Kansas City traces its barbecue history to Henry Perry, who operated out of a trolley barn at 19th and Highland in the legendary African-American neighborhood around 18th and Vine.
Perry served slow-cooked ribs on pages of newsprint for 25 cents a slab. Perry came from Shelby County, Tennessee near Memphis and began serving barbecue in 1908. The style of Kansas City and Memphis barbecue are very similar, although Kansas City tends to use more sauce and a wider variety of meats, including pork, beef, chicken, sausage, and turkey. Perry’s sauce had a somewhat harsh, peppery flavor.
Perry’s restaurant became a major cultural point during the heyday of Kansas City Jazz during the “wide-open” days of Tom Pendergast in the 1920s and 1930s.
Working for Henry Perry was Charlie Bryant, who, in turn, brought his brother, Arthur Bryant, into the business. Charlie took over the Perry restaurant in 1940 after Perry died. Arthur then took over his brother’s business in 1946, and the restaurant was renamed Arthur Bryant’s.
Arthur Bryant’s, which eventually moved to 1727 Brooklyn in the same neighborhood, became a stomping ground for baseball fans and players in the 1950’s and 1960’s, because of its close proximity to Municipal Stadium, where the Athletics (or A’s) played their home games during that period.
In 1974, Kansas City native Calvin Trillin wrote an article in New Yorker Magazine proclaiming Bryant’s to be the best restaurant on the planet.
Despite new-found fame, Bryant did not change the restaurant’s very simple decor, which consisted of fluorescent lighting, formica tables, and five-gallon jars of sauce displayed in the windows, even as Presidents Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan stopped by.
Bryant died of a heart attack, in a bed that he kept at the restaurant, shortly after Christmas of 1982. The restaurant is still open. The sauce and restaurant continue their success.
Republican Presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, ate at Arthur Bryant’s in the days leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election.
Gates & Sons
In 1946 Arthur Pinkard, who was a cook for Perry, joined with George Gates to form Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q. The restaurant was situated initially in the same neighborhood.
Gates barbecue sauce does NOT contain molasses, and the ingredients, as listed on the bottle, are: “Tomatoes, vinegar, salt, sugar, celery, garlic, spices, and pepper. 1/10 of 1% potassium sorbate preservative added.” It is available in Original Classic, Mild, Sweet & Mild, and Extra Hot varieties.
Gates also expanded its footprint in a more conventional way, with restaurants all displaying certain trademarks—red-roofed buildings, a recognizable logo (a strutting man clad in tuxedo and top hat) and the customary “Hi, May I Help You?” greeting belted out by its employees as patrons enter.
Gates has opened restaurants throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. The chain currently consists of 6 area Gates Bar-B-Q restaurants: 4 in Missouri, 2 in Kansas. Gates also has sold barbecue sandwiches at Kauffman Stadium during Kansas City Royals home games, and currently at Arrowhead Stadium during Kansas City Chiefs home games.
Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue
Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue was originally a part of the Fiorella family-owned chain of Smoke Stack Barbecue restaurants, which opened in its first location in 1957 on Prospect Avenue. One of these restaurants, Smoke Stack Barbecue of Martin City, was opened in 1974 by the eldest son Jack Fiorella and his wife Delores.
In the mid-1980s, Jack and Delores decided to expand their menu selections, adding non-traditional barbecue menu items like hickory-grilled steaks, lamb ribs, Crown Prime Beef Short Ribs, and fresh, hickory-grilled seafood, along with an extensive wine and bar selection. They also began offering a higher level of comfort and service than most people were accustomed to at a barbecue restaurant.
In the mid-1990s, Jack and Delores opened their second restaurant location in neighboring Overland Park, Kansas, and changed their restaurants’ name to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue to set themselves apart from the Smoke Stack chain. They also opened a full-service catering operation in Martin City and their third location in the historic Freight House building in the Crossroads Arts District. They began shipping their barbecue nationwide in 2000, and in October 2006 they opened a fourth location on The Country Club Plaza.
Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue has been featured on The Food Network and The History Channel, and has been rated as among the best barbecue in the United States by several national organizations and magazines. Most notably, the Zagat Survey has named it the “#1 Barbecue House in the Country.”
In 1977, Rich Davis capitalized on the reputation of Kansas City barbecue to form KC Masterpiece, which evolved from his “K.C. Soul Style Barbecue Sauce.” While much has been written about Davis and his now infamous sauce, KC Masterpiece is not representative of traditional Kansas City BBQ sauce. KC Masterpiece is sweeter and thicker than any of the traditional Kansas City sauces served in the region. Davis’ KC Masterpiece uses molasses to achieve the thick, sweet character, an ingredient not present in any traditional Kansas City sauces.
KC Masterpiece was sold to the Kingsford division of Clorox in 1986 and now claims to be the number one premium barbecue brand in the U.S. When Davis sold the rights to his sauce to Clorox, he announced plans to build a franchise of barbecue restaurants. The franchises were unsuccessful and are now all closed.
The “Bacon Explosion”
In 2008, two men from Kansas City, named Jason Day and Aaron Chronister, invented the “Bacon Explosion,” a dish the size of a football consisting of sausage wrapped in bacon with more bacon in the middle, then rubbed with barbecue seasonings and basted with barbecue sauce, before putting in a smoke pit or oven. The dish is notorious for being extremely high in fat and calories.
Kansas City Barbeque Society
The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) was founded in 1986. With over 13,000 members worldwide, it is the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts. KCBS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “promoting barbecue as America’s cuisine and having fun while doing so.”
KCBS sanctions nearly 300 barbecue contests across the U.S. each year and offers assistance to civic and charitable organizations with producing these events. The KCBS has developed a set of rules and regulations that govern all official KCBS competitions.
KCBS offers educational programs, consultation services and civic organization presentations to help spread the gospel of barbecue. The mission of the Kansas City Barbeque Society is to celebrate, teach, preserve and promote barbecue as a culinary technique, sport and art form.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Without these people we would just be a dot on a map!