Choosing the best BBQ in Kansas City was a tough job. With over 100 barbecue restaurants in the metropolitan area alone, Kansas City is a hub of slow-smoked meats, classic side dishes, and the friendly atmosphere regularly found at these historic establishments. The stunning array of meats and flavors on offer here gives the hungry BBQ enthusiast the chance to sample something different at every joint in town.
In this list, we’ll dive into some of the most famous and popular BBQ restaurants in the city and surrounding areas, as well as a few hidden gems offering up some unique and delicious dishes.
10. Plowboys BBQ
Located in Main Street, Kansas City, Plowboys BBQ is relatively new on the scene. The second restaurant of two locations, owner Todd Johns decided to open a BBQ restaurant in 2013 after spending over a decade on the competitive barbecue circuit.
Along with his brother-in-law, Johns carefully selected the best herbs and spices to create unique rubs, which he began selling before the restaurant opened. After being crowned the American Royal Grand Champion in 2009, there was no stopping him, culminating in the fantastic food available at the restaurant today.
Plowboys BBQ encourages its customers to experiment with their own at-home barbecue and offers a selection of sauces and rubs available for purchase. The menu here is varied but not overwhelming, with a classic selection of smoked meats and tasty sides to choose from, as well as a kids menu.
For Nacho Lovers – You have to try Plowboys BBQ famous BBQ Nachos, which combine classic Kansas City-style BBQ with Mexican cuisine. In-house fried tortilla chips, homemade cheese sauce, sour cream and jalapenos are served with a choice of award-winning BBQ meat, making it a dish you won’t want to miss.
9. Woodyard Bar-B-Que
Steeped in rich family history, Woodyard Bar-B-Que is a family-run, no-frills joint located in Merriam Lane. This restaurant prides itself on being part of the community, welcoming old and new customers with open arms and inviting them to be a part of the BBQ family. The owners, members of the Schloegel and Molloy families, are often present, happy to engage in conversation and boost the atmosphere of the restaurant.
Starting out as a wood-selling business, founder Frank Schloegel II developed his BBQ style while cooking for friends, family, and customers while he sold wood over the phone. His BBQ was a hit, and after many charity and fundraising events, was finally persuaded to open a restaurant so that everyone could enjoy his delicious food. Aptly named, Woodyard Bar-B-Que is also an active wood yard, where customers are able to purchase high-quality seasoned wood for their own personal backyard smokers and grills.
Chili To Die For – Woodyard Bar-B-Que is the proud home of the famous Burnt End Chili, which is a classic three-bean chili topped with tender and flavorful burnt ends. Hearty and meaty, this chili has been featured in ‘500 Things to Eat Before it’s Too Late’ and Food and Wine’s ‘Best Chilis in America.’
8. BB's Lawnside BBQ
Situated in East 85th Street, BB’s Lawnside BBQ is the result of a lifelong dream for owner Lindsay Shannon, supported wholeheartedly by his wife, Jo. The pair opened their restaurant in 1990, choosing the location partly due to full kitchen and historic 1950s smoking pit.
The perfect pair, Lindsay’s love of BBQ and Jo’s Louisiana recipes make BB’s Lawnside BBQ a unique place to eat. Classic smoked ribs, brisket, and wings sit alongside gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. Everything is proudly made from scratch, from the signature sauces down to the bread pudding, creating flavors and dishes that make this BBQ restaurant stand out from the others.
Atmosphere Is Everything – While the food is undoubtedly fantastic on its own, what really draws the crowd is the inclusion of Lindsay’s passion for blues music. The atmosphere is electric while live music is playing, and with frequent performances from fantastic acts, dinner and a show is a treat that everyone will love.
7. Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ
Steeped in history, this BBQ joint located on Southwest Blvd proudly dates its lineage back to the 1930s, when Danny’s father opened his restaurant during the Great Depression. Danny opened his own restaurants as an adult, enforcing a strict 11am – 3pm, lunchtime only schedule; while unconventional for the city and surrounding areas, Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ is often fully seated by midday, a resounding compliment to both the food and the service received.
The ‘Eat It and Beat It’ attitude at this restaurant is one that resonates with its customers, who are a mixture of blue-collar workers and savvy tourists. The signature sauce served here is a big hit, and adapted from Danny’s fathers super spicy sauce. Danny has toned down the chili/cayenne kick, adding gentle spice to the sweet and peppery sauce. The meats served are more classic in cut than some other restaurants, but the simplicity of the menu means that each dish is done well, with side dishes that offer complimentary flavors.
For the Speedy Diner – The service here is quick and friendly, and ideal for those who are looking for a bite to eat rather than a long sit-down meal. No-frills, no-fuss, but full of that delectable Kansas City-style BBQ flavor without the wait-time of a more traditional barbecue restaurant.
6. Arthur Bryant's BBQ
Home of the legendary ‘King of Ribs’, Arthur Bryant’s original Kansas City location is found on Brooklyn Avenue. The staff at each of the Arthur Bryant locations work diligently to ensure his legacy is respected and upheld every day, following his specific recipes and recreating his signature tomato-molasses sauce. This restaurant boasts a unique connection reaching back all the way to Henry Perry himself, with their unique sauce created as a variation to his recipe.
Heritage is important to this restaurant, and the simplicity of the menu reflects that; the low and slow smoked meats include classic cuts such as beef brisket, ribs, and half chickens. The signature side dishes are homemade and imbued with rich flavor, with meals here drawing famous faces to the restaurant. Guests including Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg, and Jack Nicholson have all eaten and enjoyed the food at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ.
Did Someone Say Brisket? – The beef brisket sandwich is the must-eat meal at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, with tender meat and rich, spicy-sweet sauce piled high on two slices of fluffy, carb-y white bread. Simplicity at its finest and most delicious.
5. Char Bar
Char Bar has something for everyone – literally. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, Char Bar calls its patrons ‘Charbarians’, a name designed to be inclusive of everyone who eats there, no matter their diet.
The impressive menu showcases all of the classic BBQ cuts, as well as many items a barbecue enthusiast may not anticipate seeing on there. Dishes such as sunflower salads, smoked chicken nuggets, and the grilled pimento cheese are all available, with specific menus designed for vegetarians, vegans, and those who are gluten-free. Inclusivity is important here, and that brings their customers back time and time again.
Charbarians are invited to soak up the atmosphere at Char Bar, which boasts an impressive 10,000 square foot beer garden, complete with backyard amusements such as ping pong and croquet.
Brunch Fans, Unite! – Char Bar has created a special weekend brunch menu, which is an artful combination of classic BBQ dishes and modern brunch for a unique dining experience. Enjoy staple brunch foods like French toast and eggs alongside burnt ends and pulled pork, all with a glass or two of your choice of adult beverage.
4. Slap's BBQ
One of the youngest of the bunch, Slap’s BBQ first opened its doors on Central Avenue in 2014. The brainchild of brothers Mike and Joe Pearce, the restaurant was the natural progression from their competitive BBQ team, Squeal Like A Pig BBQ. After a second-place win on Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters TV show, the restaurant opened with a couple of hundred pounds of meat – and completely sold out! A true testament to the deliciousness of their food.
To this date, Slap’s BBQ often sells out of food due to their increasing popularity. While the menu isn’t as large or varied as some other restaurants, the end result is always top notch as they pride themselves on creating the best BBQ possible rather than selling the most plates. Some of the more popular plates include the No Cow Combo with turkey, sausage, chicken, or pork, and the mac and cheese with bacon.
Gimme Them Ribs – For BBQ aficionados, you can’t go wrong with the St. Louis-cut pork ribs. Rubbed with a special blend of sweet and spicy seasonings, these ribs are twice smoked over hickory and oak wood for tender meat that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth.
3. Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue
A restaurant steeped in BBQ history, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue all started with Russ Fiorella in 1957. His son, Jack, worked alongside him until he decided to branch off and begin his own BBQ journey. With competition rife in Kansas City in the 1970s, Jack and his wife, Delores, developed their gourmet BBQ by smoking exclusively over hickory for a distinct flavor profile. Up to the present day and with five locations across the city, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue has become into the largest full-service wood cookery in the industry.
With a menu that has been carefully curated for over 50 years, this restaurant offers customers a huge variety of meat, poultry, and fish to choose from, all slow-smoked over hickory for that signature taste. From traditional barbecue to pulled sandwiches and a selection of sides, there is plenty on offer to make a selection from. Not wanting to exclude those who don’t partake, the menu also offers a selection of vegetarian options.
The Sides Have It – The entrees are scrumptious, and the ribs are tender, but Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue is famous in part for one of its most popular side dishes – the Hickory Pit Beans. Smoked, not baked, and mixed with shreds of hickory roasted beef brisket, this side is 20% meat and 100% delicious.
Two locations in Midtown and South Kansas City mean there is plenty of Q39’s signature flavor to be had. Often busy and bustling from open until close, this BBQ restaurant takes great pride in creating their food from scratch, using unique spice blends in precise measurements to produce a flavor only found at Q39.
Founded by Rob Magee, an avid barbecue competitor and classically trained chef who decided to turn his passion from a hobby into a restaurant, Q39 BBQ has won many awards which reflect the dedication and creativity of the food produced there. The restaurants are clean and modern in their appearance, while retaining some of the traditional charm you would find in a more historic location. The menu features classic cuts in different ways, from the pork belly and sausage corn dogs to apple brined pulled pork, each plate offering a twist on the traditional for an exciting dining experience.
It’s the Kansas City Classic – For those who are partial to burnt ends, those crusty, fatty, delicious bites cut from the point of a brisket, the Burnt End Burger at Q39 is an absolute must-eat meal. Completed with a spicy pickle slaw and classic sauce, this burger combines the sweet, the spicy, and the meaty in every mouthful.
1. Joe’s Kansas City BAR-B-QUE
The true masters of BBQ food, Joe’s Kansas City BAR-B-QUE gives customers the opportunity to eat in a unique setting, with food created by the award-winning owners, Jeff and Joy Stehney. With their barbecue team, Slaughterhouse Five, the pair have won the American Royal Open, the American Royal Invitational, and the Lenexa Kansas State BBQ Championship, among others. In 1997, the Stehney’s took over a local gas station and convenience store, setting up a barbecue restaurant inside – and the rest is history.
The novelty of dining inside a gas station is undeniable, and the standard of the food is outstanding. Their goal has only ever been to ‘be the best,’ and by keeping their restaurant to only one location, they are able to keep their focus on producing the highest quality barbecue possible. The menu comprises of all the classics you’d expect from a joint like this, along with a specialty vegetarian sandwich, salads, and an array of side dishes that will make your mouth water.
The Z-Man – Undoubtedly, the dish to try at Joe’s Kansas City BAR-B-QUE is the Z-Man sandwich. Named after a local radio host who raved about their food on air, the Z-Man is a healthy helping of beef brisket, provolone cheese, and onion rings on a toasted Kaiser roll. It’s everything you could want from a sandwich!
Summing Things Up
Kansas City, with its huge barbecue scene, really does have something for everyone. No matter your personal tastes or dietary needs, the inclusivity of Kansas City-style means that you’ll always find something delicious to eat. Steeped in rich history and bubbling with activity, Kansas City could well be the barbecue center of America. The huge variety of meats, preparation styles, and dining experiences are sure to suit both BBQ enthusiasts and those just beginning on their delicious journey.