Inevitably, my trip to Kansas City was going to include a trip to the stalwart of Kansas City Barbecue; Arthur Bryant’s. Similar to Rendezvous from the week before, Arthur Bryant’s is firmly established as one of the most famous barbecue joints in the country, and has been featured in reams of magazines and television shows celebrating its fame. Fame, accolades and mass appeal don’t buy a lot of credibility with me however, this is barbecue after all, not reality TV. It’s the meat on the plate that counts, so I sauntered in to Arthur Bryant’s to see if there was actual substance behind that reputation.
I arrived early at 10:00am just as they were opening the doors for the day, on a warning from Daniel over at Full Custom Gospel BBQ (who also recommended fantastic LC’s BBQ the day before). If you haven’t read Daniel’s blog before, it’s a remarkable chronicle of a true BBQ fanatic. Judging by his reviews of places I have tried, his taste buds are virtually infallible.
At this hour, the serpentine lines hadn’t formed yet, so I was able to stroll right up to the counter and promptly place my order. Brisket, ribs and burnt ends were on the docket this morning, and I gathered them back at my table while the ESPN Gameday talking heads chattered away on the big screen in front of me.
The brisket comes thin sliced in sandwich form, and while it was certainly a heavy handed portion, the brisket itself had only a hint of smoke and a consistency on the dry side. The ribs were a bit of an enigma. While having a pleasant color and well smoked flavor, they had a noticeable “gummy” texture and were discernibly chewy. This leads me to believe I may have been served leftovers from the night before. Finally, the burnt ends were rather disappointing especially juxtaposed to the jaw dropping burnt ends from LC’s BBQ the day before. This particular batch lacked the thorough smokiness found in LC’s burnt ends, and had been so thoroughly drown in Arthur Bryant’s pungent sauce (despite my firm request at the ordering window for no sauce) that they ate more like a BBQ stew than burnt ends.
In the end the barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s is average at best, and I had been thoroughly warned and prepared that this would be the case. It’s one of those places that you simply have to visit one time based solely on the virtue of its reputation and status in the barbecue world. However, if you’re a purist looking for some of the best smoked meats in Kansas City, there are far better options to be found.
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