Food is my passion…
I love food! There, I said it. One of my favorite food items is pork ribs. Barbequed pork ribs to be even more specific. I can remember back when I was a kid, my oldest brother used to grill up some delicious hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs. He would get the grill out and I used to love watching him get the fire started. He’d put the charcoals in, shred up some newspaper to add in between the coals and drench them in lighter fluid. Sometimes, he would let me light the match and toss it in to start the fire. Now that I am much older I still enjoy the setting up of the grill and starting those coals on fire. Man, that always takes me back to those summer days in my mom’s backyard. Now I also have a smoker which I think is even better as it adds a touch of hickory or mesquite flavor to my ribs. I have a barrel one with a lid and uses charcoals and I also have a smaller electric one which works just as good. I love them both equally and alternate between them when I am smoking meats such as ribs, prime rib and chicken.
Recently, say in the last 3 to 4 years, I have been watching this really cool guy named Guy Fieri roam all over the country visiting all kinds of fun eating establishments on his show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. One of the places he visited was called the Woodyard in Kansas City, Missouri. I had always heard that places like Kansas City, Memphis, and any town in Texas were awesome places to visit for BBQ. So, last Fall, I decided to find out for myself. I checked on the map and found out that Kansas City, MO was only about a 6-hour drive from my home State of Minnesota! As I was making some plans and talking to some of my co-workers, I found that one of them was from Kansas City. She provided me with the names of some places that she thought would be a good place to try some ribs.
So, after booking a hotel and convincing my wife that we would be fine, my 6-year-old son and I set off on our road trip to find some delicious ribs and fun. We left about 7:00:am on our trip and made our first pit stop in Kilkenny, IA and had some breakfast at IHOP. This in itself was an experience, as we were treated to a full recap of how the town was founded and the history up to the present day by the Hostess. Not that we had asked for all of that, all I wanted was to have my eggs cooked the way I had asked which seemed to be a difficult problem for the cook. I had asked for 2 eggs over easy to eat with my hashbrowns, but they were sent out over-hard. Having been a cook and watched how some things were handled when plates were sent back to the kitchen I was really skeptical about asking for them to be redone, but I did. The second time they came out they were over easy, but not fully cooked so I decided that that was enough and just ate my hashbrowns by themselves. So, I decided that it was time to continue my trip and left a pretty good tip and my son’s umbrella.
While driving south on Interstate 35, I got a call from a friend of mine that lived in Arizona. He told me that he had mentioned my trip to a passenger he had the previous night and was told by the guy to have me try a place called Q39. I arrived in Kansas City a short while later and following my GPS located my hotel, The LaQuinta Inn in North Kansas City. After checking in, my son and I set out to do some exploring. I had scheduled us some play time at Legoland and decided that we would try Q39 before heading over there.
When we arrived at the restaurant and were seated, I must admit it was pretty awesome. The décor was really nice, and the place had a picnic kind of feel to it. The kitchen was situated to where you could see the cooks through a huge serving window and you could feel the hustle and bustle of the cooks. The waiter that served us was very good with helping me decide on what to try. We got some ribs, brisket, and chicken with some baked beans and 3 different BBQ sauces to try. After trying a bit of each, I must admit, I was totally pleased. Even my son, who doesn’t really like ribs or brisket, enjoyed them both. It was so fun watching him try each of the sauces and providing his feedback on which ones he liked. As we were eating our meal, this couple at the table near us starting chatting with me. They told me that they lived about 4 hours away and that whenever they were in Kansas City they ate at Q39. I told them that it was our first time visiting the city and the reason we came down was to try some different BBQ spots. They mentioned a restaurant that had been told to me by my co-worker and was already on my list of places to try, so I thought that was a good sign.
The next day, Saturday, I had two places that I planned to visit. The first was a spot that I was informed had a very long history in Kansas City and was visited by many celebrities and even a couple of past Presidents. It was, Arthur Bryant’s. When I pulled into the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was a tour bus which made me think this was going to be a very good experience. When I entered Arthur Bryant’s, I have to say my first thought was “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with an emphasis on Dives. There was very little room to maneuver because the place was so small, and the tables were taking up most of the space. The smell of grease was a bit overwhelming as well. But, I wasn’t going to let that stop me as I was thinking that the food had to be good to keep this place open. I was wrong on that account too. My son only wanted a sandwich, so I get him a ham and cheese sandwich while I tried the brisket and ribs platter. The food was totally under-whelming. The ribs were so tough I was wondering if they had cooked them too fast. The brisket was just plain and even the BBQ sauce didn’t help.
After that disappointing lunch my son and I went exploring the city. We went over to a place called Rivertown Market. It was really a fun place. There were shops all up and down the street, and a farmer’s market going on there as well. We parked our car and walked around for a bit before hopping on a streetcar and riding it to downtown. There we got off and walked around some more and found what I thought was a library. As we went inside, it turned out to be not only a library but a museum of sorts as well. The building used to be a bank and was converted to a library but kept the downstairs portion as a bank museum. There was a small movie theater and a walk-in vault. Then we hopped back on the streetcar and rode it to the end of the line. There we got off and walked through the old train depot before crossing the street and getting back on the streetcar. By the time we got back to Rivertown Market my son was ready for lunch. My son just loves trains. And it just so happens that I had learned that in the shopping mall at Crown Center, there is a restaurant that serves its meals via a train that brings your order to your table on a track that runs around the entire dining room. It’s called Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant. I must tell you that my son was thrilled to hear about it and even more excited when we got there. He got to use the phone at the table to place his order. When you order is served, a boxcar comes out of the kitchen along the track and when gets to your table the arm comes down and your box of food is slid to a “elevator” that slides down for you to grab your food. It’s totally awesome and he was just amazed.
After cruising around town checking out some sights, and visiting Arrowhead Stadium for some pictures, I decided that I would get some more BBQ to take back to our hotel for dinner. One place I had heard a lot about was Gate’s Barbeque. My co-worker had mentioned this as a must eat at spot. A couple that was seated next to my son and I on the streetcar had also mentioned it as a top spot for some really good food. Gate’s has a real history in Kansas City. I read about it later when I got back home to Minnesota. When you walk in and are in line, the order taker shouts out to you asking what you want. As she was shouting out to the customers in line ahead of me, I noticed that she wasn’t writing any tickets but just calling the orders back to the kitchen. I was surprised and amazed at how accurately this system was working. Once you moved up in line, there two ways to go to get to a register to pay and she was directing traffic and passing out orders with a Military styled precision. When I got back to our hotel and was ready to eat, I opened my box and was shocked at how much food there actually was inside. I had ordered the 3-meat special and I must admit, it was way more than I had expected. There was about a pound of sliced ham, a pound of smoked brisket, and 6 bones of ribs. Oh, and the entire box was filled with French fries. Now seeing as how my son had already had McDonald’s for dinner, his choice over more barbeque, I had to man-up and dig in. And I will admit, it was totally delicious! The ribs were so tender and juicy and with just the right amount of sauce. The ham and brisket were just as tender and juicy. I didn’t eat it all, but I sure tried!
We left early on Sunday morning heading home, after stopping by McDonald’s for some breakfast items. We did stop at the IHOP in Kilkenny, IA to grab my son’s umbrella but didn’t eat there this time. All in all, it was an awesome trip and my son still talks about it. We will be going back in July for the 4th, and this time my wife has decided that she wants in on the fun.