Kansas City is one of the premiere BBQ locations in the US. In KC they are especially well known for beef. This is likely due to their function as a logistical hub moving beef from some of the major grazing areas in Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska to other major US cities. Because beef is a “cash crop” they have found ways of making some of the “less desirable” parts of the cow tastier, preserving the more expensive and profitable parts of the cow for export. My favorite example of this its what they call “burnt ends.”
Burnt ends are tasty little bits of meat cut from the point of a smoked brisket. Burnt ends are a staple of Kansas City BBQ culture. They have a higher fat content than the rest of the brisket and often feature more “bark” (char) than the rest of the brisket. They are usually served cubed and often include a sauce on the side or on top. Sauces are another thing they do very well in KC. Their sauces are typically tomato-based and, of all the major BBQ destinations, are the closest to the traditional Barbeque Sauce condiment most people are familiar with.
After arriving in KC, it was clear that we would have many different options for good BBQ. We were staying in the section of town known as Country Club Plaza. A review of several food apps on my phone listed numerous viable options. Many of the options were highly-rated and included great pictures and descriptions of the various restaurants we were considering. Selecting the right one was clearly going to be a difficult task. However I consider so many good options to be a “good problem” to have.
When I find myself in a situation like this, I use a few different methods to make my choice. The simplest method is to use an app like Yelp and rely on statistics, location and intuition. That is what I chose to do in this scenario. I spent some time looking for nearby barbecue restaurants with high ratings. After I had identified those, I spent some time reading the reviews. You quickly realize that not all reviews are created equal. Some provide lots of information and pictures while others just say something like “good meal” and let that be the end of it.
I quickly zeroed in on a place nearby our hotel called Q39. When looking for a good barbecue I normally focus on “dives” rather than nicer places. I often tell my friends and family that some of the greatest meals I’ve ever had involved a little bit of fear before entering the door. I could quickly tell by the pictures of Q39 that it was not a dive. I also got the impression that it was more of a local’s place than a tourist place, which I prefer.
When we arrived the place was packed. It was mostly a young to middle-age urban professional type of crowd. Judging by all the Royals and Chiefs gear that people were wearing, I was fairly certain that this was indeed a “locals’ joint”. We were told to expect a 20 to 30 minute wait. Mind you this was past 7 PM on a weeknight in the Midwest. I knew that the wait would be time well spent, and quickly agreed. They were able to seat us within about 20 minutes, as they had promised.
The service was pleasant and the staff was friendly. I ordered a platter that featured burnt ends, brisket, beans, vegetables and cornbread. While everything was tasty, the burnt ends were the real highlight. They have the perfect fat to meat ratio, just the right amount of char, and were bursting with flavor.
We ate at several other barbecue restaurants during our trip. A couple of them were far more famous than Q39. However, we spent the rest of the trip chasing what we had eaten on the first night. I highly recommend this place if you like barbecue and are in the Kansas City area. For more information visit their website: www.q39kc.com