barbecue, brisket, joe's kc, kansas city, ks, oklahoma joe's

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas

Joe’s KC brisket sandwich.  A large helping of meat and a huge helping of fries!

The three most common questions I get from people who ask me about my barbecue quest are:

1)  Have you tried Joe’s KC yet?
2)  Have you tried Oklahoma Joe’s yet?
3)  Have you tried Joe’s yet?

I decided to visit Joe’s KC today in the original gas station location because I’m getting sick of answering “I’ve been there before, but haven’t visited as part of my barbecue quest to do an official review.”  Now I can say “Yes I have!”

Joe’s KC started in 1990 as a competition barbecue team called Slaughterhouse Five.  They quickly started winning barbecue contests, including the Lenexa barbecue battle and the American Royal.  From their website…”Out on the competition circuit, Jeff and Joy had become friends with Joe Don Davidson, founder and owner of the Oklahoma Joe’s Smoker Company. Under the heady influence of barbecue smoke, Jeff and Joe decided to go into the restaurant business together.  Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue and Catering was created in mid-1995, and the first Oklahoma Joe’s restaurant opened in January 1996 in Stillwater, Oklahoma…Later that year, experience and commitment intersected with opportunity and serendipity at the corner of 47th Avenue and Mission Road in Kansas City, Kansas, where the owner of a little neighborhood gas station and convenience store, not far from the Stehneys’ house, closed the little fried chicken counter he had been operating inside the store. “It seemed like a pretty good place for a barbecue joint,” Jeff says. “Inside a gas station. Plus, there was a liquor store next door, in the same building, which was kind of cool. But the main thing was that it was close to home. I knew we’d be putting in some long hours, and being close to home would be a really good thing. We put together a proposal, made an offer, and all of a sudden we were not only in the barbecue business, but also in the gas station business… 1997, Joe Davidson sold his smoker company and moved to Texas. With no one to oversee the Oklahoma restaurant, it was closed and Jeff and Joy bought Joe’s share of the Kansas City restaurant. The Stehneys have been the sole owners of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que restaurants from that time forward.”

I first heard of “Oklahoma Joe’s” when they advertised on sports radio 1510 in the mid 90’s.  1510 was a startup all sports station in town and they had a guy who hosted the afternoon show named Mike Zarrick, also known as the “Z-Man.”  He was the guy who held the 2 PM to 6 PM time slot before Kevin Kietzman eventually took over and has been doing it ever since.  I listened to Z-Man every day.  Since they were a startup company, each host had to sell their own advertising.  Zarrick loved Oklahoma Joe’s barbecue and asked if they would be an advertiser.  They agreed and came up with a promotion for a new sandwich.  Since Z-Man was always talking about it on the air, everyone would come into the gas station and ask for the “Z-Man” sandwich.  The name stuck and they have kept the name to this day.  I always thought that was pretty cool.  Z-Man is not on the radio in town anymore, but Joe’s pays homage to him by keeping his name associated with the popular sandwich.

I arrived at the restaurant around noon on Friday.  There was already a huge line that was 12 deep outside the door to the restaurant!

I snapped this picture when I finally got in the door.

It took me about 40 minutes to get through the line to the counter to place my order.  This is a place where you order at the counter, they serve you there, and you seat yourself.  I ordered a large brisket sandwich with fries.  My order was around 12 dollars and I received it a couple minutes after paying.  They serve the sandwich on a bun cut in half with sauce on the sandwich.  The brisket was warm (not hot) and tender, but had a little too much sauce on it for my taste.  The meat was thinly sliced and was a bit bland to be honest.  It was a good sandwich, but not great.

I decided to try their sauce with my fries.  The fries had a great tasting seasoning on them. I actually buy their fry seasoning and use it at home on stuff.  I’m obviously a big fan of it.  Their sauce is tangy with a little sweetness and kick to it.  A really good sauce overall.

There was a lot of meat on the sandwich and the side of fries was a huge serving.  For 12 bucks you definitely get your money worth.  I couldn’t even finish the fries because I was stuffed.  When I left Joe’s around 1:00 the line was still out the door and was as long as it was when I got there.

In July, the New York Post rated the 28 best barbecue places in America and named Joe’s Kansas City number one.  When someone told me that my first reaction was to say “Joe’s does a great job marketing, don’t they?”  I read the article on the New York Post website and there is no indication that the person who wrote the article and made the rankings visited any of the restaurants like I am doing.  The write-ups on each place sound like generic marketing text.  I don’t really trust someone in New York to rank the best barbecue places in the country, especially without visiting them.  At least they could make a list of what the general consensus says is the top 100, or the top couple in each state, and visit all of them before making a ranking of them.  But what do I know?

I have had people tell me that Joe’s has the best brisket in town.  If you have said that to me, you REALLY need to check out a couple of the places I have already visited and try their brisket.  I am not kidding.  Send me a personal message and I’ll let you know which ones to go try.  You owe it to yourself to do it!

This is the 19th visit on the quest!  I still can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m going to keep plugging away!  This has been a blast so far!  Till next time….