Kansas City Barbeque Joints that Prove to Your Taste Buds Why KC is the BBQ Capital of the World

5 Kansas City Barbeque Joints that Prove to Your Taste Buds Why KC is the BBQ Capital of the World

From tender chunks of beef to saucy ribs, Kansas City is proud of its barbeque. In a city with literally 100 options, here are five Kansas City barbeque joints that prove to your taste buds why Kansas City is the Barbeque Capital of the World.

Home to nearly 100 barbeque joints, Kansas City’s name has been synonymous with slow-cooked, smoked, and grilled meat for more than a century. So visiting the Barbeque Capital of the World and not experiencing Kansas City barbeque is like visiting:

  • Boston and not lingering over a lobster roll,
  • Cincinnati and not chowing down on some chili,
  • New Orleans without munching on a muffuletta, or
  • Philadelphia without polishing off a Philly cheesesteak

But with so many choices, from the moveable feast provided by food trucks to full-service fare at sit-down restaurants, knowing where to go to fully experience Kansas City barbeque can be a tall task. While every local will have his or her favorite, these are the places typically and consistently at the top of personal favorites lists.

But First, A Word About the Word

Over the course of history, there have been more than five accepted spellings for this cooking style. In his diary, George Washington recorded that he attended a “barbicue” on September 18, 1773. But since the Civil War, Americans have settled on two ways to spell the word, barbecue and barbeque.

Bar-B-Q sign of a pig with white lights
In Kansas City, barbeque is spelled with a “q” and not a “c”

Here in Kansas City, we tend to follow the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s lead and use a q. So look for that spelling throughout this post and in all other related articles here at Everyday Wanderer.

Related Article:  The Best Food Gifts from Kansas City

What Makes Kansas City-Style Barbeque So Special?

Cooking meat outdoors over a fire is as universally American as apple pie. But once you peek under the grill cover, you’ll quickly see that barbeque has many regional varieties. Kansas City barbeque is dry rubbed, slow smoked, and smothered with thick, sweet, and tangy barbeque sauce making it the best in the nation. (You know, in my totally unbiased opinion. Wink wink.) 

While pork and beef are the most commonly used barbeque meats across the nation, any meat is fair game when it comes to Kansas City-style barbeque. In this cowtown, look for barbeque turkey, chicken, sausage, and even salmon in addition to pork and beef. If you’ve never heard of (or tried) burnt ends, be sure to add them to your barbeque bucket list. Burnt ends are cubes cut from the “point” portion of a smoked beef brisket. Because they have a higher fat content, they take a little longer to prepare, but the end result is a slightly charred or crusty exterior with an amazingly tender interior.

Want the best Kansas City barbeque delivered to you? Order online via Grubhub!

Have You Tried Kansas City Barbeque?

Share your favorite photo with me by tagging @sagescott.kc on Instagram and using the hashtag #everydaywanderer


Best Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant #1 - Arthur Bryant’s, Where Kansas City Barbeque Was Born

Kansas City’s legendary barbeque got its start with Henry Perry, the father of Kansas City barbeque. After first selling smoked meats to workers in Kansas City’s Garment District, Perry moved to the 18th & Vine neighborhood. Enter brothers Charlie and Arthur Bryant. They worked in Perry’s restaurant, becoming the owners when Perry died in 1940.

When it was time for Arthur to take the reins, he moved the restaurant to its current location. So, if you’re visiting Kansas City’s Jazz District, don’t miss the chance to try the Kansas City barbeque good enough for three presidents, Truman, Carter, and Obama.

Related Article:  Quotes About Kansas City That Will Make You Want to Visit Right Now

A plate of burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's barbeque in Kansas City
The delicious burnt ends at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque. Photo by Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque.

The restaurant’s namesake was known as the King of Ribs. Although Arthur Bryant passed away in 1982, this is still one of the best places in Kansas City to order ribs. With a stronger vinegar and paprika base, Arthur Bryant’s barbeque sauce is different from most other Kansas City barbeque joints, so try a bit before slathering your entree with it. If the sauce isn’t to your liking, consider going sauce-free. You may find that Arthur Bryant’s spice rub does its job solo and you don’t need any sauce after all!

View this post on Instagram

#ArthurBryantsBBQ #BBQ

A post shared by Arthur Bryant's (@arthurbryantskc) on

Visit the original Arthur Bryant’s at 1727 Brooklyn Ave. near 18th & Vine, in Kansas City’s Jazz District. There is a second location at The Legends, on the Kansas side of Kansas City at 1702 Village West Parkway.

Want the best Kansas City barbeque delivered to you? Order online via Grubhub!

Related Article:  The inspirational story behind my chance encounter with an NFL legend at a Kansas City Costco.


Best Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant #2 - Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, a Kansas City Tradition Since 1957

While most of the Kansas City barbeque restaurants on this list are order-at-the-counter kinds of places, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (yes with a “c”) is a full-service restaurant. The sit-down dining experience offered by Jack Stack (and the next two recommendations) move them up my “go to” list of Kansas City barbeque options for business dinners or when friends and family are in town.

Another thing that sets Jack Stack apart from other Kansas City barbeque restaurants is that they have many options for those who don’t eat red meat. From turkey to trout, there are plenty of entree options beyond the expected beef brisket, slab of ribs, pulled pork, and string of sausages.

Jackstack has five locations, from the heart of Kansas City to the Kansas and Missouri suburbs. Find addresses, operating hours, and more at the Jack Stack website. Live outside of Kansas City? Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue ships across the nation and even lets you create your own barbeque super sampler!

Want the best Kansas City barbeque delivered to you? Order online via Grubhub!

Best Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant #3 - Q39, Best for Brisket

What happens when a classically-trained chef moves to Kansas City to work as an executive chef at Hilton? He assembles a team and spends his weekends competing in barbeque competitions, of course! Leveraging his degree from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Rob Magee and his Munchin’ Hogs team repeatedly won big, national barbeque competitions before Chef Magee decided to make his hobby his full-time job.

The award-winning meat served at Q39 is smoked 24 hours a day in three shifts. So as the last guests of the day sit down and start perusing Q39’s menu, the next pit crew is arriving at work to smoke spice-rubbed meat overnight for the next day’s lunch crowd.

Related Article:  How to Experience Kansas City Like the Fab Five from Queer Eye

If you go to Q39 and don’t order the brisket in some fashion — the brisket platter, a burnt end burger, or the baked beans with chunks of brisket in them — you are missing out big time! It’s thickly sliced, tender, and the best you’ll ever taste. But beyond the brisket, be warned that Q39’s menu does not include any turkey or corn-based side dishes. So if your heart is set on smoked turkey breast with a side of cheesy corn, keep reading.

You can enjoy the original Q39 just east of the Kansas/Missouri state line at 1000 West 39th St. (And now you know where they got the 39 in their name.)  They’ve also recently opened a second location at 11051 Antioch Rd. in Overland Park. 

Want the best Kansas City barbeque delivered to you? Order online via Grubhub!

Related Article:  10 Things to do for FREE in Kansas City

Best Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant #4 - Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, the Current King of Kansas City Barbeque

This article started with the original Kansas City barbeque joint, and it finishes with the reigning king of the Kansas City barbeque kingdom. Don’t let the fact that this local legend was born in a gas station deter you. It’s hard to find a better pulled pork sandwich or burnt ends in Kansas City. In fact, I challenge anyone to show me a legitimate Kansas City barbeque list that does not feature Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, likely at the top.

Sage Advice:  If you’re visiting Kansas City with kids, Joe’s Kansas City has one of the best kids meals in Kansas City. Louise’s favorite is the kids chicken dinner. For about $5, she gets a quarter of a chicken, a side of Joe’s amazing fries, and a drink. On Tuesdays, all kids meals are $0.99 all day. Talk about a delicious way to stretch your travel budget!

Related Article:  See the USA – Visit Kansas, the Sunflower State

If you only get to visit Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que once during your trip to Kansas City, then order the Z-Man. This famous sandwich has landed coveted spots on both Thrillist and Zagat lists. The gang at Joe’s tops thick slices of brisket with smoked provolone cheese, a couple of onion rings, and a bit of tangy barbeque sauce before placing it all on a Kaiser bun.

Order online and have a Z-Man, seasoned fries, and other delicious barbeque dishes from Joe’s Kansas City delivered to you via Grubhub.

A Z-Man brisket sandwich at Joe's Kansas City in Kansas City
The legendary Z-Man sandwich! Photo by Joe’s Kansas City.

What self-respecting BBQ joint would put a vegetarian sandwich on its menu? We would, that’s who.”
~ Joe’s Kansas City Menu

If you don’t eat meat, it can be a challenge to find a vegetarian meal in a town nicknamed “The Barbecue Capital of the World.” Fortunately for vegetarians, an alternative version of the Z-Man substitutes smoked beef brisket with a smoked portobello mushroom that is otherwise finished in the same fashion. Flavorful and filling, even carnivores won’t miss the meat in this variation of the classic.

Sage Advice:  Hundreds of the legendary Z-Man sandwiches are ordered and enjoyed daily, and on Saturday each location can come close to making 1,000 Z-Men!

While the Joe’s Kansas City’s original, gas station location at 3002 West 47th Ave is as popular as ever, there are now three Joe’s Kansas City locations across the Kansas City Metro. Visit any day but Sunday to round out your Kansas City barbeque experience. And, at long last, Joe’s Kansas City ships nationwide!

Sage Advice:  For another take on Joe’s Kansas City, read Getting Saucy by Love, Laughter, and Luggage.

What's The Best BBQ In Kansas City?

What’s your favorite place to enjoy barbeque in Kansas City? Do you prefer ribs, burnt ends, or sliced meat? Do you slather your KC BBQ with barbeque sauce or prefer to focus on the dry rub? Or maybe you’re all about the sides? Is there another Kansas City barbeque restaurant that you’d add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Kansas City straddles the states of Missouri and Kansas


Best KC BBQ - Pin 3 - JPG
Best KC BBQ - Pin 1 - JPG
Best KC BBQ - Pin 2 - JPG

Ready to Go?
Use These Helpful Links to Book Your Trip!

More Articles You'll Love!

Midwestern Stereotypes Thumbnail

Midwestern Stereotypes. Debunked by people who live in flyover states.

Reasons to Explore via a Scavenger Hunt

Explore via an Interactive Scavenger Hunt. Seven reasons you should take a scavenger hunt today!

Barbeque Quotes. 23 quotes that will make your mouth water.

Thank you for sharing!

19 thoughts on “Kansas City Barbeque Joints that Prove to Your Taste Buds Why KC is the BBQ Capital of the World”

  1. First time exploring KC last weekend; our family’s favorite BBQ that we tried was at BB’s Lawnside. Just caught the end of the live music there which was wayyyy too loud (I go to concerts all the time, but this was uncomfortably loud!) Not sure if it’s always like that or just the band that happened to be playing…I loved the BBQ sundae.

    1. My son is a musician and LOVES BB’s. Glad you loved the BBQ sundae. Now you only have about 99 more BBQ places to try in KC! 🙂

    1. Being a Texan, you absolutely get to disagree with me! I have family in South Texas, and there’s always a spirited debate about who has the best BBQ: Kansas City or Texas! 🙂

  2. Wow, it’s like Kansas City is the Buenos Aires of North America. I did get the chance to see both K.C.s in 2006, but didn’t eat any BBQ.

    1. Kansas City — the Paris of the Plains and the Buenos Aires of North America. I think that could work! 🙂 Also, you MUST come back and eat BBQ. Visiting KC and not eating BBQ is like visiting Maine and not eating lobster!

  3. There’s only two on the list I have yet to try. I keep hearing great things about Q39. Blind Box Barbecue is one I’ve never heard of so, this is great. Thanks!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top