Top 5 Kansas City Barbecue Joints

It's all about dry-rubbed, slow-smoked, fall-off-the-bone meat

In Kansas City, barbecue is a way of life. It is also one thing this city does better than most. With a long tradition of rich, dry-rubbed meats that are smoked and cooked slowly to perfection then covered in spicy sauces, Kansas City has become famous for its magically delicious barbecue. In fact, a lot of people call Kansas City "the home of barbecue."

There are more than 100 barbecue joints in Kansas City, from whole-in-the-wall eateries to nothing-but-barbecue restaurants. In our experience, these are the five best places to enjoy great barbecue in Kansas City. See each restaurant's website for more details, such as the latest hours, menus, prices and whether they ship their barbecue.

  • 01 of 05
    Plate of barbecued foods
    M Timothy O'Keefe/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    You know one thing for sure when you walk into one of the Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue locations in Kansas City: This isn't your typical down-home barbecue joint.

    With beautiful oak bars and chic patios, these are probably the most sophisticated sauce houses this city has ever seen. They also happen to make melt-in-your-mouth traditional Kansas City barbecue.

    "Zagat" says Jack Stack has the "highest-rated BBQ in the country" and named Jack Stack "the most popular restaurant in Kansas City." According to Zagat, with Jack Stack, "KC BBQ goes upscale without losing its soul." So not only can you get salmon and French dip, but you can also get a kickin' classic barbecue sampler and hickory-smoked prime rib. 

    From its humble beginnings in 1957 as a neighborhood joint in Martin City,  the family began cooking meats like certified Angus beef over hickory wood and created the most extensive barbecue menu in the country. Third-generation Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue has evolved today into the largest full-service wood cookery in the industry, with its five restaurants, a catering company, and a shipping division. 

    The five locations include: the original at Martin City (see address and phone below), the Freight House district, Country Club Plaza, Overland Park and Lee's Summit. Walk-ins are welcome; groups of eight or more should call for a reservation. 

    Martin City
    13441 Holmes Rd.
    Kansas City, MO 64145
    General information phone: 816-941-4309
    Reservations for eight or more: 816-942-9141

  • 02 of 05

    It might have started in a gas station, but don't let that fool you. Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que makes what "USA Today" calls "America's tastiest ribs," which practically fall off the bone. The folks behind Joe's began as weekend warriors who entered and won a lot of barbecue competitions, like the American Royal Open Barbecue Contest and the American Royal Invitational. 

    So many people told them they should open a restaurant that they started Joe's Barbecue and Catering in mid-1995 and opened the first Kansas City Joe' a little neighborhood gas station not far from home at the corner of 47th Avenue and Mission Road.

    Today there are three locations plus an event space, but there are no plans for more. Says co-originator Jeff Stehney: "Our ambition has never been to be the biggest. Our goal has only ever been to be the best." 

    Place individual orders, or order by the pound for a crowd. Think fall-off-the-bone ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork and chicken and even smoked portobello mushrooms with classic barbecue sides like baked beans, creamy cole slaw, potato salad and dirty rice. Reservations necessary only at The 180 Room event space.

    Joe's Kansas City original gas station location
    3002 West 47th Ave.
    Kansas City, Kansas 66103
    Phone: 913-722-3366

    Joe's Kansas City Olathe
    11950 South Strang Line Rd.
    Olathe, Kansas 66062
    Phone: 913-782-6858

    Joe's Kansas City Leawood
    11723 Roe Ave.
    Leawood, Kansas 66211
    Phone: 913-338-5151

    Joe's Kansas City's Private Dining and Event Space
    The 180 Room

    11944 South Strang Line Rd.
    Olathe, Kansas 66062
    Phone: 913-390-0180
    For reservations, visit the 180 Room website.

  • 03 of 05

    BB's Lawnside Blues & BBQ is the best in Kansas City at bringing you great barbecue with live blues, and it does so every night of the week in a no-frills roadhouse where patrons plop down big plates of barbecue (some say it's the best in town) at communal picnic tables.

    BB's fame has spread, so much that the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" featured it, in particular its "BBQ sundae" (smoked beans, coleslaw, pulled pork and sauce layered into a Mason jar) and burnt ends, a delicacy in barbecue country; Anthony Bourdain called out the Memphis Minnie's smoked catfish on "No Reservations."

    Regulars say owner Lindsay Shannon's wings are the best in town. And you can eat those or red meat that's been slow-smoked in a 60-plus-year-old granite pit, accompanying your barbecue with Louisiana favorites like gumbo, red beans and rice, and jambalaya.

    Address: 1205 E 85th St., Kansas City, Missouri
    Phone: 816-822-7427

  • 04 of 05

    The oldest and arguably the most famous of all barbecue joints in Kansas City is the legendary Arthur Bryant's, who put Kansas City barbecue on the map. With barbecue sauce so good you can "put it on bread and eat it," as one fan put it, Bryant's has been going strong since 1920. It didn't take long for the place to gain national fame as a favorite of top professional athletes playing at nearby Municipal Stadium then of presidents like Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter. Renowned writer Calvin Trillin once declared in "Playboy" magazine that "...the single best restaurant in the world is Arthur Bryant's Barbeque at 18th and Brooklyn in Kansas City." 

    Eat every kind of meat known to barbecue at one of the restaurants or order meat, a whole loaf of bread and a long list of sides by weight to take out. 

    The Original
    1727 Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri
    Phone: 816-231-1123

    Legends at the Kansas Speedway
    1702 Village West Parkway, Kansas City, Kansas 
    Phone: 913-788-7500

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Danny Edward's Blvd BBQ packs a lot of punch in its small size. Considered one of the best lunch-only places to eat downtown, Danny's won renown for its meaty sandwiches and generous plates of delicious barbecue served in a bare-bones cafe, where you can eat in or order out.

    The place's special, mouthwatering barbecue won acclaim in "Zagat," "Bon Appetit" and "Saveur" magazines and on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" for dishes like the Big D sandwich (beef from the point on rye bread with Swiss cheese and onion rings), authentic Mexican chili with tender chunks of pork, and "tender, meaty pork spare ribs" served classically with bread and pickles.

    Address: 2900 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri
    Phone: 816-283-0880