Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue

KANSAS CITY: Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue
3002 W 47th Ave
Kansas City, KS 66103
Open M-Thur 11-8:30, F-Sat 11-9:30

Oklahoma Joe’s makes up about 75% of the interior of a large gas station on the south side of Kansas City, Kansas. The area is largely residential but I would guess from the clientele during our visit that they draw from a lot farther away. The owner, Jeff Stehney, got his first taste of big-time barbecue as a visitor to the American Royal. From there, he became a regular champion and grand-champion on the competition circuit running the Slaughterhouse Five team. Oklahoma Joe’s was born in 1995 in Stillwater, OK as a joint venture with the smoker manufacturer of the same name. Jeff opened the KC location a year later and it has remained in operation as the rest of the Oklahoma Joe’s empire went into retirement with the original partner.

The menu has some items not in lock step with the rest of the KC crowd. Burnt ends are nowhere to be found, but gumbo, red beans & rice and some other cajun favorites are well represented. A side of richly flavored red beans was a welcome change to the loads of french fried already consumed elsewhere.

Oklahoma Joe’s provided the trial meats for the Certified Barbecue Judge class that we had attended the day before our visit to their shop. We ran through samples of chicken, pork shoulder, ribs and brisket in the mock-judging portion of the class. These had been held in warmers for several hours. While they weren’t bad, we were hopeful they did not represent the best ‘Joe’ had to offer. Fresh samples of the brisket and ribs were far more rewarding. The brisket was the best of our trip. It was moist and tender with a distinct smoke flavor that worked well with their judicious (i.e. light) application of sauce. They provided several styles of rib for the class. Our favorites were St. Louis. They did not disappoint the second time around; moist, tender and full of flavor. Again, the mild sauce was well calibrated to harmonize with the meat. They also keep a hot variety of sauce on the tables called "Night of the Living Dead". It did not deliver enough heat to be worthy of that distinction. All told, Oklahoma Joe’s can hold its own against most competition, regardless of the city or state.

Rating ***
Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue (Kansas City) on Urbanspoon

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.