Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
I really can’t believe that I’ve waited this long to write about Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. My first visit to Joe’s, when it was still Oklahoma Joe’s, was way back in 2009 during my first visit to Kansas City and Lawrence with Mike. Ever since then it is almost always our very first stop after leaving the airport – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you haven’t heard of Joe’s I would be very surprised – they’ve been featured on TV shows and in a wide variety of publications and they’ve been the #1 Zagat rated barbecue restaurant in Kansas City every year since 2004. Anthony Bourdain named Joe’s one of the 13 Places To Eat Before You Die and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve tried the other big hitters in Kansas City like LC’s, Jack Stack, Gates, and Arthur Bryant’s, but none of them do it for me quite like Joe’s. Joe’s barbecue, without a doubt, is the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten.
Joe’s has 3 locations in the Kansas City area but the original, and the only one I’ve been to, is located inside 0f a gas station. Yes, you can fill up your tank after you’ve filled up your belly, and grab a pack of Tums on your way out. This “hole-in-the-wall” draws crowds and long lines, but when you take that first bite of your Z-man you’ll realize that it was totally worth it.
My main piece of advice on Joe’s is to get there early. The photo above was taken a little after noon on a Saturday and as you can see, it’s a pretty popular place. On this Saturday we walked in around 10:40am, 20 minutes before they open, and the line was already formed inside all the way to the door. They’ll usually start taking orders around 10 minutes prior to their actual 11am opening and they work very hard to keep the line moving so don’t be too discouraged if you arrive to a line like this – like I said, it’s totally worth it. Another piece of advice – there’s no saving tables before you get your food. You’ll probably feel a bit of panic because it’s so packed, but we’ve always found a table once our order is up – they have a system and it works.
Mike and I have our favorites at Joe’s at it’s rare that we stray from these go-tos. The Z-man sandwich is probably their most popular menu item and an absolute must for us. Their smoked beef brisket is topped with melted provolone cheese, two crispy onion rings, and their thick, sweet sauce and then it is all packed on a toasted kaiser bun and ready for destruction. I recently discovered an off-menu version of this sandwich, the Chicken Z-man, that replaces the beef brisket with smoked chicken. As hesitant as I was to stray from the beloved brisket, I actually really loved it. It doesn’t have that big smokey punch you get from the brisket, but it is still so ridiculously good.
Another sandwich that I’ve tried and enjoyed is the Carolina Pork Sandwich. Although I’m partial to the Z-man, this pulled pork sandwich topped with spicy slaw is very good as well. If you’re a slaw-on-top-of-your-sandwich kind of guy or gal, you might want to give Joe’s version a try.
As for their other meats, we also really love their ribs and burnt ends. Burnt ends are only served on Mondays and Saturdays for lunch and on Wednesdays for dinner, so if they’re what you’re after you’ll have to plan your trip accordingly. Their ribs are the best ribs I’ve ever eaten and are usually ordered as a “side” to the Z-man – they’re everything ribs should be, and then some.
Speaking of sides, Joe’s has some fantastic options. Their baked beans are awesome and even though we don’t order them regularly, I always enjoy them when we do. The two sides that we order each and every time are the Onion Ring and Fries. These are not your ordinary onion rings and fries. I think the photos of the onion rings tell their story pretty well – they’re every bit as big, crispy, and delicious as they look. The fries are tossed in a magical seasoning, probably a combination of fairy dust and unicorns, and they are the most addicting fried spuds you’ll ever lay your tastebuds on. One order is HUGE but by the end of the meal you’ll be frantically digging around the bottom of the bag for more.
If you haven’t been to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, I hope I’ve made my case as to why you need to go, like now. Kansas City is a really fun city to spend some time in, and Joe’s is a great excuse to get you there!
The original Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is located inside the gas station at 3002 West 47th Avenue in Kansas City, KS. They have 2 additional locations in Olathe and Leawood, KS.