The Best BBQ In Kansas City guide image


The Best BBQ In Kansas City

All the best brisket, ribs, and more from the BBQ capital of the Midwest.

BBQ is a lifestyle in KC—a religion, even. But to publicly declare your BBQ allegiance in Kansas City is a gamble. People are hardcore about where they get their meat, sides, and sauce, and taking a definitive position might mean you need to consider the Witness Protection Program. 

While North Carolina and St. Louis are famous for their thin, vinegar-based sauces and Texas is known for its rubs and smoke, Kansas City offers the thick, rich glazes that many people expect when they think of a classic BBQ sauce.

We wish you had time (or an extra stomach) to try them all, but you’ll find our favorites on this guide. You'll read about ribs straight out of a hickory smoker, places to see live music venues whose sauces you’ll wanna sip like a fine wine, and where to find some delicious sandwiches. A quick note: Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) and Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) share a border across the state line, but it’s easy to get between the two cities and very feasible to try the best burnt ends in both KCs in one afternoon. Looking for the best spots that serve more than BBQ? Check out our full guide to the best restaurants in Kansas City.


photo credit: Shanley Cox

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que review image

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que


3002 W 47th Ave, Kansas City
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Joe’s is the gold standard of local barbecue, and it’s just five minutes away in Kansas City, Kansas from Midtown. When you pull up to this functioning gas station/restaurant and see the wait, you might consider going back to Missouri. Don’t. Get in line, make some friends, and enjoy the convenience store-meets-busy dining room vibes. 

Here’s your order: burnt ends, ribs, and the Z-Man Sandwich that’s loaded with brisket, provolone, onion rings, and barbecue sauce, all on a kaiser roll. Another great option is the Rocket Pig with pulled pork, fried jalapeños, bacon, and cheese that pairs perfectly with the Night of the Living Pig spicy BBQ sauce. It might take upwards of 30 minutes to get your food, but it’s worth it—you can also always order online ahead of time and pick it up from the drive-thru.

Slap’s, like Joe’s, is another KCK barbecue spot with long lines and counter service, but what really makes it stand out is its two sauces. Their spicy sauce is traditional barbecue with a kick, while the sweet one tastes overwhelmingly like honey. We have indeed seen people drinking the sauces like they’re cocktails, but we prefer dipping hush puppies or fries in them instead. 

Get here when they open at 11am and order the Mike Johnson sandwich that combines brisket, jalapeño sausage, and white sauce on a pretzel bun. Just know that Slap’s shuts its doors as soon as they run out of food, so you’ll want to get there before 1pm to beat the lunch rush.

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If you’re looking for a spot where you won’t find a crowd of people wearing plastic bibs covered in sauce, go to Q39 right off 39th Street in Midtown. This is cloth-napkin BBQ, with a modern farmhouse-style dining room that proudly displays all the trophies they’ve won for their meats. Their sauces are standouts: pick between their original sauce—sweet and apricot molasses-based—and their zesty sauce with apple cider vinegar for some tang. Get yourself an order of burnt ends or a meat platter to try some spare ribs, brisket, and chipotle sausage.

With its red and white checkered tablecloths and jugs of iced tea, Danny’s is exactly what you might picture when you think of a classic barbecue spot in Kansas City. Come here for the Danny’s Special where you can get any meat and two sides for $12.50, or split the combo plate which comes with ribs, burnt ends, and brisket. For a side, we’d recommend getting an order of the smoky baked beans—they come with generous chunks of pork that may well fill you up on their own.

The inside of BB’s is like a shrine to what KC does best: blues and BBQ. Take a seat inside and enjoy the murals and posters dedicated to jazz musicians, or get a picnic table on their patio to listen to live music featuring local blues performers from around Kansas City. Order the BB’s King Combo: you get four ribs, sausage (which is store-bought, but still gets the job done), and your choice of one meat—go with the beef brisket, and pay a little extra for the burnt ends as well. When it comes to sauce, their Sweet Heat Peach Sauce is like a spicy, fruity jam that pairs perfectly with the smoky, tender brisket.

photo credit: Jack Kapple

Buck Tui BBQ review image

Buck Tui BBQ



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Buck Tui is owned by the couple that started Waldo Thai, and the fusion of Thai flavors and BBQ feel long overdue in a town that does both cuisines so well. They serve their meats with both BBQ and Tiger Cry sauce (a spicy vinegar with chilis and fish oil), which is a solid pairing with their brisket, ribs, and pork with Thai spices. Start with butterscotch chicken wings and move on to the burnt ends red curry, phad thai with brisket, or coconut fried rice served out of a hollowed-out pineapple. They have an airy dining room, and it’s only a 15-minute drive to the more suburban Overland Park on the Kansas side.

LC’s is unmatched in smoke and seasoning. While there are bars on the window, we like to think they’re there to protect the best-seasoned ribs in Kansas City. The smell of meat hits you the moment you walk into this roadside joint—it’s all coming from the hickory smoker that’s right behind the counter, and there’s a sign reminding you not to lean on the counter while ogling the beautiful smoker. 

You’ll get a styrofoam plate filled with their tender burnt ends and crispy fries, and you should pile on their famous sauce and mop it all up with slices of Wonder Bread. Their homemade pork sausage couldn’t be more different from the processed franks elsewhere—you can really taste the smoke and the spices and see the finely ground chunks of meat in the casing. These are hands-down the best sausages in town.

After visiting the American Jazz Museum in the 18th & Vine neighborhood, make your way to this iconic barbecue spot that opened in 1908 for a quick lunch. Emphasis on quick—they like to keep things moving, so step up to the counter and have your order ready. It’s the oldest BBQ spot in town, and seriously, everyone’s been here: whether that’s Jimmy Carter or our Aunt Gwenn who demanded a visit after hearing about Arthur Bryant’s in the '80s. 

Stop by to try their tomato-forward original sauce that has a similar taste and consistency to a thick Bloody Mary, or their saltier Rich & Spicy sauce that packs some heat. As far as meats go, most places on this list can scratch the pulled pork itch, but Arthur Bryant’s smoked turkey may be the best in town. Order the open-face burnt ends sandwich or get the turkey sandwich with some crispy fries.

Head across the river to North Kansas City where you’ll find a cute downtown full of distilleries, breweries, and the pickleball court and bar Chicken N Pickle. There’s a lot to check out, but make your first stop at F325. It’s one of the newer BBQ joints on the scene, but they’ve done their homework: their three-meat plate gives you tender burnt ends, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and really well-spiced homemade kielbasa with two sides for $22. If you’re less hungry, visit Cinder Block Brewery right next door—you can have food sent over from F325 if you start craving their amazing fried pickles while sipping a beer or cider.

Westport is one of the best neighborhoods for bar-hopping in Kansas City, and Char Bar is a great place to kick off the night if you’re with a group. Start with their cornbread and jalapeño muffins with pepper jam and hot honey, and then fight over The Whomp! Platter, which gives a comprehensive sampling of meats—brisket, sausage, ham, ribs, burnt ends—and comes with two sides (go for the homemade potato salad and beans). 

This spot is co-owned by the team behind Meat Mitch, but Char Bar is our preferred spot because they have corn hole and are close to a bunch of great bars. Stop by Julep for a cocktail or Harry’s for a craft beer on the patio.

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Suggested Reading

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The Best Restaurants In Kansas City, Missouri

How to eat your way through KCMO’s diverse and growing food scene.

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Cheese-stuffed burgers, Hmong sausage, sambusas, and more great things to eat in Minnesota’s most populous city.

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If you’re looking to eat BBQ in Chicago, head to one of these spots.

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