Originally published July 7th, 2012
I love All Star Week. Every league has their event, but there’s something about the Major League Baseball All Star Game that stands out from the rest. From the Fan Fest to the Celebrity Game, to the Home Run Derby and the All Star Game. There’s something for everyone and every budget. It’s a true family event that every fan needs to experience! (For the record though, don’t touch the World Series trophy at the Fan Fest, they frown on it. Um… not that I know from experience or anything.)
If you’re attending this year’s game in Kansas City, there’s probably one thing on your mind. Where do I eat? I’m going to get to that, but first things first: I want you to make the drive to the Negro League Museum. You have to understand the legacy that Negro League Baseball has in Kansas City. The museum is fantastic. It’s thought provoking, moving, and inspiring. I’ve been to Kansas City twice, and was sure to hit the museum both times. Go. Take your kids and help them understand how far we’ve come, and how far there still is to go. My girls can’t fathom why people couldn’t go to restaurants or play on teams because of the color of their skin. Beyond the museum, take a walk. It’s interesting to see the mock-ups of old businesses, even if the buildings are only a series of facades now. It’s sad that the city hasn’t done more with the neighborhood. You can see they’ve tried, but it hasn’t taken hold yet. Now, what were you saying? Oh yeah, “Where do I eat?“
Kansas City is one of the BBQ hubs of America. I’m not going to start a BBQ war between KC or Texas or the Carolinas. Every hub has it’s signature flavor, it’s up to you whether you like pork or beef, sweet or hot, or ketchup or vinegar based sauces. I’ve been to Kansas City twice, and if you’ve visited my site before, you know I like to eat. A lot. Here’s a rundown of the different places I’ve eaten at, along with my overall favorites. Enjoy!
Arthur Bryants – Everyone is going to tell you to eat at Arthur Bryants or Gates BBQ. I’ve eaten at both of them, but I’ll get to others too. Arthur Bryants is a solid, safe pick. You’ll feel it the minute you step in. The lines will be long, but they move quick. The meat has a good flavor with solid smoke. The sauce is pleasant and not too heavy. You feel like you’re in Kansas City when you eat at Arthur Bryants. I ate at Arthur Bryants during my first trip to Kansas City. I couldn’t decide on Arthur Bryants or Gates BBQ for lunch, so I did what any food guy would do. I had both. If I could only choose one of the two, I’d eat at Arthur Bryants. The food was better, and I loved the building.
Gates BBQ – It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys of BBQ. It’s Gates or Arthur Bryants. It’s easy to think of them in the same sentence both because of their BBQ legacy in Kansas City, but also because of how close they are to each other. You’re 5 minutes away from the Negro League Museum, and Gates and Arthur Bryants are minutes apart by car. Gates BBQ was my second lunch of the afternoon. What would virtually paralyze my travel partner by the end of the trip, was just a start for me. I’ve joked with my friend Ted before. You have to be a conditioned athlete to eat like I do on the road. Gates was fine, but I thought their meat was fattier, and just overall I thought it was a little greasy. I appreciated the helping size compared to Arthur Bryants, but overall I wasn’t a big fan of Gates.
BB’s Lawnside BBQ – BBs is one of those places that you drive by and think “That place looks like they’re going to be good.” The place was pretty beat on the outside but the parking lot was full. The atmosphere inside was good and the helpings were HUGE. The BBQ as a whole was solid. I liked the sauce and was a huge fan of the battered fries. BBQ aside, this is one of those places that’s worth a stop for the live Blues 6 days a week!
Smokehouse BBQ – Smokehouse was forgettable enough that I had to double check my Foursquare check-ins to even remember what the place was called. The portions were small and plated pretty lazily (as you can see from the shot). Is it worse to serve bad BBQ or completely forgettable BBQ? The atmosphere was fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to hit it.
The Summit Hickory Pit BBQ – Sigh. I knew this one wasn’t happening the minute we drove up. I was in Kansas City for work, in January of all months, and this was the other guy’s choice. It’s a chain-style BBQ restaurant. I like to stay away from the “chain-style” restaurants when I’m out of town, even if they’re local. The portions were small, and the meat had zero smoke. The sauce tried too hard. If you’re a BBQ guy, you know what I mean. Just real disappointing. The nice thing is it’s in Lee’s Summit. If you’re in Lee’s Summit, you took a wrong turn, get back to KC!
** Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ ** – This one get’s the stars for a reason. They’re beyond awesome. Technically they’re in Kansas! The meat had the perfect balance of smoke and the quality was great. There was very little fat and the meat was full of flavor. The best part of it was the sauce. The sauce was so good that I could put it on ice cream, or cereal, or anything. It’s just sooooo good. I’ve sent a handful of friends and other ballpark chasers to Oklahoma Joe’s and every one of them has come away from it saying how awesome it was. It’s worth the trip! If the promise of an awesome lunch wasn’t enough, you can get a fill-up at the gas station it shares a building with. Looking for a gift for a friend? How about a bottle of BBQ sauce from their 12 feet of tandem filled with tons of local flavors. BTW, I call this picture “Whoops!” because I was so caught up in just how DAMN GOOD it was that I forgot to take a picture until I was half way through!
Kauffman Stadium – I know what you’re thinking. What? Why would I eat at the park when there are just so many places to eat in the city? Well, a few reasons! The first reason is that the park is a ways away from the rest of the city. You’re not walking anywhere from the park. The second reason is that their food is really, really good. If you’re running short on time, eat at the park! And when you’re done eating, head to the Kid Zone and ride the carousel, I did!
Here’s the Stack Sandwich! Steak, onion rings, mushrooms, and BBQ sauce, and so-so good! This was my 3rd meal of the day after my lunches at Arthur Bryants and Gates. It was so awesome that I was tempted to have another!
The Chop Sandwich! Yeah, eating a second Stack Sandwich sounded excessive to me too, so I went with a chop instead. Great tangy sauce with a generous portion of tasty pork. I’d highly recommend either one!
Enjoy the All Star Week in Kansas City! There’s no right answer to which BBQ joint is the best that Kansas City has to offer. There are a ton to choose from, so choose one! (Or two, or three.) Get out of your comfort zone when you’re on the road. Steer clear of McDonalds and Subway, you can get those anywhere! Realize that you’re in a city steeped in history. Have fun, and enjoy the game!