For quite sometime fans of Oklahoma Joe’s fans have known it’s some of the best BBQ in a city renowned for it. Nowadays one of our local favorites is getting some serious national recognition as well. Years ago Anthony Bourdain named Okie Joe’s as one of the 10 places you have to eat before you die, now USA Today is giving one of Kansas City’s shining jewels the props it has rightfully earned.
Here is the article from USAToday.com.
Great American Bites: Award-winning Kansas City BBQ at Oklahoma Joe’s
Great American Bites
By Larry Olmsted
The scene: When you pull up to Oklahoma Joe’s, there are two immediate giveaways that it is something special. First is the line out the door, which started forming 20 minutes before the 11 a.m. opening. Secondly, it’s in a gas station. There are many great BBQ joints across this nation occupying former gas stations, but Oklahoma Joe’s is in a current gas station. It’s also a convenience store, and in addition to potato chips, wiper fluid, and energy drinks, the aisles stock a mind-boggling array of spice rubs and sauces from other great BBQ places around the country. This is a mini-version of the Kansas City BBQ Store a short drive away, which Oklahoma Joe’s also owns, boasting the largest such selection on the planet, plus a massive array of grills worthy of opening your own restaurant around. But don’t bother, because Jeff Stehney, Oklahoma Joe’s owner, has already done the hard work for you.
The line winds to a counter where you order, fill your drinks from a self-serve fountain, then grab your tray and hope to snag one of the 70 seats. A lot of the orders are to-go, and ambiance is what you’d expect from a restaurant in a convenience store, save for the long line of t-shirts displayed above the counter from the various competitions Stehney has won. His tournament team, Slaughterhouse Five, has snagged dozens of prestigious championships, including the American Royal in Kansas City and the Jack Daniels Invitational, along with “Team of the Year” from the Kansas City BBQ Society. It won the World Brisket Open, and has taken first place in the biggest tournaments with virtually everything on the menu, winning for lamb, sausage, pork, brisket, chicken, and sauce (the mild version, which took first place, is the best I’ve ever tasted).
Oklahoma Joe’s draws a cross section of loyal locals (and in KC they are pretty opinionated about BBQ), tourists who have seen them on multiple food TV shows (Anthony Bourdain, Man vs. Food), and die-hard pilgrimage BBQ junkies aware of their industry prestige. I doubt any are disappointed.
Reason to visit: Ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, sandwiches – everything meat.
The food: I’ve eaten at most of the highly acclaimed BBQ places in this country, from the Carolinas to Memphis to Texas and yes, in Kansas City, and in almost every case, they excel at one thing at the expense of others. Oklahoma Joe’s is a true rarity because it does everything very well, and while I’ve had just as good ribs, brisket, and pulled pork, I’ve never had them all so good in one place.
The level of quality across the menu is outstanding, starting with prime ingredients like the from-scratch rubs and sauces. For ribs, they only use St. Louis cut, eschewing the more tender but less tasty baby backs many places rely on as a shortcut to good consistency. The brisket is carefully selected for quality, the sausage custom ground and blended. Their smokers burn only white oak, rather than flavored woods like apple which can mask the taste of the meat, or hotter burning woods like hickory, harder to smoke “low and slow” with.
Kansas City is the crossroads of regional barbecue, combining the pulled pork of the Carolinas, the sauces of Memphis and the brisket of Texas in one place, but its own addition to the BBQ lexicon is burnt ends, which are exceptional here. This is the blackened and crusty flap of the brisket removed after smoking, the exposed edges recoated in dry rub and smoked again, then cut into cubes that feature “bark,” or crusty exterior, alongside tender interior in every bite. The ribs and the burnt ends were the top standouts, followed closely by the pulled pork and brisket, which is juicy and tender.
Surprisingly, the sandwiches have developed a reputation of their own among locals, especially the house specialty, the Z-Man: brisket, provolone, and onion rings on a Kaiser roll. The only thing that failed to wow me at Oklahoma Joe’s were the rather typical sides, potato salad, cole slaw, seasoned fries, etc., which were merely fine (except for the standout beans). They have a second, larger location a few minutes away in Olathe, Kan. Both are closed Sundays.
What customers say: “The best I’ve found so far,” said Gerard Connors, a retired New York City police officer and barbecue fan on a lengthy cross-country barbecue road trip.
Pilgrimage-worthy?: Yes! If not the single best barbecue restaurant in the nation, it’s close.
Rating: OMG! (Scale: Blah, OK, Mmmm, Yum!, OMG!)
Price: Moderate $$ ($ cheap, $$ moderate, $$$ expensive
Details: Original, 3002 W. 47th Avenue, Kansas City, KS; 913-722-3366; http://www.oklahomajoesbbq.com/