The Travel Channel recently filmed an episode of their program “Food Wars” that featured a head to head battle between Gates and Arthur Bryant’s. Frankly, that is a yawner for Kansas City barbecue enthusiasts, because this town has so many restaurants to choose from. Everyone has a favorite, but it is safe to say that the local pantheon is comprised of Bryant’s, Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s, Jack Stack and probably LC’s as well. However, it pays to look further as many of the lesser-known joints have some really good food to offer.
Speaking of good ribs, Quick’s Bar-B-Q has served the smokiest bones around since 1964. Decidedly more toothsome than Brobeck’s, they bear all the hallmarks of spending a good long time in the smoker with some hickory wood. That’s fine with me, as Ron Quick has been running the show for better than 20 years after taking over the business from his father. His wife Janet works the front of the house, making this a true family endeavor. Quick’s house sauce is nice and spicy and everything comes with white bread, the way God intended. These folks like their fryer too. I had a delicious and affordable ($4.99) half smoked chicken that was almost certainly crisped in hot oil prior to serving. In addition to barbecue Quick’s offers several interesting delicacies such as a spiral-cut, deep fried hot dog, a deep fried bologna sandwich and corn dogs, which at least a couple folks ordered during my last visit. This is the perfect spot to grab some takeout before spending an evening at the Boulevard Drive-In, which is mere steps away.
Nestled in a half-empty strip mall just south of Shawnee Mission Parkway, Shawnee’s Bates City BBQ probably has the best slab price in town: $10.99 every day of the week. But the baskets of little crunchy fries are what keep me coming back. The thin, stubby potatoes are a little difficult to eat, lending themselves neither to fingers or forks, but these fries are worth the effort. Bates City also has one of the truly eccentric, original owners in the business. The walls and counter are littered with pieces of paper scrawled with various quotes, wise words and jokes courtesy of the owner, Tom. “It takes 10 years to make an overnight success!” reads one sign. He also fashioned a comment box that has no opening in it. This character works the counter most days and always has a good word for regulars and newbies alike. Last I heard, Bates City was planning a move to a new building in downtown Shawnee. Let’s hope more exposure gives them the kudos they deserve.
Maybe these barbecue spots are not as popular, consistent, well-located or storied as some of the others, but you are missing out if you only hit the Big Five. Dig deep into these menus and you will find that there is plenty to celebrate.