I accosted a man on the street just to get some Kansas City BBQ. Correction – the BEST Kansas City BBQ the world had to offer.
But let me start from the beginning…
Over the years I’ve grown to enjoy a good barbecued meal here or there, though I’ve never considered myself an aficionado by any stretch of the imagination.
I live in the South. BBQ is like air to these people. I was going to succumb at some point; it was only a matter of when. Why fight it? So I began catching those pit master shows now and again. I learned the difference between Carolina BBQ and Memphis BBQ and Texas BBQ and so on and so forth. I was cultivating a healthy curiosity about smoked and grilled meats, if you will. My favorite BBQ to date has been from The Salt Lick just outside of Austin, Texas. To me, they do it right. And you can bring your own beer. However, I think I’ve found a tough contender for the title of “My Favorite BBQ”.
When Clifford and I found ourselves driving from Atlanta to Colorado last fall, and I realized we would be driving directly through Kansas City, it was a no-brainer. Clifford became hungry in St. Louis. I made him wait – for four hours. He couldn’t understand why just any place in Kansas wouldn’t do to get some good BBQ. He said, “It’s their thing, right?” I tried to explain that to not get Kansas City BBQ when you are actually driving through Kansas City was like sacrilegious. So he starved while I quested for some good eats. It happens.
The next important thing? I couldn’t just Google “best BBQ in Kansas City”. I needed a local recommendation. So there we were, driving through Kansas City just after a rain storm. It looked deserted to be quite honest even though it was late a Friday afternoon.
“I’m seriously not just driving around for the next hour. You need to figure this shit out,” said my hungry husband. “I’m looking for people. Like street people. I don’t want to go into a building and ask just anyone. I need to find myself a real person of the city, ” I said.
We drove around. A one-way street, then the next. We were doing circles. Suddenly I spotted him. A guy in a purple sweatshirt. He was walking from one crosswalk to the other. “Pull over!!!! Here!!! HERE!!! I want to ask that guy!” I screamed, pointing at the man. Clifford, “ Are you serious?!!! You want me to just pull over in the middle of the street so you can ask that guy about BBQ?!” he screamed back. “Yes!” I said. “This is it; I can feel it!”
Clifford pulled over and I jumped out. I ran up the street to the only man we’d seen walking around in such crappy weather. I think I scared the bejesus out of him. I darted right to him, he jumped. I was thisclose as I asked, “If you had one hour in Kansas City for the best BBQ of your life, where do you go?” Startled at first, the guy answered immediately, “Oklahoma Joe’s.” There were a few locations, but he told me he recommended the original. It would be 20 minutes out of our way, but well worth it, he assured me. He said he it was so good he couldn’t even suggest a backup because nothing else came close to Oklahoma Joe’s.
I was sold just as a car drove through the biggest puddle imaginable drenching us both. The things we go through in the pursuit of the best BBQ (sigh). I thanked Jason (I did ask his name since we had become intimately acquainted after all) and was on my way.
Recommended by random Jason on a street corner in downtown Kansas City.
Clifford begrudgingly drove the 20 minutes out of our way because I promised him the Kansas City BBQ of his dreams. We reached our destination and sat in the car staring at a gas station. Seriously?
But then we noticed, there was a line building out the door. This was the place. I looked at him and said, “No take backs, buddy. Let’s eat.”
Oklahoma Joe’s is attached to a gas station. We stood in line to place our order while glancing at the convenience store shelves to the left. It was pretty funny, actually. The place was packed and it was only 3 o’clock in the afternoon. There was a roll of paper towel and a couple of sauces sitting on the tables. That was it. It was a very simple bbq joint. We placed our order and lucked out with a seat.
Standing in line to place our order.
The food was amazing! We both got the brisket and ribs dinner. Beer and BBQ – the perfect combination.
Beer, brisket and ribs with some rings and a side of slaw. Perfect for a rainy day. Or ANY day.
The sauce was perfect. The meat was savory and SO tender to the touch. It melted in my mouth.
A rib about to be consumed by yours truly.
Oklahoma Joe’s had to be the best Kansas City BBQ in the state. I was in love. I found out today that Oklahoma Joe’s ranks number 3 on Yelp’s list of ‘Top 100 places to eat’. I can agree with that evaluation. If you are ever within three or four hours of Kansas City, take the detour to Oklahoma Joe’s. You won’t regret it.
Thank you, Jason, wherever you are, for letting me accost you at that crosswalk on that rainy day and offering up the best recommendation ever!