Kansas City is known for its barbecue and for good reason – the burnt ends and creamy corn casserole are delicious. Next time you’re on the Kansas side of Kansas City, make sure to try at least one of these barbecue joints. They all come with family-friendly dining and food that both kids and adults will enjoy. They combine history with unique offerings that will hit the spot for anyone craving some good Kansas City barbecue.
Six Kansas City Barbecue Restaurants to Try
- Slap’s BBQ
- Gates Bar-B-Q
- Arthur Bryant’s
- Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
- Woodyard Bar-B-Que
Recently I had the opportunity to do a foodie tour around Kansas City, Kansas. The tour gave me the chance to try out and compare a number of Kansas City barbecue restaurants. From the most tender burnt ends to a warm potato salad, there was something unique served in each of these barbecue restaurants. Each of these restaurants also offers a family-friendly atmosphere, making them all great places to eat with kids in Kansas City.
These restaurants all specifically have locations on the Kansas side of Kansas City. However, if you’re looking for barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri make sure to check out Jack Stack or the Missouri locations of Q39, Gates Bar-B-Que, or Arthur Bryant’s.
1 – Slap’s BBQ
Slap’s BBQ is fairly new to the Kansas City area, just opening its doors in 2014. However, the cooking team behind Slap’s is anything but new to barbecue. Brother Mike and Joe Pearce have been actively competing in the barbecue circuit for years. They are actually one of the only Kansas City restaurants still actively competing on the barbecue circuit each year. It’s also one of only two restaurants on this list with only one location in the Kansas City area.
Slap’s doesn’t just serve the has delicious standard fare that’s on their menu, like burnt ends, ribs, and brisket. They also offer daily specials only sold until they sell out. The special of the day when we visited was a burnt end taco with a sauce that was phenomenal. In addition to serving kid-friendly food, Slap’s also just built a brand new heated outside patio area. Kids can go outside and grab a table while you stand in line to order and then be as loud as they want since it’s outdoors.
It’s also one of the restaurants on this list that’s close to the college basketball experience, which is one of our favorite things to do in Kansas City with families.
2 – Gates Bar-B-Q
The chain of Gates Bar-B-Q restaurants started back in 1946 as a family restaurant called Gates Ol’ Kentucky. Over the years, Gates has turned into not just one delicious barbecue restaurant but a chain of restaurants serving six different locations in the Kansas City area. Gates has a unique style of burnt ends that is more chopped up than most, kind of like the texture of a pulled pork. Everything I tried from Gates was delicious, but the main standout for me was the sweet and mild barbecue sauce. If I’d been checking a suitcase, I would’ve brought home a bottle or two.
3 – Arthur Bryant’s
When my family first moved to Kansas City back in 2005, the first place we went to eat was Arthur Bryant’s because it was the famous Kansas City barbecue. Legend has it that Charlie Bryant, Arthur Bryant’s brother, actually started the Kansas City barbecue tradition way back when. Who knows what really happened? All I know is that Arthur Bryant’s feels like a traditional barbecue restaurant should.
You walk up to the counter, order your food, and sit down at one of the few nondescript tables and just enjoy good food. My favorite thing to order is an open face burnt end sandwich, which is burnt ends piled on top of a good ole piece of white bread that soaks up the delicious sauce. The ribs are also a popular choice.
If you’re going with a family, I recommend skipping the original location and going to the Legends location. It’s a much larger location where you’ll more likely be able to find a table and not have to stand in line as long. If you’re going on your own or with adults only, the atmosphere of the original location can’t be beat.
4 – Q39
Q39 is barbecue gone gourmet. When I asked my brothers who have lived in Kansas City for 10+ years about their absolute favorite barbecue in the area, they both said hands down Q39. It’s a newcomer to the barbecue scene and kind of like the younger more attractive generation of barbecue. Instead of serving up your standard meat on a bun, Q39 offers innovative offerings such as pork belly sausage corn dogs, five cheese macaroni and cheese, and brisket burgers topped with fried onion straws.
There’s nothing traditional about Q39, which is why it made this list. It doesn’t try to compete with the other barbecue joints in the city; it’s in a league of its own. Out of all of the restaurants on this list, its offerings are probably the least kid-friendly and the prices reflect their gourmet offerings. If you do bring the kids, they have a great kids’ menu with more kid-friendly options like a burger, chicken tenders, and a build your own sandwich option.
The price of plates of various meats range from $15.00 to $30.00 for a rib plate. Compare that to Slap’s plates, which range from $12-15, and a pound of meat at Arthur Bryant’s for $12.75. Q39 is definitely more a special occasion type place.
They have locations in both Kansas City, Missouri as well as Overland Park, Kansas, which is just a little ways from downtown Kansas City. The Overland Park option would make a great stop after any of our favorite places to go with kids in Kansas City, just a few minutes away from Deanna Rose.
5 – Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que started in a gas station in 1996 and has since grown to include three different locations in the Kansas City, Kansas area. According to owner Jeff Stehney, three locations are enough. Joe’s is focused on smoking great barbecue and staying in touch with their customers and product. We had the chance to try a handful of items and my favorites were the beef brisket and burnt ends. Both were juicy, tender, and flavorful, just like smoked meat should be.
In addition to all of their normal adult offerings, Joe’s has a kids’ menu with kids-size meats, a smoked hot dog, and a chicken dinner. I can only imagine how good that smoked hot dog would be, since their other smoked meats are so good.
6 – Woodyard Bar-B-Que
Woodyard Bar-B-Que shines for its family history and unique offerings. It’s a family owned business with one single location serving up delicious food and creative spins on traditional offerings. Favorites include the award-winning burnt end chili, the best cheesy corn side we tried all week, and even specialty sandwiches. Also, they just opened a brand new heated outdoor space, adding additional seating and a big screen for watching your favorite game!