Sometimes the sublime travel experience doesn't have to happen in a destination that's exotic.
I used to travel to Kansas City for work, all the time. While there, I kind of fell in love with the town. There are tons of really fun things to see and do in Kansas City, but the singular experience, in my view, is to sample the fantastic Kansas City-style barbecue. Slowly-smoked meat, with a sweet, spicy and tangy thick sauce is the epitome of Kansas City-style 'cue, and I love, love, love it. David loves it, too!
Recently, I decided to surprise David with a special "barbecue junket" to Kansas City, so that we could try as many of my favorite barbecue spots in one weekend. Here are my top five barbecue spots.
Joe's Kansas City Barbecue used to be known as "Oklahoma Joe's," but apparently the inclusion of "Oklahoma" in the name confused people about the location. The restaurant is not in Oklahoma. It's in an old gas station in Kansas City, Kansas, in fact. They're especially known for their brisket and burnt ends, but, honestly, I've never had anything there that wasn't completely delicious.
Gates Bar B.Q. was actually the first barbecue that I ever had in Kansas City. Their location on Main Street, in Kansas City, Missouri, was just a few blocks from the office that I worked out of whenever I was in town. I'm really partial to their spicy bbq sauce, actually. One time, I was at Gates and dining with a local, and when I dipped my fries in the barbecue sauce, my friend said, "You know how it's supposed to be done."
Arthur Bryant's can trace it's Kansas City barbecue provenance back to its origins, when Henry Perry started smoking ribs in an old trolley barn. Arthur Bryant worked for Perry in his original operation, and then eventually opened his own place. I love the food here. They pile it VERY high on your plate. I know lots of locals who swear that Arthur Bryant's is really the only acceptable place to eat barbecue in Kansas City, but with so many great options, you'll have to judge for yourself.
Hayward's Pit BBQ was actually our first stop on the barbecue junket--we went their right from the airport, but we got a little bit turned around, because they'd moved to a new location since I'd been there the time before. Hayward's is a great exemplar of the Kansas City Style. The food and sauce is delicious, and the atmosphere is cozy and comfortable. They have great, friendly service, too.
Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue has a number of locations, and they've been serving barbecue for sixty years, at this point. You've probably seen them on the Food Network or featured in a magazine, because they're just that good. In fact, Zagat's has rated them the best barbecue in the entire US.
If you need to take a break from eating barbecue, you could mix it up a bit by going to one of Kansas City's incredible steakhouses. Hereford House used to have an old-school steakhouse downtown, but, alas, they're now only located in the 'burbs. Or, if you want to combine your Kansas City steak experience with live jazz, you could go to The Majestic Restaurant.
There's lots to see and do in Kansas City, aside from eating lots of meat. Visit The Negro League Baseball Museum, the Jazz Museum, or take a tour of Arrowhead Stadium (K.C. is a big sports town). You could also go hopping for housewares at Pryde's in Westport--they have colors and pieces of Fiestaware that I've never found anywhere else. If you're looking for a fun weekend in the Mid-west, think about a visit to Kansas City!