes for Barbecue Night Goat, which is only open on Sundays from 11am to 3pm at Fox and Pearl.