Memphis & Kansas City: short BBQ tour

Here in NC we love our bbq, and are very proud of it, but, believe it or not, other parts of the country are known for ‘cue too. Two places that might come to mind firstĀ are Memphis and Kansas City. Lucky me recently traveled to both cities, so you know what I was going to be eating! Here’s what I managed to fit in during my brief trip:

Memphis:

Central BBQ – Based on the research I had done, my first choice was Payne’s, but they were closed on the Monday I was in town, so this was my fall back option. I ordered it to-go, but this place had the look and feel of a chain restaurant, which I wasn’t expecting. I ordered a pulled pork plate with beans and cole slaw, plus a large slice of coconut cake (made by a local bakery). The pork was really good, tender and smoky, and I thought the sauce was excellent. It had a unique quality that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The beans were rather mushy and kind of bland The coleslaw was really coarsely (almost randomly) chopped, but tasted nice and creamy. The meal came with a throwaway dinner roll. I saved room for the cake, which was very good.

Kansas City:

Oklahoma Joe’s – This place is in a gas station, but operates like a more established restaurant, with plenty of tables and friendly staff coming to check on you and bring you some wet wipes when you’re done. I ordered a combo plate with pulled pork and ribs, plus creamy coleslaw (they also have the option of “spicy” coleslaw) and french fries. Here the pulled pork had good flavor and was exquisitely tender, but it had an unappealing sliminess. The ribs too were nothing to get excited about in my opinion. The sauce tasted very generic to me, like your standard jazzed up sweetened ketchup. The meal came with a huge paper bag of fries and one or two pieces of texas toast buried under the ribs. It was way too much food, and I didn’t come close to finishing it.

LC’s – This place restored my faith in Kansas City as a bbq mecca. Actually, it did more than that – this was probably the best ‘cue I’ve ever had. At LC’s they do it more of an Arthur Bryant’s style, with smoked sliced meats piled high between some regular old white bread. (I’d been to Bryant’s twice many years ago, and I recall it too being outstanding) The restaurant itself is a bit run-down, and it’s small inside, but it is worth the drive out to the SE corner of the city. Inside, there’s a large vault-like smoker chamber, all blackened and charred, behind the order counter, from which your meat emerges to be sliced to order. I opted for the pork (again!!). The sandwich, if you can really call it that – it’s virtually impossible to lift up and eat with your hands – was awesome. The meat comes out minimally sauced, and you can add more at the table (it’s good), but you hardly need to. The fries weren’t the greatest, so I briefly entertained the idea of ditching the fries and getting another sandwich, but that would have been a bit gluttonous, right? If I’m ever back near Kansas City, this is where I’m going.