Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kansas City, Part II

When we discovered that the BBQ Festival was, well, not what we expected it to be, we fell into a bout of unabashed belly laughing at the folly of it all, before picking ourselves up and making an alternate plan for the weekend.  After all, Kansas City is famous for its BBQ, whether it be at a festival or one of its numerous yummy restaurants.

See? We're okay. Plus I don't want people to think that I was bashing the BBQ Festival too much--sarcasm if one of my favorite yet misleading tools of humor.

We took a jaunt around the competitors' lots, just to give it the good ol' college try before we "bagged this joint" (a phrase used way more often by my team members than I would have ever expected).

 I know, it's fascinating.

 This is one impressive smoker.

Then randomly, we saw a parrot.
Yeah I don't know.

First up, we hauled ass to the original Arthur Bryant's the original.  We first heard of this place from the writings of Calvin Trillin, a midwest native (who happens to be very charming and funny--I recommend The Tummy Trilogy).  Since then, I think AB's has been on the Food Network about 1,000 times.  Has the overexposure ruined the food? Cheesed up the atmosphere? I'm happy to say that AB's totally hit the spot and satisfied our stymied BBQ craving.

First, as with any good BBQ, you have to stand in line.  It was a Friday afternoon, so I can't imagine what the crowd is like on the weekends. AB's had a simple diner/cafeteria no-nonsense style that was appealing--it's about the food, y'all.

 That man is so hungry he's gnawing on his fingers.

Behold, the meat place (and my face).

From left to right, we have sliced brisket, pulled pork, and burnt ends.  Burnt ends are the crispy end parts of whatever it's been bbq'd, in this case I think it was the end of the brisket. TASTY.  AB's offered a variety of sauces, including their original, spicy (when I say spicy I mean spices like cinnamon and clove, and not so much chili, altho there was as little more of that as well), and ooh gosh something else.  They all tended to be on the sweeter rather than vinegar-y side, making an order of coleslaw a happy necessity.  The sauce is mostly for the brisket, because the pulled pork and burnt ends were already thoroughly sauced (though no one would ding you for saucing them up even more).

Afterwards, we wandered around some neighborhoods, the highlight of which was most definitely Murray's Ice Cream in the Westport area.  Their menu contains a veritable gamut of ice cream treats, from your sundaes to sodas to shakes to egg creams to...anyway it was a really cute shop and the ice cream was tasty. I had a root beer float.

Friday night, we decided to gussy it up a bit and go to the oddly manufactured-looking but pleasant Country Club Plaza area to eat at Fiorella Jack Stack BBQ.  Fiorella is definitely a kind of dressed up, yuppified setting--kind of like a Cheesecake Factory for BBQ.  I'm not complaining. It's good to have some variety in settings.

Waiting for our table, I started with a lemon martini--strong and not too sweet.

Oh heavens they had some super delectable onion rings. Like, amazing.  Such crispy and perfectly seasoned batter around mammoth onion slices.  I think there was crack in this (or MSG).  You must order these.

We ordered a short stack of ribs. They were tender and meaty--I enjoyed them, although my brother in law noted that they were a bit heave on the smoke flavor.  Still, I wouldn't kick them off the plate.

We also ordered some of their burnt ends, to compare to AB's, of course.  These were definitely bigger chunks, with less sauce.  Because of their size, they had more of that crispy part, which I enjoyed.  But also because of their size, they were a tad bit tougher than those at AB's.  Then again, I like that they weren't as sauced as AB's. It's a toss-up.

Fiorella's also serves a grand prime rib--which is a seriously wonderfully fatty hunka meat.  It's definitely pricey, though, so don't feel obligated to try since there are plenty of other tasty options.

We saw that almost every table had ordered a baked potato. I wish I had taken a picture with my head next to it, because you would see that they are the same size.  The potato was fluffy and perfectly cooked, and really can you go that wrong with bacon and cheese on top? Didn't think so.  They also seasoned the potato skin with their house blend spice--it was tasty, but a bit too heavily applied (note: for those of you against MSG, the spice blend has it, but I also think many BBQ sauces have some MSG in it...I'm not that concerned).

We did an okay job eating everything, although it seems we were better at making a big ol' mess.

On Saturday, we headed to Oklahoma Joe's  for lunch.  OJ's is attached to a gas station convenience store, although it's about 3 times the size of the store portion.   The line was all the way out the door, and we waited for about 30 minutes before ordering.  And it was totally worth it.  I think OJ's was my favorite BBQ place of all that we tried.

Happy campers

Here we have the ribs and burnt ends.  Hands down the best ribs.  Tender and tasty, but was not overpowered by smokiness like the ribs at Fiorella's.  They had a thin coating of sauce, but not too much.  The burnt ends here were also my favorite (although not everyone agreed--AB's was the biggest competition).  The bits were a bit bigger than at AB's, but still tender, and more importantly there were only lightly sauced.

We also had the pulled pork sandwich and onion rings.  This pulled pork sandwich was redolent of porkiness.  I know it sounds silly to say that the pork tasted like pork, but whatever they did really enhanced the flavor of pork to the point where you wanted to bury your face in it.  The onion rings were quite good as well, although Fiorella's had a crisper, cleaner crust and a fun presentation.

Saturday night, our last night there, we decided to  change it up a bit and go to Lidia's.  I know this seems like an odd choice, but after all that BBQ we thought a respite would be nice.  And wine. We wanted wine.

Before heading to the restaurant, we went to the rotating rooftop bar at our hotel.  $8 cocktails, and it wasn't even happy hour!! The scenery was nice, but the rotation made me kinda woozy. I'm weak.

Lidia's Kansas City is in a big honkin' building with soaring ceilings.  Open and airy but still cozy feeling because of the lighting and colors.  I tried to take a pic of the cool chandelier that they have, but it looks more like a grouping of tadpoles or something.

I won't go too much into detail.  They brought out an olive and artichoke tapenade/dip thing with yummy, pillowy focaccia to start.  We also ordered the pasta trio, which came with pasta bolognese, swiss chard ravioli, and I can't remember the other one.  We also ordered gnocchi with a rabbit ragu.  And a mushroom soup that nobody ate.

Overall, the food was fine--I would more recommend this place if someone is looking for a nice, but not too formal, night out in a comfortably refined setting with decent food.

To sum up:
AB's--homey local feel with good pulled pork and burnt ends, especially if you are a fan of BBQ sauce.  I can live without the brisket (although it was tender, just not that flavorful).

Murray's Ice Cream--such a cute shop with lots of tasty concoctions.  I kinda wanted to go a second time while we were there.

Fiorella's--for a nicer BBQ dining experience.  Don't miss the onion rings.  The ribs are pretty good and the grand prime rib is tasty, though pricey.

OK Joe's--oh so good. Loved everything we ordered--pulled pork sandwich, burnt ends, ribs, and onion rings.

Lidia's--okay food, pleasant setting good for a more upscale night out without going overboard.

And there you have it. I think we more than redeemed the trip after the festival fiasco.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and those $8 cocktails.


  1. How disappointing, I was hoping that you ate more meat on your KC trip but you appeared to have gone all healthy. ;)

    Hope you had a bran muffin or sumpin in the morning to get everything moving along.

  2. Yum, yum, and more yum! You definitely made up for the disappointing festival with all the BBQ!

  3. Is $8 for a cocktail cheap? :) Silly NYC'ers...

    That barbecue looks amazing. I'm starving now.

  4. I almost always have pulled pork when I'm at a BBQ joint but I'll have to find burnt ends next time. They sound AMAZING.

  5. you forgot to post the picture of the one lone vegetable we ate all weekend.

  6. Looking at these pictures gives me a stomach ache. But in a "it was so worth it" kind of way.
    @Cathleya: hate to admit it. I was thinking the same thing. HAHA.

  7. You're making me crave BBQ now! We were in Colorado skiing on a Spring Break trip in 2007 and saw AB on Food Network's Best Eats as the #1 BBQ place so we decided to drive from Breckenridge, CO to Arthur Bryant's - just to have lunch. Good ole days of when gas was $1.50 and we had all the free time in the world.

  8. OH burnt ends! I am drooling! My stomach is growling! I shouldn't have read this an hour before lunch! YUM YUM YUM! Hubby and I saw an episode of "Man v Food" Saturday featuring BBQ (not sure where from) and we absolutely HAD to go get some BBQ. But we live in Chicago, and it's difficult to find great BBQ (unless you go into the city. Smoque is SO yum), and pretty much impossible (in my experience) to find burnt ends. I want them SO bad! YUM!

  9. Ok, how the hell have I never heard of burnt ends? I'm drooling here. Burnt ends sound as yummy to me as a basket of fried chicken breading. Yup, just the breading. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

  10. Holy crap that's a vegetarian's nightmare, but I'm glad you finally got some bbq, I mean, hell you went all the way to Kansas! Also, that chandelier thing looks like a chihuly!

  11. I'm glad you went to AB and OJ. That's where I take people for KC BBQ. A lot of people in town are fans of Gates, but I don't know why. There's a small joint about 15 minutes from my house called Big T's BBQ. If they catered, we would have totally had them for our rehearsal dinner. It was too far to bring in the car to the church. Best BBQ in KC (of course, only my opinion)!