KCMOGuide

The Best BBQ In Kansas City, Ranked

All the best brisket, ribs, and more from the BBQ capital of the Midwest.
Sampler plate at Slap's BBQ

photo credit: Jack Kapple

BBQ is a lifestyle in KC. A religion, even. So to publicly declare your BBQ allegiance (let alone rank places) is a gamble. In a perfect world, you’d have the time (or an extra stomach) to try all the BBQ spots on this list and their unique spins on KC’s famously thick, rich sauces. Ranking them is like ranking our children—seemingly impossible, perhaps morally questionable—but we're going to do it anyway because you deserve it. On this guide, you’ll find the greatest hits, newer spots, and places doing innovative twists like brisket red curry and peach BBQ sauce. 

Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) and Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) share a border across the state line, but it doesn’t matter which side you’re on. Both have top-notch BBQ, so it’s easy to enjoy as many of these iconic sandwiches, hickory-smoked ribs, and sauces as you can. In short, if it’s on the list, you can’t go wrong.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Shanley Cox

BBQ

Kansas City, Kansas

$$$$Perfect For:Impressing Out of TownersLiterally EveryoneUnique Dining Experience

Even though it’s in Kansas, Joe’s is the gold standard of local BBQ. We have a ritual of bringing out-of-towners we love most (you’re welcome!) to experience the Z-Man sandwich that’s loaded with brisket, provolone, onion rings, and BBQ sauce, just so we can watch their eyes light up when they take a bite. Both Joe’s thick classic and spicy sauces pair perfectly with expertly seasoned ribs and smoky burnt ends, and their fries may also be the best in town. There’s always going to be a wait at this functioning gas station/restaurant, so get in line, make some friends, and enjoy the convenience store-meets-busy-dining room vibes.

photo credit: Jack Kapple

Every time we visit LC’s, we end up covered in sauce, smelling like hickory, and feeling like we experienced how BBQ is meant to be. You’ll get a Styrofoam plate filled with their tender burnt ends and delightfully smoked ribs with a thick layer of BBQ sauce caramelized right on top. You can never have enough of LC’s sauce, so take that squeeze bottle, pile more on, and mop it all up with slices of Wonder Bread. Their homemade pork sausage couldn’t be more different from some of the processed franks elsewhere. These are hands-down the best sausages in town, and you can really taste the smoke and spices and see the finely ground chunks of meat in the casing.

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Q39 earns the BBQ bronze medal because it’s one of the few cloth-napkin places where you can still go feral on every last piece of meat. Get yourself an order of burnt ends or a platter where you can try some spare ribs, brisket, and chipotle sausage. Their sauces are standouts: pick between their original—sweet and apricot molasses-based—and their zesty sauce with apple cider vinegar for some tang. The grilled salmon salad and salmon dip are also excellent, as are their onion straws.

Buck Tui could only happen in a BBQ capital like Kansas City. The restaurant is owned by the Waldo Thai chef’s husband, and blends KC smoke with Thai flavors to create an unexpected but incredible combo. You get fusions of tangy Tiger Cry sauce with smoked brisket, the X-Man sandwich (which is a twist on Joe’s iconic Z-Man), and other tasty dishes like fried rice served in a giant pineapple. They have an airy, casual dining room, making this a great place for a family BBQ outing (that won’t make you smell like hickory smoke).

Located 25 minutes north of downtown, Scott’s Kitchen is far enough out of Kansas City that there are other places for BBQ we’d send you to first. But its proximity to the airport means we’d be mad if you flew into KC and didn’t stop in for their BBQ and pulled rib tacos with Alabama white sauce. Their sampler platters can feed anywhere from two to six people and include charred burnt ends, ghost pepper sausage, and some of the best sides in KC: delicious baked beans loaded with chunks of burnt ends and refreshingly spicy coleslaw with apples and jalapeños. This is also one of the few places in town that does BBQ for breakfast—they open at 7am, so you can have a burnt ends burrito waiting for you after that Sunday night red-eye.

There’s a lot to check out across the river in North Kansas City, the highlight being 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 and some well-spiced homemade kielbasa that come with two sides for $24.50. If you’re less hungry, visit Cinder Block Brewery right next door—you can have food sent over from F325 if you start craving a brisket burger or their amazing fried pickles while sipping a beer or cider.

Slap’s, like Joe’s, is another KCK BBQ spot with long lines and counter service, but what makes it stand out are the sauces. Their spicy sauce is traditional BBQ with a kick, while the sweet one tastes overwhelmingly like honey, and we have indeed seen people drinking them like they’re cocktails. We prefer putting the sauces on the Mike Johnson sandwich that combines brisket, jalapeño sausage, and white sauce on a pretzel bun, or dipping some hush puppies or fries in them instead. Get here when they open at 11am, as food starts to run out after lunch (with burnt ends being the first to go).

BB’s interior is a shrine to what KC does best: blues and BBQ. Take a seat inside and enjoy the murals and posters dedicated to blues musicians, or get a picnic table on their patio to listen to 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. When it comes to sauce, their sweet heat peach tastes like a spicy, fruity jam and pairs well with the smoky, tender brisket.

With its red and white checkered tablecloths and jugs of iced tea, Danny’s is exactly what you probably picture when you think of a classic BBQ spot in Kansas City. Come here for lunch and order the Danny’s Special where you can get any meat and two sides for $12.49, or split the combo plate which comes with ribs, burnt ends, and brisket. For a side, it’s all about the smoky baked beans—they come with generous chunks of pork that’ll probably fill you up on their own.

Opened in 1908, Arthur Bryant's is the oldest BBQ spot in town. It feels like everyone’s been here, whether that’s Jimmy Carter or our Aunt Gwenn who demanded a visit after hearing about it in the '80s. This smoked turkey may be the best around—get it in a sandwich or buy some by the pound to make your own for an upgraded workday lunch. Their tomato-forward original sauce has a similar taste and consistency to a thick Bloody Mary (in a good way), while their saltier rich and spicy sauce packs some serious heat. Come here for a quick lunch after visiting the American Jazz Museum.

If you want to recreate the feeling of a summer BBQ (complete with yard games), Char Bar is a great place to kick off the night with a group. Start with their cornbread jalapeño muffins with pepper jam, chive butter, and hot honey. Then, sample the best of the menu with The Whomp! Platter, which has a spread 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 it has one of the best patios for corn hole and it’s near great bars nearby like Harry’s or Westport Cafe.

Night Goat is a Thursday-only BBQ speakeasy downstairs from Fox and Pearl (which you should also check out). Their limited menu constantly changes, and no matter what, they always find ways to serve BBQ that’s different from other spots around town. Just take the pork belly burnt ends that come on pork fat tortillas or jalapeño cheddar sausage with a spicy pickle mix. They have three sauces to choose from, and we prefer their mustard and pickled jalapeño sauce over their slightly less flavorful BBQ sauce. We’re excited to check out their full-time honky-tonk-themed space that’s opening in the spring of 2024.

Wolfepack used to operate out of Callsign Brewing in North Kansas City, and now has a brick and mortar in Columbus Park. The patio often has live music, and the meats are smoked daily by an expert pitmaster—the brisket is marbled enough to look like it could line a Renaissance palace in Florence. While the slightly bitter sauce is a change of pace from many sweeter molasses-based ones you'll find in KC, the meats and sides (especially the vinegar-based coleslaw) will wow you. If you need a caffeine boost after all that brisket, stop by the unmissable Café Cà Phê for a purple ube latte.

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