Breaking the BBQ barrier in Kansas City isn’t easy. On any given day, the smoky aroma of barbecue permeates the very fabric of the city. It isn’t reserved just for game days or the Fourth of July. Barbecue is the lifeblood of the city. The idea of launching a new restaurant in this atmosphere can be more than unnerving. So many have come and gone, while there are the standards that have stood the test of time. Every once in a while, new blood will rise up and challenge the hierarchy for a chance to join this elusive club. We traveled to Midtown to check out Q39, which has made quite a splash on the BBQ scene since they first opened in 2014.
Visiting q39 during the pandemic is a little different. Our last stop had been in the period where everything was restricted to carryout. While it offered us a taste of their menu, it left us desiring a peek inside. When the time was right to return to indoor seating, we were more than ready. The continued restrictions mean that they can serve fewer dine-in patrons, so we made sure to reserve a seat well in advance. The interior has that old-school feel like the place had been here for decades. We liked the mix of tables, booths, and high-tops, which allowed each group a choice of comfort level. They even have some outdoor patio seating available during seasonable weather.
Bringing the Handhelds
Since our last tasting, we had been awaiting this opportunity. With no time to waste, we dove headfirst into the menu by ordering up a bowl of Smoked Beef Brisket Poutine. (pictured at the top of the article) Ever since our visit to Quebec City, we have fallen in love with this comfort food. This hearty dish of fries, cheese curds, and gravy is kicked to another notch with the addition of chopped brisket chunks and BBQ sauce. Yeah, we already knew we would be waddling out of this joint. What goes well with this type of finger food, why a sandwich of course.
When I mentioned our upcoming visit to coworkers, one told me a story about his favorite handheld. The Mr. Burns is a stacked missile of flavor aimed right at your taste buds. The combination of burnt ends chunks, pepper jack cheese, onion straws, and chipotle bbq sauce are barely contained in the toasted bun. Let me tell you that this creation makes sharing difficult. With the height restrictions of our mouths well below the altitude of this sammie, we had quite a time attempting to shove it down our gullets. In the end, we definitely found ourselves licking our fingers in blissful satisfaction.
There are a few ways of breaking the bbq barrier. The obvious has to do with the main courses, but attention to delivering special side dishes goes a long way in helping. Barbecue has a long history of being accompanied by certain sides. The idea of visiting a barbecue restaurant and not finding baked beans or potato salad is nearly unimaginable. Coleslaw is another staple, but like the first two, they leave plenty of room for variations. Q39 chooses to deliver up an Apple Slaw that brings a distinct sweetness to the palate. We thought that the Orzo Pasta Salad was another nice twist. A nice texture was accentuated by the addition of oven-roasted tomatoes, spinach, and peppers, as well as a delicate basil vinaigrette.
One of our favorite things to find on a menu is some type of sampler plate. We discovered a meaty feast during a visit to a BBQ joint in Lee’s Summit, and since then have been on the lookout for others. Q39 offers a couple of options with a Combo Plate (2 types of meat) or our choice of the Judge’s Plate. There are five meat choices and our picks were the Chipotle Sausage, Pulled Pork, and Q Pork Spare Ribs. For those with a meatier appetite, you can bump it up with an extra rib, or some pork belly. Since we were already skirting with a food coma, we left it be with the standard serving. The smoky goodness of their meats shows that their recipes are tried and tested on the bbq circuit. Every scrumptious bite was a melody to our taste buds.
Now you can imagine just how full we were by the end of our meal. When our server asked about dessert, we can only imagine the look of sheer desperation in our eyes. We knew that it would be hard to say we had really explored the menu at Q39 without sampling their sweet offerings. A couple that jumped out at us was the Carrot Cake (my personal favorite) and the Turtle Cheesecake. The first was a delightfully moist cake topped with a creamy frosting. The pecan pieces added a nice crunch. Our second selection was a flavor-packed treat with a chocolate crumb crust and blended drizzle of caramel and milk chocolate. Yeah, we were definitely stuffed to the gills.
Breaking the BBQ Barrier
Like so many of the successful newer barbecue joints, Q39 is driven by the force of a leader tested on the barbecue circuit. Owner Rob Magee followed this same path, assembling a crack team named Munchin’ Hogs. Putting his culinary trained background to work, his team would climb the circuit and amass many victories over the next ten years. Transferring the lessons learned during competition can be just as challenging as satisfying picky judges. From the rave reviews we have seen, as well as our personal experience, we believe that it has been a huge success. Breaking the BBQ barrier may be difficult, but Q39 is proving that it isn’t impossible.