A quick story about how it’s rarely a good idea to abandon proven routines & tactics. We were in Kansas City over the weekend, visiting friends. Saturday evening’s dinner choices had been narrowed to going somewhere nice in the Plaza section, or getting barbeque. We settled on barbeque, and our host mentioned that “Oklahoma Joe’s” is located in a gas station; intrigued, we agreed we had to go there…

The restaurant is indeed located in a working gas station; we arrived at about 7pm and the line was just out the door.

A view of the dining area; the order station is in the back, to the right:

I took this quick shot as we approached placing our orders:

Looking out toward the street:

When we’d decided upon Oklahoma Joe’s, I got out my MB Air and Googled the place, getting its street address. Here’s where a little research – as I normally would do –  on Yelp, Urban Spoon or Trip Advisor would’ve been really handy, but for some reason (carelessness? my fixation on BBQ ribs? my blood alcohol level? (j/k)), I didn’t bother. We went, I ordered a half slab of ribs and a side of cole slaw (the slaw was decent, the ribs were quite good) and all was well. The funky ambiance definitely added to the experience, and although there’s seating for perhaps 75 or so (a guess), we had no trouble getting a table despite the long line of customers waiting to place their orders.

The bad news: after we’d arrived home, I finally went to Yelp and checked out OK Joe’s reviews, and discovered that the killer item on the menu is the “burnt ends” sandwich (shown below). This item is available only on Wednesdays and Saturdays until they run out; here’s a brief excerpt from a review on Yelp:

At first glance the sandwich does not look that big. This is an optical illusion. It is substantial. The bbq sauce is sweet and tangy. But most importantly, the burnt ends are the most perfect morsels of food my tongue has ever tasted. They will haunt my taste buds for the rest of my life. To begin with, the meat is so tender and it melts like buttah darling. It has that pinkish color on the inside that indicates that it was perfectly cooked and the bark on the outside is so flavorful you get overwhelmed.

All is not lost, however: we’re only about 5 hours from KC, and I will have one of these sandwiches at some point in the future! The moral of the story: stick with proven routines: they’re “proven” because they work!

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16 Comments on I visit one of the world’s greatest BBQ joints, but get things backward

  1. Maria says:

    Inspiring story – and at least you will have the chance to go back. That sandwich description – makes me want to go get one too.

    Time to get lunch prepared. I’m thinking something exotic – like peanut butter. :)

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  2. Eric says:

    I love Oklahoma Joe’s! I live in Denver, but travel for my job. OJ’s is my first stop every time I go to Kansas City.

    The Z-Man is pretty good too.

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  3. et says:

    Would you be comfortable eating the half slab of ribs if you knew exactly how the pig that provided it lived and died?

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    Dave Reply:

    Yes.

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  4. Adriano says:

    @ Kevin

    Following other people’s advice is not always good. Of course you can use their experiences, but then you’ll never go out from the beaten track… Moreover their tastes may not be the same as yours. As you said once: YMMV ;-)
    So I wouldn’t feel so sorry for having changed your routines and tactics…

    @ et
    OT. I don’t want to cause a flame war, but in this world carnivores are needed even by vegetarians. Two easy proves
    1- Vegetables grow thanks to manure – and where does manure come from?
    2- Those who love milk and milk shakes should be aware that cows produce milk only when they have calves – and someone has to eat them, unless we want a calf full world…
    Again, an off-topic comment – no offence intended.

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  5. Scott says:

    Putting a stake in the ground on the best barbecue in any city is likely to start a fight. So let’s mix it up.

    My favorite KC barbecue is Jack Stack, though if I had to pick a world personal favorite it would be Pierce’s Pitt (yes, with two Ts) Barbecue in Williamsburg, VA or the Currituck BBQ Company in Currituck, NC (” serving BBQ to the yankees for 15 years”). But back to Jack Stack, their burnt ends are great, and I love their beans. I have a friend back in VA whose dad liked to smoke some pig. He talked about barbecue in terms of miles. “this right here is pretty good barbecue. I’d say it’s ’bout 30 mile barbecue.” The 30 miles was how far he’d be willing to drive to get it.

    I know this about research, but if you want serious talk about research, don’t mention barbecue. Kevin, your research technique is sound and the lesson valuable, but when you’re in the presence of great barbecue, it’s safer to order one of everything.

    And et, there is just no room for talk like that in a discussion about barbecue. Safer to just walk away.

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  6. Yvette says:

    What are burnt ends? I’ve found most of this post quite mystifying…

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  7. Scott says:

    Burnt ends are the crazy good bits cut from the point half of a smoked brisket. They’re from the small end so they get lots of attention from the smoke and heat, versus the middle bits where you get slices with a lot of interior meat. Brisket crust is sort of the concept here.

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  8. Elizabeth says:

    You must go to Gates the next time you are in KC. I absolutely LOVE the bbq there, I think it’s by far better than any other place in the entire KC metro area.

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    Kevin Reply:

    Hmm… we considered Gates, but after consulting a local expert (cocktail waitress at a country club), settled on OK Joe’s. Once I heard it was in a gas station, I had to go there.

    We’ll have to do Gates and Jack Stack in the future.

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  9. Elizabeth says:

    When you do, go to the one in Midtown on Main. It’s by far the best (and also was in my neighborhood).

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    Kevin Reply:

    OK; thanks!

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  10. sophie says:

    I really wish I hadn’t read this when I was sooo hungry already! And I live a thousand miles from Oklahoma Joe’s. And I’ve been waiting for my boyfriend to have dinner, and our favorite local bbq joint is already closed. Sigh. But please report back when you have the burnt ends sandwich, okay? At least I can live vicariously through you!

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  11. Miguel Marcos says:

    Man, these posts are a torture for me. Here I sit, not just far away from Kansas City, but across the ocean. That burnt ends sandwich could be served on another planet as far as I’m concerned. Damn, it looks and sounds wonderful. What a torture.

    Please report back when you’ve had that sandwich, even though I will suffer reading about it.

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  12. Jeff says:

    The burnt ends sandwich ROCKS!!

    I went there in 2010, while in town for a Royals baseball game. The group of us got there on a Saturday @ 11:15 AM and the line was already out the door. I sampled the ribs and beef brisket some of my friends ordered. Both tasted great. But that Jumbo Burnt Ends sandwich that I ate… I’d be heading out the door for another one right now, if I didn’t live in Indiana. Their smoked chicken gumbo is also great.

    Is it one of the world’s best BBQ joints? Beats me. It is definitely one of the best BBQ joints that I’ve eaten at. I recommend a trip there if you’re ever within a 100 miles of the place.

    BTW, after we finished eating and left the place, the line was going out into the parking lot.

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  13. Paul Z says:

    Arthur Bryant’s. That is all.

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