Five Kansas City barbecue joints so good you'll cry

Anyone who says Kansas City isn't the king of barbecue towns has been inhaling woodsmoke for too long, or maybe another type of smoke too. BBQ is top dog in KC, and KC is top dog in THE WORLD when it comes to BBQ. When you come to town, there are certain things you just need to do. The most important of them is to cram delicious slow smoked animals into your mouth until you can barely walk. Vegetarian? You can leave now, unless eating coleslaw for a meal sounds like fun, because that's probably the only thing on the menu that hasn't been kissed by the sweet smoky goodness of pork or beef. Put on your stretchy pants, load up on antacids, and let's go put on the feed bag. P.S. We're drinking Kansas City beer with our BBQ too, 'cause KC makes kick-ass beer.

Author's note: The beers listed are taste pairings only and not necessarily served in the listed restaurant, so if you want a full plate and bottle of Kansas City, get that bbq to go, grab a bottle or two, and find a seat on a bench, a curb, your porch, or anywhere else where KC bbq and beer should be consumed (hint: It's good anywhere).


We're going to start at the top of the pile. To say Q39 is the best BBQ in Kansas City is a pretty bold statement, but despite being fairly new on the scene, Q39 has laid an ass whupping on the established leaders of the pack. It's not your typical greasy joint, and it serves fancy cocktails and other froo-froo things that some BBQ "old-schoolers" might laugh at, but the quality of the food is undeniable. The first time I ate here, I was afraid that I had spoiled my ability to eat BBQ anywhere else. They have the best meat in town, period. The burnt ends are the answer to one of those "if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life" questions. The ribs make you wish animals were made from nothing but ribs. Wash anything at Q39 down with a Tank Seven from Boulevard and you can die happy.


Fiorella's Jackstack is old school AF, but it's not an order at the counter, get yelled at if you're too slow, fill your own soda in a questionably clean plastic cup kind of place. The meat at Jackstack is up there with the best, and the Martin City Mayor is one of the best sandwiches in the city, BBQ or not, but Jackstack is on this list for one big reason. The little pot of gold side dish known simply as cheesy corn might be the single best side dish in the history of BBQ. Granted, it could probably clog your arteries and cause you to gain fifty pounds just by looking at it funny, but it is magical. The cheesy, creamy scoop of heaven can get a little heavy, so something light like a City Saison from Martin City Brewing is the perfect pairing.


"HI, may I help you?" is how you will be greeted at the counter every time you set foot in Gates BBQ. It's not just a greeting though, it's an order! You better know what you want, how you want it, sides, everything, or you're getting skipped by the cashier and you're getting a lot side eye and head shakes from those who know the drill. My recommendation is to keep it simple: Beef on bun, fries. That's all you need to know at Gates, where the line often stretches out the door. If you like it hot, go with the house recipe Extra Hot sauce, and then put out some of that fire with a KC Bier Company Dunkel or two. Lunch doesn't get much better, even if your shoes do stick to the floor a little bit.

Joe's Kansas City

Joe's is the standard for award-winning competition and restaurant BBQ in Kansas City. Drive past the iconic original location inside a gas station, and you'll see a line extending out into the parking lot and around the building. I honestly don't know how people justify getting lunch their to their bosses, but maybe the name "Z-Man" helps. The Z-Man is the most famous item on one of the most famous menus in town. Beef brisket, smoked provolone, and onion rings piled high on big ol' bun. Joe's has the best fries anywhere, and their rub makes everything taste better. Grab a Z-Man to go and pair it with a Torn Label Rye-P.A. and you'll know what a proper sandwich tastes like.

BB's Lawnside

BB's is one of the best music venues in Kansas City, which is saying a lot. Their soul, blues, and roots music lineup is reason enough to hit BB's, but we're there for one specific menu item too: the BBQ Sundae. Sound weird? Good, because I'll eat yours too if you don't want it. You get a spoon and a mason jar filled with beans, pulled pork and slaw. It does not get better, and if you disagree you have lost all my respect. Get your groove on at BB's with a Mother's Brewing Three Blind Mice and laugh at your friends who are not smart enough to combine kick ass music and BBQ into one sitting.

Drew has been eating KC barbecue for almost thirty years and drinking its beer for fifteen. He knows that the only bread bbq needs is white, that sauce should be sweet, that EVERY good bbq joint has something cooking that isn't on the menu, and that it all tastes better with beer.