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A restaurant exterior with the name Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que on green siding. A crowd waits in line to get in the door.
Outside Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Steve Puppe/Eater

The 14 Best Barbecue Joints in Kansas City

From the famous Z-Man brisket sandwich at gas station icon Joe’s to sweet-and-sour smoked pork at a Thai-Kansas fusion spot, here’s where to eat meat in KC

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Outside Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
| Steve Puppe/Eater

Since Henry Perry, the self-styled father of Kansas City barbecue, opened his first lunch stand in 1908, locals and tourists have been trying to pin down what exactly defines the KC barbecue style. Misconceptions abound. Many think that thin-sliced brisket and tomato sauce sweetened with molasses are requirements of the genre. Others point to burnt ends, one of the city’s proudest inventions: fatty, smoky cubes of beef brisket with a crunchy, caramelized bark. But pitmasters here are just as preoccupied with beef and pork ribs, hand-cranked sausages, moist and salty pit ham, and other preparations of brisket.

Here’s as close to a barbecue thesis statement as you’ll get: The modern Kansas City “style” is doing a little bit of everything well and doing it with a side of sauce.

Under that expansive umbrella, the barbecue restaurants on this list range from walk-up windows with a handful of picnic tables to full-service restaurants with cocktails and cloth napkins. The best way to experience KC barbecue is to visit both the old-school institutions that helped define the genre and the new guard of innovative pitmasters expanding its boundaries.

Liz Cook is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Missouri, and the creator of the experimental food newsletter Haterade.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Slap’s BBQ

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553 Central Ave
Kansas City, KS 66101
(913) 213-3736
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Although Slap’s didn’t open until 2014, it’s already become a KC landmark thanks to its solid combo plates and classic feel. The restaurant is clean but casual: Expect Styrofoam cups, self-serve sauces (skip the sweet, score the spicy), and outdoor-only seating (for cold days, there’s a covered patio with heaters). It’s also a fine place to experiment with less-popular meats. Slap’s Polish sausage and juicy, thin-sliced turkey are some of the best in the city. There’s usually a line at lunchtime, but it moves fast — and the bar will serve you a beer while you wait.

2. Chef J BBQ

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1401 W 13th St Suite G
Kansas City, MO 64102
(816) 805-8283
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There’s no secret to the success of Chef J, a new spot in the city’s historic Stockyards District. Pitmaster Justin Easterwood’s 1,000-gallon offset smoker — which he calls “Big Mila”— is parked right outside. That smoker yields fall-apart slices of beef brisket and tender ribs with a bold bark, but the sandwiches are just as good (try the Tennessee Dip, a smoked pork butt sandwich served with a cup of spicy vinegar red sauce). Easterwood isn’t precious about mixing regional influences: His gold sauce, coarse with mustard, hints at South Carolina, while his signature sauce is vinegar-based and stippled with pepper and celery seed.

A variety of barbecued meats on butcher paper with white bread, beside a tray of sides like pasta, baked beans, and coleslaw.
Barbecue platter at Chef J.
waieatthat/Instagram

3. Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque

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1727 Brooklyn Ave
Kansas City, MO 64127
(816) 231-1123
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On the weekends, you’ll find a mix of locals, tourists, and Beltway politicians at this Jazz District restaurant, which writer Calvin Trillin famously decreed “the single best restaurant in the world” in 1972. Bryant’s decor hasn’t changed much since Trillin’s visit; the Brooklyn Avenue dining room is a time capsule of Formica, framed newspaper clippings, and greasy floor tiles. The cooking, on the other hand, has changed. Once famous for burnt ends, Bryant’s best meal is now its lean brisket sandwich, served on soft white bread and topped with AB’s distinctive brick-red, vinegar-bright sauce. No one makes a sauce like Bryant’s — whether that’s good or bad is one of the city’s enduring culinary debates.

Chopped burnt ends in deep red sauce served on a piece of white bread with fries nearby.
Burnt ends.
Wheat Photography

4. Jones Bar-B-Q

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6706 Kaw Dr
Kansas City, KS 66111
(913) 788-5005
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Sisters Deborah (“Little”) Jones and Mary (“Shorty”) Jones Mosley scored national attention after their 2019 appearance on Queer Eye. But locals have long been fans of the sisters for their exceptional ribs, rib tip sandwiches, and burnt ends. Jones Bar-B-Q is a no-frills roadside joint with just a few picnic tables in the sun, it’s only open for lunch, and many days the Jones sisters sell out before closing. But if you miss the boat, you can always grab a turkey sandwich or a bottle of the restaurant’s signature sauce from the barbecue vending machine they installed on-site during the pandemic. The Jones sisters stay innovating; the city stays better for it.

A restaurant exterior beneath a blue sky, with a few tables and vending machines.
Outside Jones Bar-B-Q with the barbecue vending machine.
Page Communications

5. Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ

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101 W 22nd St #300
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 472-7427
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Barbecue snobs tend to overlook restaurants with cloth napkins and real silverware. But at Jack Stack, a single, humble side dish has kept the critics at bay: cheesy corn. Jack Stack’s version is a cut above the rest, with an extra dose of salty, smoky ham careening through the expected velvety richness. It helps that the meats are good, too. The Kansas City combo is a fine way to sample the restaurant’s pit-smoked sausage and baby back ribs — but you may as well pay the upcharge to sub in the unique (and uniquely extravagant) crown prime beef rib. Although Jack Stack has six metro locations, the Freight House restaurant, just off the streetcar line, is particularly cute and convenient for tourists.

A serving board with ribs, burnt ends, mac and cheese, and baked beans, with a bottle of barbecue sauce.
Meat platter at Fiorella’s Jack Stack.
Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ

6. Night Goat Barbecue

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2143 Summit St
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 437-7001
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During the week, chef and butcher Vaughn Good helms the kitchen at Fox and Pearl, a stylish spot for wood-fired cooking. But every Sunday, the restaurant shapeshifts into Night Goat, a barbecue brunch spot with fun drinks and top-notch sides, like a caramelized onion and chile cornbread or a smoked jalapeno slaw. The brisket and beef sausage are popular, but don’t overlook the house-cured ham and pork belly, which Good does better than just about anyone else. And if it’s on the menu, you can’t go wrong with the queen-sized breakfast burrito, which fills a supple, pork-fat Caramelo tortilla (made in nearby Lawrence, Kansas) with thick-sliced brisket and creamy beans.

A cook moves a tortilla with tongs on one level of a grill, while sausages roast on another level.
Sausage and Caramelo tortillas.
Pilsen Photo Co-op

7. Danny Edwards BLVD Barbecue

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2900 Southwest Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 283-0880
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This dressed-down sandwich spot is more often populated with locals on their lunch breaks than tourists. That might have something to do with Edwards’s long-time slogan: “Eat it and beat it.” Sure enough, the food comes out fast so customers can get back to their jobs, but no one will give you any guff for camping out in one of the red banquet chairs or taking the time to squirt an extra layer of glossy, smoky sauce onto your sandwich. The most famous option is the Big D: brisket on rye with Swiss cheese and a crunchy crown of onion rings.

8. Gates Bar-B-Q

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3205 Main St
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 753-0828
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The second you walk through the door, you’ll be greeted with a “Hi, may I help you?” more sung than spoken. If you need a minute to decide, just ask — or just order the burnt-end sandwich, which stacks a soft hoagie with true, crispy-crackly burnt ends (Gates doesn’t take the shortcuts many other spots do on their burnt ends). Add a generous squeeze of the beloved house sauce, which is subtly sweet but balanced with vinegar, smoke, and a blush of heat. Gates has been a local institution since 1946; while the restaurant has six locations now, the Main Street spot is a favorite for its quiet bar, casual vibes, and cozy brown booths.

1000 W 39th St
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 255-3753
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Q39 is the kind of upscale place where there’s a nontrivial possibility of seeing someone spray sauce onto their starched white collar. There’s no better place to take fussy relatives visiting town. Founder Rob Magee, who died last year, cut his teeth on the competition barbecue circuit; he built on that experience to open a family-friendly restaurant capable of turning out consistent hickory-fired meats at high volume. The burnt ends, which are preternaturally tender, don’t suffer for the brisk pace. The original location in Midtown is always crowded, so make a reservation or plan on a wait; it’s a bit easier to get a table at the second location in Overland Park, Kansas.

A pile of burnt ends, slices of brisket drizzled in sauce, ramekins of sides on a plate.
Burnt ends, brisket, sides.
Pilsen Photo Co-op

10. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

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3002 W 47th Ave
Kansas City, KS 66103
(913) 722-3366
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Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s, this Kansas City, Kansas, mainstay operates inside of an old gas station. Lines can be long at peak hours, likely in part because Anthony Bourdain named Joe’s one of his “13 places to eat before you die.” It would be easy to coast on that reputation, but Joe’s has remained consistent over the years, with top-notch beef ribs, burnt ends, and thin-sliced brisket (try the brisket on the Z-Man, one of the city’s famous sandwiches). To eat like a local, call ahead for carryout and skip the line; don’t miss the seasoned fries or dirty rice.

A sandwich with brisket covered in cheese and onion rings, on a napkin beside a pile of french fries.
Z-Man sandwich and fries.
Steve Puppe/Eater

11. LC’s Bar-B-Q

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5800 Blue Pkwy
Kansas City, MO 64129
(816) 923-4484
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Choose your outfit wisely when you head to this classic counter-service restaurant; don’t wear anything you don’t want to smell like smoke. All the action happens right behind the counter, where cooks shuffle whole briskets, racks of ribs, and hams around a jet-black, three-tiered pit lacquered with grease. Although founder LC Richardson died in 2021, his granddaughter runs the restaurant now and has kept the recipes (and that original three-tiered pit) in place. Stick with the classics: burnt ends, brisket, and thick-cut fries.

An employee in a branded t-shirt uses a long instrument to adjust meats in a huge oven.
Tending to the meats at LC’s.
LC’s Bar-B-Q

12. Harp Barbecue

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6515 Railroad St
Raytown, MO 64133
(816) 743-4132
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Few pitmasters have had as big an influence on KC barbecue in recent years as Tyler Harp. Since coming on the scene in 2019, he’s launched a local barbecue festival, an educational podcast, and inspired a host of aspiring craft barbecuers to switch to offset smokers. Harp only operates on Fridays and Saturdays inside Raytown’s Crane Brewing, and he almost always sells out; get here early to sample his incredibly rich sausages and thick slices of fat-marbled, perfectly smoked brisket. If you’re thinking that sounds like Texas-style brisket, you’re right. But Harp has never let regional expectations define his cooking, adopting techniques from across the country even as he pays tribute to the pitmasters that first put KC on the map.

Two slices of brisket in a cardboard container with strands of pink pickled onion.
Perfectly smoked brisket.
Tyler Harp

13. Buck Tui BBQ

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6737 W 75th St
Overland Park, KS 66204
(913) 283-8255
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One of KC’s youngest barbecue restaurants, Buck Tui opened last year promising something new: KC barbecue executed with northern Thai flavors and techniques. In just a few months, chef Ted Liberda (who also owns the excellent Waldo Thai with his wife, Pam) transformed Buck Tui from a weekly farmer’s market pop-up to a full-service brick-and-mortar with date-night cocktails and fun appetizers (try the smoked butterscotch wings). Order the two-meat plate to score a link of pork sausage, fragrant with lemongrass and makrut lime, and a tangle of sweet-and-sour smoked pork. The accompanying sides (jasmine rice, papaya slaw) keep the plates from feeling too heavy, while the restaurant’s bright Tiger Cry sauce blesses everything it touches with heat.

Saucy separated pork ribs leaning against a hollowed pineapple half full of fried rice.
Pineapple pork ribs.
Buck Tui BBQ

14. Big T’s Bar B Q

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9409 Blue Ridge Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64138
(816) 767-0905
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Maybe it’s the 15-minute drive from downtown, or maybe it’s that you have to pass by LC’s Barbecue on the way to get here — whatever the reason, Big T’s has flown relatively under the radar compared with some of the city’s other barbecue giants. That’s a shame, because the wood-fired meats coming out of Timothy Jones’s brick pit are consistently great. The double-decker beef brisket sandwich is the best play, but the smoked turkey leg is surprisingly good too (certainly better than you’ll find at any Renaissance fair). Dine in to soak up the restaurant’s charmingly retro vibes, with decor evoking KC’s stockyard roots.

1. Slap’s BBQ

553 Central Ave, Kansas City, KS 66101

Although Slap’s didn’t open until 2014, it’s already become a KC landmark thanks to its solid combo plates and classic feel. The restaurant is clean but casual: Expect Styrofoam cups, self-serve sauces (skip the sweet, score the spicy), and outdoor-only seating (for cold days, there’s a covered patio with heaters). It’s also a fine place to experiment with less-popular meats. Slap’s Polish sausage and juicy, thin-sliced turkey are some of the best in the city. There’s usually a line at lunchtime, but it moves fast — and the bar will serve you a beer while you wait.

553 Central Ave
Kansas City, KS 66101

2. Chef J BBQ

1401 W 13th St Suite G, Kansas City, MO 64102
A variety of barbecued meats on butcher paper with white bread, beside a tray of sides like pasta, baked beans, and coleslaw.
Barbecue platter at Chef J.
waieatthat/Instagram

There’s no secret to the success of Chef J, a new spot in the city’s historic Stockyards District. Pitmaster Justin Easterwood’s 1,000-gallon offset smoker — which he calls “Big Mila”— is parked right outside. That smoker yields fall-apart slices of beef brisket and tender ribs with a bold bark, but the sandwiches are just as good (try the Tennessee Dip, a smoked pork butt sandwich served with a cup of spicy vinegar red sauce). Easterwood isn’t precious about mixing regional influences: His gold sauce, coarse with mustard, hints at South Carolina, while his signature sauce is vinegar-based and stippled with pepper and celery seed.

1401 W 13th St Suite G
Kansas City, MO 64102

3. Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque

1727 Brooklyn Ave, Kansas City, MO 64127
Chopped burnt ends in deep red sauce served on a piece of white bread with fries nearby.
Burnt ends.
Wheat Photography

On the weekends, you’ll find a mix of locals, tourists, and Beltway politicians at this Jazz District restaurant, which writer Calvin Trillin famously decreed “the single best restaurant in the world” in 1972. Bryant’s decor hasn’t changed much since Trillin’s visit; the Brooklyn Avenue dining room is a time capsule of Formica, framed newspaper clippings, and greasy floor tiles. The cooking, on the other hand, has changed. Once famous for burnt ends, Bryant’s best meal is now its lean brisket sandwich, served on soft white bread and topped with AB’s distinctive brick-red, vinegar-bright sauce. No one makes a sauce like Bryant’s — whether that’s good or bad is one of the city’s enduring culinary debates.

1727 Brooklyn Ave
Kansas City, MO 64127

4. Jones Bar-B-Q

6706 Kaw Dr, Kansas City, KS 66111
A restaurant exterior beneath a blue sky, with a few tables and vending machines.
Outside Jones Bar-B-Q with the barbecue vending machine.
Page Communications

Sisters Deborah (“Little”) Jones and Mary (“Shorty”) Jones Mosley scored national attention after their 2019 appearance on Queer Eye. But locals have long been fans of the sisters for their exceptional ribs, rib tip sandwiches, and burnt ends. Jones Bar-B-Q is a no-frills roadside joint with just a few picnic tables in the sun, it’s only open for lunch, and many days the Jones sisters sell out before closing. But if you miss the boat, you can always grab a turkey sandwich or a bottle of the restaurant’s signature sauce from the barbecue vending machine they installed on-site during the pandemic. The Jones sisters stay innovating; the city stays better for it.

6706 Kaw Dr
Kansas City, KS 66111

5. Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ

101 W 22nd St #300, Kansas City, MO 64108
A serving board with ribs, burnt ends, mac and cheese, and baked beans, with a bottle of barbecue sauce.
Meat platter at Fiorella’s Jack Stack.
Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ

Barbecue snobs tend to overlook restaurants with cloth napkins and real silverware. But at Jack Stack, a single, humble side dish has kept the critics at bay: cheesy corn. Jack Stack’s version is a cut above the rest, with an extra dose of salty, smoky ham careening through the expected velvety richness. It helps that the meats are good, too. The Kansas City combo is a fine way to sample the restaurant’s pit-smoked sausage and baby back ribs — but you may as well pay the upcharge to sub in the unique (and uniquely extravagant) crown prime beef rib. Although Jack Stack has six metro locations, the Freight House restaurant, just off the streetcar line, is particularly cute and convenient for tourists.

101 W 22nd St #300
Kansas City, MO 64108

6. Night Goat Barbecue

2143 Summit St, Kansas City, MO 64108
A cook moves a tortilla with tongs on one level of a grill, while sausages roast on another level.
Sausage and Caramelo tortillas.
Pilsen Photo Co-op

During the week, chef and butcher Vaughn Good helms the kitchen at Fox and Pearl, a stylish spot for wood-fired cooking. But every Sunday, the restaurant shapeshifts into Night Goat, a barbecue brunch spot with fun drinks and top-notch sides, like a caramelized onion and chile cornbread or a smoked jalapeno slaw. The brisket and beef sausage are popular, but don’t overlook the house-cured ham and pork belly, which Good does better than just about anyone else. And if it’s on the menu, you can’t go wrong with the queen-sized breakfast burrito, which fills a supple, pork-fat Caramelo tortilla (made in nearby Lawrence, Kansas) with thick-sliced brisket and creamy beans.

2143 Summit St
Kansas City, MO 64108

7. Danny Edwards BLVD Barbecue

2900 Southwest Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108

This dressed-down sandwich spot is more often populated with locals on their lunch breaks than tourists. That might have something to do with Edwards’s long-time slogan: “Eat it and beat it.” Sure enough, the food comes out fast so customers can get back to their jobs, but no one will give you any guff for camping out in one of the red banquet chairs or taking the time to squirt an extra layer of glossy, smoky sauce onto your sandwich. The most famous option is the Big D: brisket on rye with Swiss cheese and a crunchy crown of onion rings.

2900 Southwest Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64108

8. Gates Bar-B-Q

3205 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64111

The second you walk through the door, you’ll be greeted with a “Hi, may I help you?” more sung than spoken. If you need a minute to decide, just ask — or just order the burnt-end sandwich, which stacks a soft hoagie with true, crispy-crackly burnt ends (Gates doesn’t take the shortcuts many other spots do on their burnt ends). Add a generous squeeze of the beloved house sauce, which is subtly sweet but balanced with vinegar, smoke, and a blush of heat. Gates has been a local institution since 1946; while the restaurant has six locations now, the Main Street spot is a favorite for its quiet bar, casual vibes, and cozy brown booths.

3205 Main St
Kansas City, MO 64111

9. Q39

1000 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO 64111
A pile of burnt ends, slices of brisket drizzled in sauce, ramekins of sides on a plate.
Burnt ends, brisket, sides.
Pilsen Photo Co-op

Q39 is the kind of upscale place where there’s a nontrivial possibility of seeing someone spray sauce onto their starched white collar. There’s no better place to take fussy relatives visiting town. Founder Rob Magee, who died last year, cut his teeth on the competition barbecue circuit; he built on that experience to open a family-friendly restaurant capable of turning out consistent hickory-fired meats at high volume. The burnt ends, which are preternaturally tender, don’t suffer for the brisk pace. The original location in Midtown is always crowded, so make a reservation or plan on a wait; it’s a bit easier to get a table at the second location in Overland Park, Kansas.

1000 W 39th St
Kansas City, MO 64111

10. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

3002 W 47th Ave, Kansas City, KS 66103
A sandwich with brisket covered in cheese and onion rings, on a napkin beside a pile of french fries.
Z-Man sandwich and fries.
Steve Puppe/Eater

Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s, this Kansas City, Kansas, mainstay operates inside of an old gas station. Lines can be long at peak hours, likely in part because Anthony Bourdain named Joe’s one of his “13 places to eat before you die.” It would be easy to coast on that reputation, but Joe’s has remained consistent over the years, with top-notch beef ribs, burnt ends, and thin-sliced brisket (try the brisket on the Z-Man, one of the city’s famous sandwiches). To eat like a local, call ahead for carryout and skip the line; don’t miss the seasoned fries or dirty rice.

3002 W 47th Ave
Kansas City, KS 66103

11. LC’s Bar-B-Q

5800 Blue Pkwy, Kansas City, MO 64129
An employee in a branded t-shirt uses a long instrument to adjust meats in a huge oven.
Tending to the meats at LC’s.
LC’s Bar-B-Q

Choose your outfit wisely when you head to this classic counter-service restaurant; don’t wear anything you don’t want to smell like smoke. All the action happens right behind the counter, where cooks shuffle whole briskets, racks of ribs, and hams around a jet-black, three-tiered pit lacquered with grease. Although founder LC Richardson died in 2021, his granddaughter runs the restaurant now and has kept the recipes (and that original three-tiered pit) in place. Stick with the classics: burnt ends, brisket, and thick-cut fries.

5800 Blue Pkwy
Kansas City, MO 64129

12. Harp Barbecue

6515 Railroad St, Raytown, MO 64133
Two slices of brisket in a cardboard container with strands of pink pickled onion.
Perfectly smoked brisket.
Tyler Harp

Few pitmasters have had as big an influence on KC barbecue in recent years as Tyler Harp. Since coming on the scene in 2019, he’s launched a local barbecue festival, an educational podcast, and inspired a host of aspiring craft barbecuers to switch to offset smokers. Harp only operates on Fridays and Saturdays inside Raytown’s Crane Brewing, and he almost always sells out; get here early to sample his incredibly rich sausages and thick slices of fat-marbled, perfectly smoked brisket. If you’re thinking that sounds like Texas-style brisket, you’re right. But Harp has never let regional expectations define his cooking, adopting techniques from across the country even as he pays tribute to the pitmasters that first put KC on the map.

6515 Railroad St
Raytown, MO 64133

13. Buck Tui BBQ

6737 W 75th St, Overland Park, KS 66204
Saucy separated pork ribs leaning against a hollowed pineapple half full of fried rice.
Pineapple pork ribs.
Buck Tui BBQ

One of KC’s youngest barbecue restaurants, Buck Tui opened last year promising something new: KC barbecue executed with northern Thai flavors and techniques. In just a few months, chef Ted Liberda (who also owns the excellent Waldo Thai with his wife, Pam) transformed Buck Tui from a weekly farmer’s market pop-up to a full-service brick-and-mortar with date-night cocktails and fun appetizers (try the smoked butterscotch wings). Order the two-meat plate to score a link of pork sausage, fragrant with lemongrass and makrut lime, and a tangle of sweet-and-sour smoked pork. The accompanying sides (jasmine rice, papaya slaw) keep the plates from feeling too heavy, while the restaurant’s bright Tiger Cry sauce blesses everything it touches with heat.

6737 W 75th St
Overland Park, KS 66204

14. Big T’s Bar B Q

9409 Blue Ridge Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64138

Maybe it’s the 15-minute drive from downtown, or maybe it’s that you have to pass by LC’s Barbecue on the way to get here — whatever the reason, Big T’s has flown relatively under the radar compared with some of the city’s other barbecue giants. That’s a shame, because the wood-fired meats coming out of Timothy Jones’s brick pit are consistently great. The double-decker beef brisket sandwich is the best play, but the smoked turkey leg is surprisingly good too (certainly better than you’ll find at any Renaissance fair). Dine in to soak up the restaurant’s charmingly retro vibes, with decor evoking KC’s stockyard roots.

9409 Blue Ridge Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64138

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