Oklahoma Joe's 3002 W 47th Ave., Kansas City, Kansas (at Mission Rd.; located in a gas station)
(913) 722-3366. No reservations accepted.
Sides ($2.29-$4.49); Sandwiches ($5.19-$6.99); Salads ($7.59); Rib Dinners 1/2 slab ($13.49), full slab ($21.79); BBQ Dinners combo meats ($10.39-$12.49)
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11am-8:30pm; Fri-Sat: 11am-9:30pm; Sun: Closed
A few years ago the Food Channel's Anthony Bourdain put Oklahoma Joe’s on his "13 Places To Eat Before You Die" list. The list includes restaurants in Spain and Singapore. Not only that, this KC joint regularly makes the Zagat Guide. Joint, you say? Why use such a word for this esteemed culinary colossus? Well, believe it or not, this barbecue mecca is located inside a working gas station. Also, it’s in Kansas City alright, but it’s Kansas City, Kansas, not Kansas City, Missouri. Got that? Don’t worry. It’s just a 5-minute drive west of Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza District.
Owner Jeff Stehney began his career by besting competitors at BBQ contests across the U.S. After collecting countless trophies, he and his partners founded the restaurant in 1996. Obviously the atmosphere (in a gas station, remember?) is down-home, with rolls of paper towels on the tables and very skilled employees barking orders and slinging the BBQ.
So there’s a board on the wall you’ll see as you wait in line. BBQ sandwiches include pulled pork (the house specialty), beef brisket, smoked ham, Joe’s BBQ Sausage, and smoked turkey. My fave here is the tender and well-sauced pulled pork. The smoked turkey is fine, but, c’mon, how can it compete with barbecued pork?
The most popular specialty sandwich is the Z-Man, which is brisket and smoked provolone, topped with two big crunchy onion rings, on a kaiser. The Z-Man is beyond delicious. Other specialty sandwiches are the Hog Heaven, a pulled pork and sliced sausage combo; and Carolina Style (choice of pulled pork, brisket or turkey served on a bun topped with spicy slaw and Bubba’s sauce). Bit 'o background: Bubba's is a hot vinegar sauce originally hailing from the Carolinas.
My top choice for pigging out are the Rib Dinners, which come with one side and Texas toast. The sides are: BBQ beans (a must); potato salad, creamy cole slaw, spicy cole slaw, red beans and rice, onion rings, and french fries. The exceptionally good fries are slightly crisp, thinly cut, and infused with a salty/sweet flavor.
The BBQ Dinners, which also come with a side and Texas toast, allow you to pick various combinations of two meats (including ribs, chicken, brisket, pork, turkey, ham or sausage).
Here’s a very important tip: if you go at an off time for a meal (such as 11am for lunch or 4:45pm for dinner) you can sometimes avoid the wait in line, which can be as long as an hour. But even if the throngs have massed, it’s well worth it. Your taste buds will thank you. ♦
An additional Oklahoma Joe's restaurant is located at 11950 Strang Line Rd. in Olathe, Kansas. Tel. (913) 782-6858.