Life is too short to not eat barbecue in Kansas City if you're going to the Bengals game

·3 min read

The Cincinnati Bengals will play the Kansas City Chiefs for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl on Saturday at 3 p.m.

The game will take place in one of America's barbecue meccas, Kansas City, home to thick, tomato-based (get out of here, mustard), sweet and tangy sauce that is slathered on burnt ends, ribs and pulled pork and other slow-smoked meats.

While the Bengals played in Nashville last week, which is a few hours away from the dry-rubbed barbecue of Memphis, there's often nothing dry when it comes to Kansas City barbecue (unless something went completely wrong in the smoker and you need to call the authorities).

But Cincinnati is no stranger to barbecue. It's not a mecca like Kansas City (or Austin, or Dallas, or Houston or anywhere in the state of Texas where the best barbecue can be found), but Montgomery Inn can hold its own against the best.

The famous pork loin ribs aren't smoked (wait, does that mean it's not barbecue?) but instead slow roasted. One will hardly complain once the barbecue sauce (it has barbecue sauce, which means it's barbecue), the staple of Montgomery Inn, is coated.

It's all about the sauce, which is usually the case for Kansas City barbecue (in Texas, using the sauce can be a crime).

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But if Bengals fans want to taste Kansas City "barbecue" (look, I'm just a big Texas barbecue snob), here are some of the most famous places to try:

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que

A staple of many Big 12 sports reporters' diets (get used to it Bearcats) on their Kansas City trips, Joe's started as a gas station and turned into one of the most famous barbecue joints in America. The great Anthony Bourdain said it was one of the places you needed to eat at before you die.

The "Z-man Sandwich" is the go-to with the slow-smoked brisket (wait, you can eat brisket outside of Texas?), provolone and onion rings on it.

But, like, just order the ribs at all these places, OK.

Arthur Bryant's

This is one of the oldest Kansas City barbecue institutions. It's been around for 100 years. While Montgomery Inn is known as the "Rib King," well, another king resides in Kansas City because Arthur Bryant was known as the "King of Ribs." (Pitch to HBO: "Game of Thrones," but it's about barbecue. Who wouldn't watch that?)

The restaurant features a vinegar-based sauce that goes on the ribs and pulled pork, which are the things to get when you go to Arthur Bryant's.

Gates Bar-B-Q

The locals eat at all these places, but the locals especially love Gates Bar-B-Q, which, like Joe's, has multiple locations. Ribs and sausages along with burnt ends are their specialties.

What are burnt ends you ask?

Burnt ends are the glorious, sumptuous, morsels of meat on the point (fat side) of a brisket and is why God invented low and slow barbecue cooking. To get burnt ends, you have to cook the meat so the fat molecules break down (about 200 degree internal temperature) while a salty, peppery bark forms on the outside of the meat. And after you eat a burnt end you smile and look at the other people around you and nod your head and say "that... that is why you don't use barbecue sauce on brisket, you monster."

I digress.

But this. This is what Kansas City barbecue gave the world: the burnt end (I mean, Texas gave us Bacon Burnt Ends, but whatever). And Gates, Arthur Bryant and Joe's serves it. So order it.

Gates Bar-B-Q (Old Kentucky’s Restaurant in the Green Book), Kansas City, Missouri:  This mid-continent barbecue shop was one of the few restaurant chains in the Green Book, with multiple listings across the city. Founded by a railroad worker who was seeking the stability of owning his own business, it was known for its spicy tomato and molasses-based barbecue sauce. Now it’s one of the city’s leading purveyors. “It speaks to the importance of Black entrepreneurship,” Taylor says.
Gates Bar-B-Q (Old Kentucky’s Restaurant in the Green Book), Kansas City, Missouri: This mid-continent barbecue shop was one of the few restaurant chains in the Green Book, with multiple listings across the city. Founded by a railroad worker who was seeking the stability of owning his own business, it was known for its spicy tomato and molasses-based barbecue sauce. Now it’s one of the city’s leading purveyors. “It speaks to the importance of Black entrepreneurship,” Taylor says.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Bengals play in Kansas City, where there's barbecue to try

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