Saturday, June 6, 2009

Now It's Settled: Best BBQ In The World.

Well I'll be damned. I've known all along that Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue is top flight stuff, and now the experts confirm it. Then again, I live in Kansas City, where killer 'cue can be found in sleepy suburban backyards as well as packed restaurants.
Cracking open the June 2009 issue of Men's Health Magazine, I read that Anthony Bourdain has proclaimed Okie Joe's as one of 13 Places To Eat Before You Die. (Others on the list include the French Laundry, elBulli, and Katz's Deli, so they're in highfalutin' company.) Bourdain, the celebrichef, author, TV personality, traveler, and world-class raconteur calls Oklahoma Joe's "The best BBQ in Kansas City, which makes it the best BBQ in the world." Heady praise, for sure.
And he's right. But to me, naming the "best" barbecue in Kansas City is akin to choosing the "prettiest" girl between Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Christina Barcelona -- you're just not going to go wrong whatever way you go.
And while virtually everything on Oklahoma Joe's menu is outstanding, my favorite is the Chicken Z-Man Sandwich, which isn't on the chalkboard but one that they'll happily make anytime for you. It's chunks of smoked chicken, a slice of smoked provolone, and a crispy onion ring inside a pillowy white kaiser roll, slathered with piquant sauce. Order it with a huge side of seasoned fries (we call them "crack fries," because it's impossible to put them down until they're gone) and dip them in Night of the Living Sauce, a spicy BBQ sauce made with chipotle peppers. Heaven.
Part of the charm of the place is its location -- inside an otherwise nondescript but fully functional gas station. We went there last night, and at 8:30 in the evening, it was a 15 minute line. They've since expanded to a second location in the JoCo suburbs, and while the setting isn't as unique, the food is every bit as good.
And for those who wonder, there is indeed an Oklahoma Joe. A group of buddies and I had the privilege of meeting him at the American Royal a couple of years back. I seem to recall that he once was (but is no longer) part of the KC restaurant business.
No matter -- smoked meat this good is bigger than any one man. If you're in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and stop by. Tell 'em Scampwalker and Anthony sent you.


  1. Best BBQ in the world and you feature a chicken sandwich. Not what I would expect but it makes me all the more intrigued. I'm just about ready to eat that last picture in the post.

  2. Is that Curtis Roberts, in line with the sunglasses hanging on his shirt collar?

    (And, for the record: Penelope Cruz. Hands down.)