Battle of the Barbecues
This is Leslie, Donte's wife. Hopefully you will enjoy my debut post while we're on our Midwestern ballpark tour.
Growing up, I never gave much thought to what made good barbecue. We just cooked meat in the oven or on the grill and then smothered it with our favorite barbecue sauce from the supermarket. No big deal.
Fast forward a few decades...we have a neighbor who is a huge foodie/cooking aficionado. One summer, he and his friends were arguing so much about who made the best barbecue, they finally decided to have a barbecue cook off. Since I didn't know any better, I volunteered to be one of the judges. The day of the contest, the contestants were so caught up in making sure everything was just right, their dishes weren't ready until much later that evening. We were all so hungry, my husband ended up grilling some hamburgers, but I digress. When it came time for me to choose my favorite, I actually chose a style of barbecue that was similar to Kansas City barbecue.
Kansas City barbecue is characterized by slow-smoked meat cooked over a variety of woods and then covered with a thick tomato- and molasses-based sauce. When we knew we would be visiting Kansas City, we started researching local spots to get some awesome barbecue. Luckily, we also have a good friend who grew up in Kansas City and quickly narrowed our list down to a few spots to try. We decided to stop by Gates right before the Royals baseball game since it was so close to the K. Our other stop was to Arthur Bryant's, which was close by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
At both spots, we tasted the beef sandwich, which is slices of beef piled onto white sandwich bread. We requested to get our barbecue sauce on the side for two reasons: we wanted to try several sauces to see which one we liked the best and didn't want just one sauce on our sandwich in case we didn't like it.
Gates was up first. Their beef single sandwiches came with dill pickle slices, which we promptly tossed to the side. We tried their Original sauce and their Sweet Mild sauce. Both sauces were deliciously smooth with a hint of sweetness, but if push came to shove, we liked the Sweet Mild sauce more. The meat was pretty good, cooked just right with not a lot of spice. We bought a bottle of sauce and finished up the sandwiches. Those actually held us through the entire ballgame.
Next up was Arthur Bryant's. Here, not only did we get the beef sandwich, but we had to try the Burnt Ends sandwich, which came highly recommended. We are not sure which sauce they gave us...I want to say we tried their Original and their Sweet Heat, but I think they might have slipped us a Rich and Spicy on the DL. In any case, we definitely did not like their Original (or Rich and Spicy) as it had such a strong bite and aftertaste. The Sweet Heat sauce was our favorite sauce here. As far as the meat, the beef brisket was good, but the burnt ends were fire! Burnt ends are the flavorful pieces of meat cut from the "point" half of a smoked brisket and Arthur Bryant's burnt ends are the bomb! They season the meat and then smother the burnt ends in barbecue sauce and, when combined with the Sweet Heat, it just set the flavors off just right. Yummers!
So who won the HWTT "Battle of the Barbecue"? It's a tie with Donte giving Gates his vote and Arthur Bryant's getting mine. (Arthur Bryant also had pictures of President Obama on their walls from when he came to visit. You know that if it's good enough for Obama, it's good enough for me!) As far as customer service, I didn't directly experience it, but I think it was just okay. As Donte said, "None of them would have been able to work for Chik-fil-A".
Have you tried authentic Kansas City barbecue? If so, let me know your favorite spots/dishes in the comments.