I believe that food brings people together. No matter how big of a cultural difference there is between people, food can bridge that gap.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Oklahoma Joe's BBQ
Okay, okay. You know about Oklahoma Joe's. I mean, Kansas City is the BBQ capital of the world, right? So if you live within a 75 mile radius of KC, there's little chance that you haven't heard about this landmark.
World-renowned chef, author and travel-guru Anthony Bourdain featured Oklahoma Joe's in a recent article in Men's Health magazine about the "13 Places to Eat Before You Die." This world is a big place and there are LOTS of restaurants that serve ridiculously good food. Bourdain's list includes elBulli, a Spanish goliath which offers a 34-course tasting menu and Thomas Keller's Per Se and The French Laundry, both American iconic restaurants. To be on this list is special. Bourdain knows his food.
There is always an ongoing debate about who has the best BBQ in Kansas City. You have Gates, Arthur Bryant's, LC's, Jack Stack, Oklahoma Joe's and a myriad of others. In my opinion, you simply cannot beat Oklahoma Joe's. From the atmosphere to the food to the sauce, it is the best in KC.
I love to hear the reaction of people when they find out that the best BBQ in KC is in a gas station. No, not a building made for Oklahoma Joe's designed to look like a gas station, but an actual working gas station.
Joe's does have another location in Olathe, which seats more and has that restaurant-feel but if you haven't been and you are planning on trying Joe's, you have to first eat at the original location.
One of the things about Oklahoma Joe's is that there is always a line. It doesn't matter whether it is 11:00 a.m. in the morning or 8:00 p.m. at night. They are always busy. Our most recent visit was on a Saturday around noon. Not suprising, the line was out the door. However, they do a great job of moving people through the line and what looks like a monumental line ends up being about a 25-30 minute wait.
So, what do I like at Oklahoma Joe's? I'm partial to pulled pork regardless of the BBQ joint. Easy enough, right? Wrong. They don't just have a pulled pork sandwich. They also have the Carolina Style (which is the original sandwich with spicy slaw) and the Hog Heaven (sliced sausage and pulled pork).
And while they have amazing pulled pork sandwiches, they also offer smoked turkey, smoked ham, or smoked sausage sandwiches. Or you can go for the Z-Man, which is their sliced, smoked brisket, topped with two onion rings and melted provolone cheese. It is as good as it sounds. What about their ribs, which are fall of the bone tender? Or their smoked chicken which is moist and flavorful. Too many choices. What to order?
After 20 minutes of going back and forth, I decided against all of them. Yep, that's right. Instead, I pulled a fast one and ordered the "off the menu" pulled pork Z-Man. It's their pulled pork sandwich, Z-Man style. Didn't know you could do that, huh? Well, you can and it is awesome. The pulled pork has a perfect smoky flavor that isn't overpowering. Add in an order of their self-proclaimed "best fries in KC" and you have one heck of a lunch.
On Saturdays, and only on Saturdays, they offer burnt ends. For those of you who don't know, a burnt end is created by smoking a brisket low and slow. When the brisket is done cooking, the point ("B") is cut away from the flat ("A") and is put back into the smoker to cook even more.
What you have when you remove the point from the smoker is an incredibly juicy yet perfectly charred piece of meat. The point is cut into cubes, which have a crunchy "burnt" outside but a tender inside that literally melts in your mouth.
On this particular Saturday, our friends ordered the burnt ends and ribs lunch. Pair that with a couple of pieces of buttered Texas toast, some potato salad and a cold Boulevard Wheat and you have a meal. A man's meal. And a delicious one at that.
I'm not sure I can rave about this place enough. It is really really really good. I am proud to live in the BBQ mecca and am more than happy to wait 30 minutes to eat. And after reading this, you probably didn't see or learn anything you didn't already know (well, except for the existence of the pulled pork Z-Man). But when a BBQ joint is this good, people talk. And people flock.
Anthony Bourdain stated it best when describing this place. "It's the best BBQ in Kansas City, which makes it the best BBQ in the world." Yep, that pretty much sums it up.