What do you eat when you are in Kansas City? Bar-be-que, of course.
And, to those in the know, there is no better standard for Kansas City BBQ than the original Arthur Bryant’s.
Yes, the Arthur Bryant’s that was seen on the Food Network. The one that has a line out the door at almost all times. The one that has walls lined with framed copies of the many articles written about it over the years. There’s one from Nation’s Restaurant News, Southern Living, Bon Appetit, Better Homes and Gardens, the local Kansas City Star . . . even People Magazine and Esquire.
The reviews help pass the time while you wait in line, in a narrow line of two-way traffic. Be prepared to be a little cold if you sit by the door in the winter, because the door is constantly opening for the next group that can squeeze in. But it’s a congenial crowd, hanging onto their social graces in anticipation of good BBQ, and sharing their own anecdotes.
“I’ve been coming here for 53 years. I’ve got a lot of history here,” says one.
“Get the rib tips,” says another. “Or not. It’s all good.”
“One difference between here and Gates is you get more here,” confides someone else.
And, there are lessons in how to order, with the natives willing to acclimate the newcomer. “Get the short end,” we’re advised. “There are 13 bones in a rack of ribs. The long end is the longer bones, but the short end actually has more meat.”
The rib tips are also recommended, and have hunks of meat clinging to bits of bone—like little mini-ribs. The sandwiches, on white bread, are thick enough that you aren’t quite sure your mouth can get completely around a bite. Leftovers, which are rare, are wrapped up in brown paper, with the pickle, meat, and fries all rolled together.
The original restaurant location has three rooms of tables where people carry their orders—a combo of ribs and burnt ends, pork served sliced or pulled, sausage, turkey, brisket and more. It’s all hickory smoked, and sides include fries, baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad, and you can get meats by the pound, or even custom smoke meat you bring in.
Sauces are on the table, with three from which to choose. The original is a vinegar-base, then there is a sweet, and a sweet and spicy.
Our favorites: the turkey was the winner, followed by the rib tips, both with the sweet and spicy sauce. For a side, go with the baked beans; they were flavorful with big chunks of meat.
Don’t go if you need to be catered to or served with a white tablecloth and a white-gloved waiter. This isn’t that kind of place. It’s noisy, and pushy, and you’ll talk to strangers.
And, you’ll have some of the best BBQ you’ve ever eaten. See you in Kansas City.