Just got back from another visit to K.C.MO the first of the month. Had an even better time with the family it seems like we got to spend more time with everyone. While there I wanted to try some different BBQ establishments than last time. So we went to four different places.
One of the places that I really wanted to try was Fioella’s Jack Stack but even after making plans on more than one occasion the cards were “stacked” against going each time. We managed to hit Famous Dave’s, Oklahoma Joe’s, Danny Edward’s, and the Smoke House.
(1 Aug 2006)
Our first BBQ meal took us to Famous Dave’s on the Kansas side of the river. My wife, sons, and life long friend joined me for lunch. As we entered the restaurant a life-size wooden bear greeted us. The restaurant had a good BBQ feel about it even though the structure felt new. We were seated at a large round table in the middle of the room and all the employees wore themed t-shirts with clever sayings. Wanting to sample a little of everything, we looked at the menu and decided to try the All-American BBQ Feast which touted to feed 4 to 6 people. There were 5 different flavors of BBQ sauce plus a bottle of ketchup at the table in a cardboard six-pack carrier like you used to see before the plastic rings. While we waited for our order I commenced to sample the sauce. I thought I’d try the milder sauces first so that the one’s with more kick wouldn’t overshadow them. I didn’t really have anything to try these sauces ON so I used my finger and rinsed after each taste with water. First the “Sweet & Zesty”, which later the waitress said was her favorite sauce, I found to be way too sweet, my impression was candy. “Rich & Sassy” was next. It was less sweet, which I liked and had a good hickory flavor followed by a little tingle of heat. The “Georgian Mustard” sauce tasted like Italian salad dressing with a little spicy mustard. Once the vinegar flavor left the taste buds there was a noticeable touch of heat that lingered. My favorite sauce was “Texas Pit” and just to be sure I compared all the other samples at least three more times. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the name that was attracting me. It tasted much like the “Gates Hot” sauce to me and had a variety of coarse spices that gave texture to the sauce, even had celery seeds stuck in my teeth afterwards like I get at Gates. The last sauce to test was “Devil’s Spit”! With a name like that, let’s be honest….I was a little concerned an had my glass of water ready (the only thing available to this point). So I try a small dab at first. The taste was good….but I waited for the pain….and waited. Well, not so bad….let me try some more. So I get a healthy normal amount on the ole finger and gave it a go. There was a little more kick to this sauce than the others but nothing near that of Tabasco so I’m thinking you could drink this stuff like a Spicy V-8 drink without much difference in heat. After about ten minutes of tasting sauces the waitress saw me and brought over some crinkle-cut, deep-fried, potato wedges and pour a sampling of each sauce onto a plate and explained a little about them. She had to have noticed also the notes I was taking…..
When our meal arrived our waitress brought out a small wooden tripod and placed it in the center of the table. This left us all wondering (all but my friend who had eaten there before) as we noticed several of these hanging from columns around the room. The she brought out a metal trash can lid, which served as a platter to present the food on. That really made the meal fun. On the lid was a full rack of ribs, some brisket, pulled pork, chicken, corn-on-the-cob, cole slaw, more potato wedges, baked beans, and some corn muffins. The brisket was thick slices with absolutely no fat, was fork tender and had a good simple smoky flavor. The curious thing about it was there was no evidence of a smoke ring either. Pulled pork had an excellent flavor, texture, and moisture content. Again it seemed mildly flavored for public consumption. The taste of the chicken surprised me, it had a lemon-herb flavor that I wouldn’t have thought to find on BBQ chicken…and didn’t anywhere else. It was fantastic. Corn-on-the-cob was a little over cooked to my liking and couldn’t hold a candle to the stuff we had at my sister’s house. The cole slaw was simple, just cabbage & carrots with a creamy white sauce but was a little on the sweet side for my liking. It needed just a tad more vinegar to give it some tang. The potato wedges were nicely crisp on the outside, while tender & moist on the inside, just right. The baked beans were interesting, a little too sweet, good-n-hot, with a little brisket & sausage meat in them. After the sweet left your mouth it was followed by a slight tang on vinegar. The beans weren’t bad at all.
I’ll say this before going any farther, Famous Dave’s was the best KC BBQ we had this year. The rest just weren’t up to par,
(2 Aug 2006)
Upon arriving at Oklahoma Joe’s I was quickly disappointed by the external appearance of the building. It was the corner storefront in a strip mall and very vanilla on the outside. Good thing they had a sign to give you a hint that there was a BBQ restaurant around somewhere. The inside was a lot more like what I expected to see with its Western flair and shaped metal artwork. They also had trophies & pictures from cook-offs.
My wife, best friend & his lady friend ordered the NC pulled pork sandwich, which appeared to be the most popular item on the menu for folks eating that day. But I, once again had to go for variety so I ordered a combo plate. My plate had pulled pork which was quite bland when not assembled into a sandwich with sauce & slaw, Deli-sliced turkey that was moist, spicy & tasty – probably the best meat item on my plate, and ribs which were cooked to doneness (not fall-off-the-bone) they were tender and tasted good but were cold served and the meat was gray. The sides were over-salted fries and some real good Texas toast. After eating at Dave’s we were pretty much bummed at Joe’s.
(3 Aug 2006)
On day three we ate lunch in downtown Kansas City MO right in the heart of lunch rush hour traffic, packet eating establishments and construction all around us. The atmosphere was perfect for the small BBQ Joint that we were eating at. This is the only place we ate at this trip that earns the title of a “joint”. It was undersized, crowded, and teaming with the urgency of getting to the next order as quickly as possible. They’d take your order, your name, give you your drinks and move to the side so the next person could order. There were only 18 seats at 2 long tables (4 down each side & 1 on the end) inside the restaurant if I remember correctly. While I was waiting for my order I noticed a copy of Steven’s Barbecue Bible setting on the shelf between the register and the drink machine. As the lady was passing by between the two stations I interrupted her activity and asked about the book. I wondered if they were using any of Steven’s recipes, she said they kept a copy around because the restaurant was mentioned in the book on page 527 under the name of “Lil’ Jake’s”. And when they call your name and give you your order they still say “Eat It and Beat It”. We actually ate out in the parking lot (which was closed due to construction) where there were 4 picnic tables with umbrellas (as far away from the restaurant as possible). The sounds of building construction and heavy traffic were the music creating our dinner’s ambiance. I ate that day with my brother, sister, nephew, mother, & wife and we al had something different so I snatch a couple bites from everyone’s plate.
Burnt ends were juicy, flavorful and good. Chicken was tender, juicy and cooked to perfection. The skin had good flavored spices in the rub but was chewy from cooking low & slow. Their brisket was sliced thin and had a real smoke ring! It was tender, slightly dry and didn’t seem to have any spice on it so it lacked in flavor. The ribs were tender, had a good bite to them, and had over an inch of meat on top of the bone. The rib tips were not what I expected, they were actual ends of bones with very little meat at all in a lot of sauce. I hope this batch wasn’t typical because there was not enough meat to survive on, on those bones. The ham was either spiral sliced or deli cut and while the flavor was good the meat had dried out considerably from being sliced so thin.
The sides were small, too small and served in tiny plastic containers with lids. The potato salad had a smooth, creamy, light flavor. Their jambalaya had a lot of flavor, a little more celery than I prefer but good spices and the rice was over cooked. After finishing the miniature portion of slaw the plastic container was still half full of watery liquid. Good slaw is not watery. Pickles are a BBQ staple served with most meals, these pickles were sliced dill chips like the kind served on hamburgers except they were bitter and left a bad aftertaste in my mouth, yuck. It only took one to know I wasn’t going to eat another. The baked beans were disappointing. They tasted exactly like canned pork-n-beans with a little sugar and beef added, but not enough to alter the base flavor.
This was a close second to eating at Dave’s for the most part.
The SMOKE HOUSE
(4 Aug 2006)
We went to the Smoke House on a whim because we were on the wrong side of town to make it to our planned destination of Jack Stack’s and it was central to meet up at. Big mistake…. When you first enter the business you get the impression that it was a French or Italian restaurant in a past life. Wainscoting around the dining room and floral print wallpaper with wall-washer lighting over framed pictures. The silverware was even wrapped in a cloth napkin and there were TWO forks for crying out loud!!!
My brother, his 2 sons, my friend, his lady & son, my wife, 2 sons & I met for lunch. The fellowship was the best part of this experience because it was our last full day to visit. However, the meal was doomed.
When seated our waitress took the drink order and when we tried to order a drink for a member of our party that was 2 minutes away, she didn’t want to take the order until we insisted. The wrong sauce was delivered with the appetizers. An incorrect meal was delivered and she forgot to take my nephew’s order. Another nephew asked for a drink refill and the waitress brought drinks for 3 other folks and claimed she didn’t know he wanted one, several minutes later he had to stop her and ask AGAIN, which made 3 requests for a refill. This place wasn’t all that busy and had plenty of folks working the floor so I couldn’t see what was causing the confusion. My wife went to the lady’s room and came back saying that she had to clean off the seat prior to using the facilities. It was a good thing she was still carrying some hand wipes leftover from Famous Dave’s. Upon receiving the checks (3 separate checks) they were all incorrect. The others got their ticket adjusted but I just wanted to get out of there so I didn’t bother. While checking out the cashier asked how everything was…. All I said was, “ya’ll must be having an off day.” This really struck a never with the lady and she started asking all kinds of questions. I tried answering in as gentle voice as possible, explaining that we were in from Texas to enjoy some KC style BBQ and by the time I finally got away she seem to be pretty upset that we didn’t enjoy our meal. At least someone cared.
Now for the meal, we had deep fried cream corn for an appetizer. They must freeze little dollops of corn and then batter them while frozen. I’ve never had deep fried corn and this was quite good. There was only one BBQ sauce and it was bland, bland, bland…ask for the ketchup instead. Burnt ends were the best meat they had. They were crispy as advertised and had a good deep smoky flavor. The brisket was sliced very thin and had only a light smoke flavor with a fair ¼” smoke ring. It didn’t have any spice flavor that I could detect so it was pretty bland. Don’t bother with the ham unless you’re in to steamed pork as it looked and tasted like it had never seen a smoker. The sausage wasn’t bad but it was also mild…the term bland seems to fit most of the food that hit our table. The pork loin was sliced deli thin and it was dry, everyone kept mistaking it for extremely dry turkey breast. My wife & I ordered a combination platter for two. Here’s the kick in the teeth…there were only 2 ribs on it. The ribs still had the membrane on the bone side and they were boiled for sure. The French fries were crispy & golden brown. Everyone agreed they were good (but not really what we came for). The slaw was a little sweet and left a heavy celery aftertaste, which by now you probably know that I don’t care for.
I would recommend to all to avoid the Smoke House unless you are desperate. Again, this may have been an off day…but it was waaaay off. On the other hand, Famous Dave's is a place I would eat again and Edward's would be worth another try at a less hectic time.