Best BBQ in Kansas City – Our 5 Favorites in KCMO

Last updated on July 1st, 2023 at 02:18 pm.

Barbecue is a way of life in Missouri and especially in Kansas City, there’s just no way around it. The nationally recognized smoked meat scene found in the KCMO area is so important that some of the biggest BBQ competitions happen in the city.

While just about every BBQ joint in town offers ribs, burnt ends and baked beans, there are a lot of things that make each restaurant unique and different. That is why we were on a mission to find the best BBQ in Kansas City and what we found is that each barbecue joint we visited had its own distinct flavor and style, ranging from traditional to more modern takes on barbecue.

best bbq in Kansas City
Ribs from Q39

Some Kansas City restaurants, like Q39, specialize in creative and innovative side dishes and desserts to complement their mouthwatering meats, while others, like Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, are steeped in history and tradition.

But one thing is for certain, no matter which BBQ restaurant you visit in Kansas City, you’ll be treated to some of the best barbecue in the world, made with passion, pride, and a whole lot of flavor.

Kansas City BBQ History

Kansas City’s barbecue history can be traced back to Henry Perry, who in the early 1920s started barbecuing in an outdoor pit adjacent to his streetcar barn, serving slabs of food wrapped in newspaper.

He’s known as the “father of Kansas City barbecue” and dubbed the “Barbecue King.” Perry sold slow-smoked meats wrapped in newspaper for 25 cents in the Garment District in the early 1900s. He opened the city’s first barbecue restaurant in an old trolley barn, according to the Barbecue Hall of Fame.

5 Essential Barbecue Restaurants in Kansas City

Barbecue is a deeply ingrained tradition in Kansas City, woven into the city’s life and history, and it’s a must-do event whenever friends or family come to town. Kansas Citians take pride in their BBQ and love to show it off, and most everyone has their favorite BBQ spot that they swear by.

Here is our guide to the Best barbecue in in KCMO, including places with and without lines, outdoor picnic table seating and indoor table service, as well as traditional restaurants. Of course we’ll dive into who has our favorite burnt ends, briskets, ribs, and sausages.

Quick tip: It’s always a good idea to call ahead and check the hours of operation, as well as whether or not the business accepts reservations. This can help you avoid long wait times.

Q39

Q39 Wings

Q39 is the most upscale BBQ dining experience in Kansas City. Chef Rob Magee, a 15-year competition barbeque champion who sadly passed in 2021, created the “chef-driven barbeque” experience in KCMO.

Today, his wife Kelly Magee and Executive Chef Philip Thompson, who has taken over as pit master, have created a restaurant that serves BBQ rather than a barbeque restaurant.  

Chef Thompson was trained at the CIA (Cooking Institute of America) and was inspired by Rodney Scott’s South Carolina approach to BBQ. Combined with his passion for cooking over ‘live fire’ made him the perfect person to fill the shoes of Chef Magee.

Q39 finishes all their meats with smoke on the grill, creating a depth of flavor that is simply unparalleled. From brisket to pulled pork to chicken, every dish at Q39 is cooked to perfection.

Q39 prides itself on being a scratch kitchen, meaning everything is made fresh in-house with no cans or microwaves in sight.

Q39 Mac n Cheese

What to Try:

  • Wings. One of the most popular BBQ appetizers on the menu is the wings, which come in a delicious chipotle flavor that’s almost candied.
  • Pork Belly. Another must-try appetizer is their pork belly that is served with bacon, onion marmalade, and apple slaw.
  • Chipotle Sausage. When it comes to main dishes, Q39 has some amazing options, including their housemade chipotle sausage.
  • Judge’s Plate. Pick three of your favorites, such as their juicy pork spare ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork, or smoked chicken.
  • Mac n’ Cheese. And let’s not forget about their sides that are just as delicious as the main dishes. The made-to-order mac n’ cheese is a standout, and pairs perfectly with any of their meat dishes.
Q39 dessert trio

Q39 is not just known for their exceptional barbecue, but they also have some delicious desserts on the menu. For those who love a classic dessert, their warmed carrot cake is a must-try. And for those who want to try something truly unique, their Basque-style cheesecake with smoked strawberries is an absolute must. This dessert is light, creamy, and has a subtle smoky flavor that perfectly complements the sweetness of the strawberries.

Overall, Q39 is a chef-driven, scratch kitchen that knows how to serve up some truly exceptional barbecue.

  • Service-style: Restaurant style-service with indoor and patio dining areas.
  • Pit master: Executive Chef Philip Thompson
  • Opened: 2014
  • Days and hours: Sunday – Thursday 11a-9p & Friday – Saturday 11a-10p
  • Neighborhood: Midtown
  • Address: 1000 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO 64111; website q39kc.com

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Chef J BBQ

Chef J BBQ

Justin Easterwood, the owner and pit master of Chef J BBQ has been a lifelong restaurant guy. Chef J started as pop up and tailgating at Chiefs games and became so popular he opened the restaurant in the historic West Bottoms area with a Central Texas style barbecue with Kansas City flavors.  

The small batch approach and authentic fire burning makes Chef J BBQ stand out in a sea of kitchen cooks. Starting at 5am every day, Justin prepares all their scratch-made dishes in the smokehouse that is located outside and just a few steps from the restaurant with live fire cooking over hickory and pecan wood.

Pork belly burnt ends are their take on the traditional burnt ends and are a must-try item on the menu. While the approach to the dishes is chef-driven and refined in all the right ways, the focus remains on using high-quality ingredients cooked in the traditional way.

Even the beans, corn, and desserts are cooked in the smoker.

Justin, believes in not compromising on quality or presentation and shared with us that “you eat with your eyes first,” which is reflected in their beautifully plated dishes.

Justin also shared they “keep it simple, but use high-quality ingredients cooked the way they are supposed to”. 

Sausage on the grill at Chef J

What to Try:

  • Homemade Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage. They are cooked to perfection over live fire, resulting in a savory and flavorful taste. With just the right amount of heat and packed with flavor.
  • Pork belly Burnt ends. These burnt ends are crispy and savory, with just the right amount of sweetness to balance the flavors. Each bite is packed with a depth of flavor that comes from the slow cooking process and the quality ingredients used.
  • Smoked Elote. This version is smoky, spicy, and filled with cheesy goodness that will leave you wanting more.
  • Beans. The beans have an amazing smokiness that are completely different than anywhere else we’ve tried. I found myself going back to the beans over and over for another bite.

Good to know. Be sure to get there early as Chef J BBQ sells out almost every day.

Chef J Details

  • Service-style: Order at the counter with indoor dining.
  • Pit master: Justin Easterwood
  • Opened: 2020
  • Days and hours: Thursday-Sat 11:30AM – 4PM and Sunday Noon – 4PM
  • Neighborhood: historic West Bottoms
  • Address: 1401 W. 13th Suite G Street, Kansas City, Mo 64102; website chefjbbq.com

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Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ

Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ

Growing up in a BBQ joint, Danny made barbeque his entire life. He said, “you pick up a few things in that time; the art of slow-smoked meats, an appreciation for friendly conversation and a concrete pig”.

The current owner and pit master is Joel Bremer. He started with the company as a dishwasher in 2004 and worked his way up to general manager. He bought the restaurant after Danny retired in 2019.

Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ has been doing BBQ in the heart of Kansas City for over 30 years and has a solid following.

Joel cooks the meats for 18 hours for maximum tenderness. He told us the restaurant’s focus is to get the orders out quickly and treat customers well. 

Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ plate

What to Try:

  • Big D. Featured on Diner’s, Drive Ins & Dives with Guy Fieri, this is beef from the point on rye bread with Swiss cheese and 2 onion rings topped with one side.
  • Pork Spare Ribs. They are very tender, savory, and flavorful. The ribs fell off right off the bone and with their homemade sauce….. yum!
  • Mac & Cheese. While baked beans are the most popular side, if you are there on Saturday, make sure to try their homemade mac and cheese (because this is only day it’s on the menu).

Danny Edwards BBQ Details

  • Service-style: Order at the counter with indoor dining and outdoor patio.
  • Pit master: Joel Bremer
  • Opened: 1982
  • Days and hours: Lunch only. Monday-Saturday 11-2:30. Closed Sunday.
  • Neighborhood: Edge of Crossroads 
  • Address: 2900 SW BLVD. Kansas City, Missouri 64108; website dannyedwardsblvdbbq.com

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Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque

Arthur Bryants Barbeque in Kansas City

This iconic eatery can trace its heritage all the way back to 1908, when Henry Perry, affectionately known as “the pioneer of Kansas City barbecue,” first started smoking meat at his establishment, known as Perry’s Barbecue.

Charlie Bryant, one of Perry’s protégés, assumed ownership of the restaurant in 1940, and later passed the torch to his brother Arthur in 1946. In 1958, Arthur relocated the eatery to a prime spot just a stone’s throw from the city’s baseball stadium, cementing its status as a true legend of the local dining scene.

Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque has had many famous visitors over the years, including several U.S. presidents such as Jimmy Carter, Harry Truman, and Barack Obama. Other notable guests have included Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, and Elvis Presley, who is said to have had a shipment of Arthur Bryant’s famous sauce sent to Graceland. Additionally, sports figures like George Brett, Bo Jackson, and Babe Ruth have also been known to visit this nostalgic BBQ restaurant.

We last visited in late 2022 and met with then owner, Jerry Rauschelbach. Shortly after we found out Arthur Bryant’s was sold to Chris Stuewe and Andrew Miller.

During our visit with Jerry he shared they are “just a little grease joint in the hood” and they are all about Arthur Bryant, what he built, and what he still means to the city and community. 

Jerry also explained that it is about the sauce and rubs, because the meat is same everywhere. The most popular things on the menu are the brisket, burnt ends and baked beans.

Jerry shared the goals are to put plenty of smoke on the meat, treat the customers right and make sure to talk to them.

The portions are big and the food is good. Arthur Bryant’s is about history and the legacy of BBQ in Kansas City.

What to Try:

  • Burnt ends. They have a touch of sweetness and a slight spicy tang of spice, are very tender and have a richness. Served on top of white bread.
  • Beans are thick with a hint of spice. Very rich and smoky. Bits of burnt ends. 
  • Brisket. It’s very flavorful even without sauce and perfectly tender.

Good to know. During the summer it’s especially busy and there can be a line around the block. But it’s all part of the Arthur Bryant’s experience. Entering the restaurant, you will see a display of photographs featuring famous people who have visited, various memorabilia, and awards. As you make your way to the counter, you can select the ingredients for your plate to be created.

Arthur Bryant’s Details

  • Service-style: Order at the counter with indoor dining. Drive-thru coming soon.
  • Pit masters: Donald Spears & Wayne Garett 
  • Opened: 1908
  • Days and hours: Monday -Saturday 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM & Sunday 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Neighborhood: Jazz District
  • Address: 1727 Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64127; website arthurbryantsbbq.com

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Scotts Kitchen

Scotts Kitchen BBQ Platter

What sets Scott’s Kitchen apart from the rest is its killer combo of location and breakfast. Nestled just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Kansas City International Airport, they’ve become notorious for being the ultimate pre-flight pit stop.

Word on the street is that they’re the reason why saying goodbye to your loved ones at the airport ain’t so bad after all.

In fact, if you’ve got friends or family jetting into KCI, Scott’s is the perfect place to kick off their Kansas City adventure.

During our visit we met with chef, pit master and owner, Scott Umscheid. Scott is no ordinary restaurateur – he’s a champion pitmaster with a fierce passion for barbecue. With a background in the food industry spanning many years, he’s honed his craft through countless competitions and earned himself some serious accolades along the way.

Before opening his restaurant, Scott spent three years in sunny California. When he returned and decided to open his BBQ restaurant he did it with his newfound love for mission-style burritos. But he wasn’t content to just replicate the flavors of the Golden State – he wanted to put his own spicy spin on things.

Scotts Kitchen BBQ Tacos

What to Try:

Scott’s restaurant puts a unique twist on traditional barbecue by serving it up in the form of tacos, burritos, and bowls.

In fact, Scott’s is the first bbq restaurant to serve pulled pork tacos in KCMO. But, you can’t go wrong with the Turkey, shrimp, or burnt ends tacos.

The coleslaw is even made with a touch of cilantro, and is the perfect complement to Scott’s signature dishes.

But don’t let the focus on burritos fool you – Scott’s Kitchen is the real deal when it comes to barbecue. From fall-off-the-bone ribs to juicy brisket to the restaurant’s signature burnt ends, Scott has all the classics covered.

But that’s not all – he’s also got a secret weapon up his sleeve in the form of his house made chipotle ghost pepperjack sausage. It’s the perfect blend of heat and flavor, and it’s just one of the many reasons why Scott’s barbecue is a cut above the rest.

And the best part? Everything is served up backyard-style, so you can kick back and relax with your friends and family while savoring every delicious bite.

Breakfast is a big deal at the restaurant and the real star of the breakfast menu is the burnt ends breakfast burrito. It’s a fan favorite among regulars, and for good reason – there’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a warm, hearty burrito filled with perfectly smoked meat and all the fixings. And the best part? Breakfast is served from 7 to 11, so you can start your day off right no matter what time you roll out of bed.

Scott’s Kitchen Details

  • Service-style: Order at the counter with indoor and outdoor picnic bench dining.
  • Pit master: Scott Umscheid
  • Opened: 2017
  • Days and hours: Monday-Friday from 7 AM to 6:30 PM
  • Neighborhood: Airport Corridor
  • Address: 11920 N Ambassador Dr., Kansas City, MO 64153 ; website www.scottskitchenandcatering.com

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Scott from Scott’s Kitchen shared with us, “if you want to get people riled up in Kansas City just talk about barbecue”. So, I’m sure there will be a lot of opinions about our overview of the best BBQ in KCMO, so leave your comments below and let’s start the big BBQ debate!

If you’re a barbecue lover, you know that Kansas City is the place to be. With so many top-notch restaurants to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best BBQ restaurants in town, and next on our list to visit is Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.

This place has been a staple in Kansas City for over 60 years, and it’s not hard to see why. Their slow-smoked meats are some of the best in the city, and their sides and desserts are nothing to scoff at either.

Gates Bar-B-Q is also next on the list to visit. They have been serving up mouthwatering barbecue since 1946, and their signature sauce has become a staple in the city. From ribs to brisket to burnt ends, they’ve got all the classics covered.

So, keep popping back, as we will be adding new KCMO BBQ joints as quickly as we can!

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