Earlier last week I made a bit of a road trip to see a few Morrissey shows, one of those shows was in Kansas City. I have a few very good friends in that town, and every time I go there can be assured of at least two things – that I’ll be in impeccable company, and that I will eat very well.
This last trip was no exception. I’ve known my pal Kevin since 1991 – we met at Mizzou, and have been friends since. Kev is from KC and I can always count on him to expose me to a local eatery that leaves me wondering: “Could this get any better?” Kansas City is the absolute and utterly undisputed epicenter of the barbecue universe – many places try to emulate it, but fail miserably. I was in a bbq place in Florida that had just recently opened a few years ago, and the owner was walking around asking people how they liked everything. He was pretty confident in his product, and asked me if I’d had better – I told him I’ve been to Kansas City, and he said “well, that’s a completely different deal – they invented barbecue.”
Kev asked me if I’d ever been to Arthur Bryant’s, a bbq establishment in Kansas City that’s been clogging peoples arteries since the 1920’s, and I said no. He went on to explain that the line outside this establishment goes out the door and around the building, especially when the Cardinals are in town for inter-league play. On the way to AB, Kev was painting a beautiful picture of what we were about to consume: “My favorite is the pork and beef combo sandwich. It’s an insane amount of meat – enough for two or three meals, served between two little pieces of bread. The bread doesn’t stand a chance.” He then went on to extol the virtues of Arthur Bryant’s original sauce: “The original sauce in my opinion is a very acquired taste – Scott (another very good pal from KC with an unexplainable and insatiable ketchup fetish) doesn’t like it as it’s not similar enough to ketchup. The sauce is difficult to explain – it’s not spicy, and not sweet either.”
Kev went out on a bit of a limb taking me to Arthur Bryant’s – he’s taken me to other KC barbecue places in the past, and he always tells me that the place we’re going is good – but this time, he said this was his favorite KC barbecue joint. That doesn’t sound like a very big deal, but it places an incredible amount of pressure on Kevin – if the establishment isn’t up to snuff, it will reflect personally on him.
We finally get there – two fat guys getting out of a MINI was a quite funny sight indeed, and we walked in. The smell was absolutely perfect – smoked meat and sauce. The entry was lined with photos of famous people who’ve gone in to clog their arteries – from celebrities to presidents. Kev ordered his usual, I got a rack of ribs and a pound of smoked beef. We sit down at the table and Kev looks a little nervous. As he explains the different sauces (original, rich & spicy, sweet heat) he again warns me that the original sauce is an acquired taste, and very tepidly watches me as I take the first bite of smoked beef doused in the original sauce. With one bite, I tell Kev that the taste has been acquired. Kev makes a big exhale, and all is well. It was the best bbq combo I’d ever had – the sauce tailed off wonderfully, like a good wine. The beef was just about perfect, with lots of smoke flavor. According to AB’s website, they use a combination of Hickory and Oak, and the brick smoker is in full view of patrons which is a nice touch. If you’re ever in KC I’d highly recommend it, I give the place 5 stars.
It was a great night – consuming large quantities of smoked meat with my pal Kevin, and a Morrissey show. With all that food sitting in my stomach the all night drive back to Chicago after the Moz show was a bit difficult, but at least I wasn’t hungry. I’ll hopefully be exposing Kev to some Chicago pizza in much the same way this summer to pay him back for the KC bbq experience.