Kansas City BBQ transcends normal cuisine status and is hailed as the standard by which other barbecue is judged. Don’t get us wrong, we have found delectable smoked meats all across North America. Barbecue started in a pit, where meats were cooked over a trench filled with burning embers. These days there are three main ingredients to a successful barbecue; meat, smoke, and sauce. From the more than 100 BBQ restaurants around the Kansas City metro (the most of any U.S. city), we have tried to create a list of a dozen of our favorites. Let’s see how many of them would be on your Top 12.
Way back in 1934, on our country’s Independence Day, Rosedale Bar-B-Que sprung to life. In those days it was called “The Bucket Shop”, and specialized in hot dogs and buckets of beer. The owners saw the potential in barbecue and the next year they opened what would become Rosedale’s quintessential smoked meat outlet. While times have changed the look and location, the local loyalty has remained the same. This place has delectable sandwiches and be sure to order some of their crispy fries. Location: 600 Southwest Boulevard, KCK
Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ
If you’ve spent much time in Kansas City, you’ve probably learned that barbecue is often a family tradition. Just down the road from Rosedale’s, you’ll find another Kansas City BBQ institution. Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ learned a lot about smoked meats from his father, Jake. Big Jake had a shop from 1938 to 1981, which is close to the time that his son, Danny, opened his own BBQ joint. With limited hours, you need to plan well to make it to this place. When we are there, I always enjoy a Combo Plate, which is designed for meat lovers. Location: 2900 Southwest Boulevard, KCMO
Jack Stack Barbecue
If you want to talk about Kansas City BBQ families, the list has to include Jack Stack Barbecue. This family run business broke new ground with their use of hickory wood. These days they are on the fourth generation and still serving up incredible flavor with an air of elegance. They have an impressive menu filled with something for everyone in your party. We love the Roundup, which offers a nice sampling of their menu. Location: 6 locations around the KC Metro
Joe's KC Bar-B-Que
How do we know that Kansas City BBQ is the best in the nation? It seems that every year a new survey is posted and our hometown eateries are usually at the top. One that has gained national acclaim is Joe’s KC Bar-B-Que. The original site is located in a gas station, where it’s not unusual to see a line out the door. We enjoy most everything on their menu, but The Z-Man Sandwich is a classic worth sampling. Location: 3002 W. 47th St., KCK & 11723 Roe Ave., Leawood
Buck Tui BBQ
We wouldn’t want to only list the long-term standards, so let’s talk about some newcomers. One of the things we love most about barbecue is how well it can be incorporated into other cuisines. A shining example is Buck Tui BBQ, which combines smoked meats with Thai classics. This East meets West version of Kansas City BBQ really works for us. While we’ve only begun to explore their menu, we’ve already fallen in love with the Pineapple Rib Fried Rice. Location: 6737 W. 75th Street, Overland Park
F325 BBQ is the newest member of the Kansas City BBQ family to make our list. Choosing to open a new restaurant in the COVID era requires a lot of belief in your product. What we’ve discovered is that they were spot on with their assumptions. In just a few short months they have broken through a highly competitive market. This is one of the few places in KC that you’ll find Carolina-style barbecue. Savor the vinegar-based tang, but be sure to save room for their Whiskey Sweet Potato Casserole. Location: 1825 Buchanan Street, North Kansas City
Every once in a while a new joint will pop up and gain almost instant acclaim. Such was the case for Char Bar. When we first heard of this place, the conversations revolved around their beer garden. When we stopped in, we discovered this place was serving up a backyard barbecue vibe. While it seems to spend a lot of energy focusing on its party atmosphere, it’s also a good spot to taste more Carolina-style BBQ. Here’s another spot that we enjoy a sampler platter with their Holy Trinity. Location: 4050 Pennsylvania Ave., KCMO & 15348 Old Town Dr., Parkville
Chef J BBQ
Our history with the West Bottoms is traced back to when the haunted houses moved from City Market in the early 1990s. In those days, that was the only draw to this neighborhood for most Kansas Citians. The addition of vintage shops brought people back to the area. Seeing an area ripe with possibility, Justin Easterwood opened Chef J BBQ. He is a huge fan of southern-style BBQ and it comes through in the flavor of his smoked meats. If you want to enjoy a meat coma, give the BeastMode a shot. Location: 1401 W. 13th St. Suite G, KCMO
A relative newcomer (opened 2014) to the Kansas City BBQ scene is Q39. This place works hard at bringing an air of elegance to a cuisine that is often designed for the working-class. This has earned them a lot of unfavorable reviews. We find their menu to be filled with tasty delights. In fact, their Smoked Beef Brisket Poutine is worth fighting over. Location: 1000 W. 39th St., KCMO & 11051 Antioch Road, Overland Park
Blind Box BBQ
If you’ve ever visited a BBQ competition, you’ve probably noticed the unique team names. The same can be said for Kansas City BBQ joints. Blind Box BBQ‘s name gives a nod to the competition circuit. A blind box is the Styrofoam container presented to judges, which keeps each team anonymous. This way the food is judged by the contents only. This place is definitely keyed in on presentation. It’s one of the few places we have found a BBQ charcuterie board on a menu. We definitely enjoyed the smoky wine-infused cheese. Location: 13214 W. 62nd Terr., Shawnee & 1601 Village West Pkwy, KCK
Some Kansas City BBQ joints can spend decades hidden away in residential neighborhoods. This was not the case for S.L.A.P.’s BBQ (The name means Squeal Like A Pig). After plenty of wins on the BBQ competition trail, the Pearce brothers opened up their restaurant with immediate success. It’s not unusual to find yourself waiting in line to order at this place. We enjoy their Sampler Platter, that comes with four meats and two large sides. Location: 553 Central Ave., KCK
A Little BBQ Joint
We love that no matter where we travel across the KC metro, we can always find some delectable barbecue. During a visit to Independence, we happened upon A Little BBQ Joint. Stepping through the door, we knew immediately that we were in for a thrill ride of flavor. This place focuses on their meats, so don’t expect big flavor from their sides. We were okay with that, since the smoked meats pack plenty of punch for the whole meal. Be sure to sample their sauces, which amp up the flavor. Location: 1101 W. U.S. Hwy 24, Independence
What's Your Favorite Kansas City BBQ?
Here’s the point that we wrap up our list and prepare ourselves for a bombardment of places we overlooked or omitted. Rest assured that after more than 50 years of eating Kansas City BBQ, we are willing to admit that this list is far from adequate. Our goal was to get you thinking about some of your favorites, as well as pointing out the wide range of flavors that this cuisine brings to the table. We’d love to hear some of your favorites, so drop us a list in the Comments Section below. Perhaps our next Kansas City BBQ roundup will include some of them. Until then, pass me the sauce!