Okay, so not the greatest pics but those two signs, or sign and a menu, are for Arthur Bryant's and KC Masterpiece Barbecure and Grill, as in KC Masterpiece of the sauce in your local grocery. The restaurant is the sauce folks' showplace. Arthur Bryant's is a over 60-year hometown original that has branched out into three locations.
I think I might as well just say the obvious out loud: I abandoned my new found vegetarianism this weekend with finger-lickin' glee. It is Monday and I'm back to my "no meat" ways but last weekend was all about the pulled pork. Hey, if God didn't want us to eat pulled pork sandwiches piled high with cole slaw at least as a treat here and there then he shouldn't have invented sweet tangy BBQ sauce to smother it in or Kansas City as a place to serve it in, ya hearin' me?
We ran up to KC this weekend with friends Jeff and Dee to celebrate their mutual birthdays. While Gene turned 47 on October 24th, Dee turned 43 on the same day, and Jeff turned 49 on October 20th. We have a 20-year tradition of getting together on a road trip to celebrate and this year we took the Louisiana-born Dee to KC for the weekend since she'd never been. Jeff and Gene grew up across the street from each other here in southwest Missouri but it's only been in recent years that she and Jeff moved back to this area after living in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Illinois. We all had a nice weekend getaway, nothing fancy, just hanging out and enjoying the time together.
The only remarkable part of the weekend food tour was our forays into BBQ. It was, after all, Kansas City. When in KC or Memphis, you know what I mean, it's all about the BBQ.
The first pics are from KC Masterpiece Grill on Metcalf in Overland Park. By the way, in the trivia column, one of the things I read about KCM is that they have a tradition that because they use wood to smoke the meat, they plant a tree for every one they use. I like that.
Gene had the sampler special with 2 ribs, turkey, and beef brisket, served with baked beans and mashed potatoes. The potatoes were really good, they tasted like they'd been boiled in beef broth before being mashed.
My plate was a Carolina pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw on top, served on a sesame seed bun and with really good fries. The fries were perfectly crunchy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside. I liberally doused my sandwich with their BBQ sauce, which happens to be Gene's favorite grocery store brand of BBQ sauce. It's all we keep in the house. (Although I might have to be disloyal and ship in Arthur Bryant's now that we've eaten there. That sweet/hot sauce is to die for.)
The meal was fine and had we not had Arthur Bryant's two nights before I might even have thought it was very very good. There's nothing to criticize, really. It was a good value for a good price and it was fun to be in the restaurant showplace of a recognizable name. The grill was decorated in a fun way with lots of autographed pics on the walls of all the celebs who'd eaten there. You know what I mean. Fun, decent menu and ambience, yada yada.
Then there was Arthur Bryant's, a real person, whose brother was supposed to have started the KC BBQ tradition in the 30's. It's not a fancy restaurant, at least the one we went to, but it would definitely be on Alton Brown's Good Eats list. As a matter of fact, when Alton was filming the on the road show, forget the name, I sure hope he stopped in at Arthur Bryant's.
AB's original storefront is on Brooklyn Avenue (KC) but it's third location happens to be in the Ameristar casino. While Jeff and Dee gambled, Gene and I wandered off for a while for a late dinner and I'd always heard about AB's. Unlike Masterpiece Grill, AB's (at least there) is not a full sit down restaurant, it's more of a casual diner where you walk up to the kitchen windows, place your order, walk down a cafereria type line where you add in your accessories like extra pieces of white sandwich bread packaged two slices each in a baggie. I'm not kidding, in a baggie. But this is REAL old-fashioned lip smacking, finger licking, eat until you're going to puke and then take a few more bites just because you can't stand to walk away from it Kansas City BBQ.
Gene had the piled HIGH ham sandwich with skin-on cut fries. That sandwich had to be four inches high when he picked it up. Sorry for the not so great pics this time but I just couldn't get it together. For this one, I forgot to take the "close up" off. Oh well. They can't all be gems, right? Either one of the plates we got we could have easily shared since the portions were so big but we'll know that next time. In the meantime we got to sample both the ham and the pulled pork. This ham was soooooo good, I would have been happy to have this for Thanksgiving instead of turkey. The ham was tender and so smoky the pit taste lingered in your mouth.
I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and was rewarded with, pretty much, a half of the best pig I've ever eaten. Look at that serving. There was no way I could eat even half of it but I sure enjoyed what I did eat. Right off the bat you should notice two of the differences between KC Masterpiece and Arthur Bryant's. For one, the meat at AB's is smoked all the way through and tossed with a little sauce before it's served. The pit taste really comes through. It's just dynamite. It's not just a roasted piece of meat with sauce on it, you can bite into the smoke. As Gene says, AB is known for great smoked meat. KCM is known for their sauce. So it just depends on what you're looking for. AB was where it was at for us.
The second thing you should notice is the bread. KCM served their sandwich on a sesame seeded bun. Nothing wrong with that. Probably that seems the more upscale way to do it. But that's not what we were looking for. We were looking for the old-fashioned, homestyle BBQ of Kansas City of the 30's and that BBQ is served on slices of commercial soft, white sandwich bread with cole slaw on the side and pickles. Ta-da!
Gene and I didn't even speak for 20 minutes, just grunted and pointed at each other to pass the different sauce as we piled our white bread up with meat, cole slaw (layered onto the meat, not on the side), and pickles and then lathered it in sauce before shoving it into our mouths and trying not to bite our fingers in the process. You definitely visit the restroom afterwards just to wash the sticky and the scent of brown sugar and vinegar off your hands. There is no way to eat BBQ for real except by ditching your fork and diving in with your fingers.
Wish I could have brought some home!
Oh, and just as trivia, Arthur Bryant's had no celeb photos on the wall at that location but they do mention several big name celebs (and have pics) on their web site who just call 'em up and have their BBQ shipped directly to them or to friends. I don't blame them. I'm only 2 1/2 hours away and I'm tempted to have it shipped. It's all I can think about at the moment. Next time Gene says "Let's run up to KC for the weekend" I'll be in the car before he can pack a bag.
For more info on both restaurants and their histories go to:
Arthur Bryant passed away in 1982 but I think if he'd seen this cartoon he would have chuckled: