I’ve officially earned the title of BBQ snob in my family, and I have to admit: I probably deserve thedistinction.My mother made the slightly snide comment about my reputation concerning smoked meats and barbecue sauce to my now out-of-town uncle. My family is all from Platte County, but he now lives in New York so I took the task of acquiring BBQ for an impromptu family gathering on Sunday night as a challenge.
I hadn’t thought about snobbery until that moment.
The recent trend in Kansas City food is to make BBQ — specifically, good BBQ. There’s been good BBQ in the area for a really long time, but it’s really jumped up in prominence in recent years.
I remember making a trip to the famous American Royal BBQ competition as a child. I recall mostly riding a bike that I borrowed from a friend throughout the venue in a practice most parents would probably frown upon in today’s culture.
We didn’t really eat at BBQ restaurants. For a long time, I referred to making steaks, hamburgers, bratwursts, etc. on the Weber as barbecue. That’s not right at all. That’s called grilling.
BBQ is something completely different and tough to do well at home.
I didn’t make this distinction until much later in life, probably in the last five years or so when I began marking landmark BBQ joints off my list and trying to form some sort of personal power rankings for my favorite spots.
My inexperience with the restaurants also came with another challenge: I didn’t necessarily know what I liked or what to order. Sampling and experimentation has helped open my eyes to the options and what to look for when trying out a new place.
That often means multiple trips to one spot to get a true gauge on the quality of brisket, ribs, burnt ends and pulled pork plus the added grading of side options and sauce.
All of this is very important to this art. Wait. Did I just type art?
Good lord. My snobbery might be out of control, you guys. Someone probably needs to rein me back in to reality a bit.
Yet, all of these things were on my mind as I searched for carryout BBQ on a Sunday night in the Northland. As I cycled through the options in my brain, I suddenly came to a realization that almost all of the best BBQ places reside south of the river in Kansas City or across the state line in Kansas.
Or at least most of my favorites.
Smokehouse Bar-B-Q, the original on North Oak Trafficway but with a fairly new location in Zona Rosa, makes my top 10. Smokebox BBQ on NW Ambassador serves me well as a quick lunch spot. Hawg Jaw Fritz and Next Year’s Winner BBQ — both in Riverside — have been intriguing newcomers that need more sampling.
But that’s about it in the Northland, unless I’m missing someone, and I probably am.
There are so many options but it takes a lot for a location to hop into my top tier like Q39 (simply the best), Joe’s Kansas City (the staple trendy place) and L.C.’s (so sketchy, yet so delicious). I won’t bore you with the full list here out of respect for your time and my space.
Although, I’m always happy to entertain the subject in polite conversation.
I’ve heard rumblings that Q39 wants to open a Northland location but haven’t seen any set plans. While this would be gladly welcomed by my vehicles’ odometers, that also means there’s still a void to be filled in the area.
Whether that’s the existing places improving or someone else looking to make a name, the Northland should be an exciting spot.
I went with Smokehouse the other night and was not disappointed. The family members served were all equally pleased.
With the places, I’ve talked about there are options near and far that I know will suffice, and I’ve got a short list of other places to try already going in my head. Adding a few more destinations close to home wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just know it takes a little something special — meat, side, sauce — to catch and hold my attention.
After all, I am a bit of a BBQ snob.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.