Friday, September 17, 2010

Playboy: April, 1972; an Explication

If you've ever heard of Kansas City BBQ, then chances are you've heard that writer Calvin Trillin once named Arthur Bryant's Barbeque the "single best restaurant in the world". If you're unfamiliar with the claim, you needn't look any further than the bottom right of Arthur Bryant's homepage. I've been curious about the context of this statement since I first heard it, and had searched for it in spurts, but only long enough to learn that it was from an article in Playboy. Finally, I had to know the full story so I searched for hours to find the article. There were so many diversions when searching for Playboy on the web, that I opted instead to just find the April 1972 issue, and purchase it. Amazon helped me out, and I warned the wife not to be alarmed if she got the package before me. Given the trouble I had to go through to find it, I decided to scan it, and upload all four pages of the article here for your reading pleasure. I apologize for the lack of naked women, but there's a killer 'stache on that last page.

You'll have to click on each page to open a larger version if you wish to read it.

Once in context, I realized this was written in what seems like a tongue-in-cheek style retort to the article immediately preceding it touting the Maison Troisgros in Roanne, France just northwest of Lyon. They don't have a quote from Roy Andries De Groot (the article's author) on their homepage, but I'm doubting that was the cause for De Groot to shoot himself at 73 years of age.

In his rebuttal, Trillin makes several more fanciful claims that get little, if any attention today. He touted Jess and Jim's to serve the finest steak in the world, Winstead's to be the finest burger, while also claiming that KC was home to the finest donuts and milkshake on the globe. All of these grand proclamations are made in a lighthearted fashion along with statements deriding 'continental' cuisine and revolving restaurants atop bank towers. While I found the article a joy to read, and full of clever humor, it seems more of a playful counterpoint to the previous article about French cooking than it does a serious argument that the best of nearly every cuisine resides in Kansas City. Besides, since then he's eaten at Snow's in Lexington, Texas, so he surely knows that better BBQ exists than what's available in KC.

Any thoughts from KC die-hards out there? Did you ever take the claim from Trillin seriously? Do you take it less seriously now? Just curious.

- BBQ Snob


dj said...

Absolutely, I believe he meant every word regarding Bryant's. Still my first stop whenever I make it back to my home town.
Haven't made it to Snow's but with all due respect, it's a runner up to AB's.

Randy in Mansfield said...

I agree with DJ. I have been to snow's and probably to more BBQ joints in 15 states than even the Snob. And unlike Snow's that is only open only for a couple of hours on Saturdays(one day a week), because they don't make enough BBQ for their customers. Even I could come up with some killer Que since I wouldn't be rated on consistency(truthfully).

Arthur Bryant's is the premier Grease joint in the world. And yes Texas makes great Brisket, good sausage, and decent ribs. The Carolina's make great pulled pork, and Memphis, well Memphis makes great BBQ spaghetti and OK ribs. However, of all the places I have enjoyed the fine art of smoked meats, KC is the only place that you can find anything, and everything you want. From salmon, to whole hog; in other words, if it moves they smoke it. And yes while they predominantly use Hickory to smoke they can and will use Oak, Apple, Pecan ,Cherry and even Mesquite. In other words KC style is from a combination of evrybody else's style. Even Henry Perry who started Arhtur Bryant's was from Mississippi. So KC BBQ is the final result of the Grand BBQ experiment no matter how hard that is for Texan's with big egos to swallow. I hope the truth of this knowledge doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Martin said...

Could you scan and post the De Groot article about Troisgros as well please? Would really appreciate it, thanks!

BBQ Snob said...

Martin - Send me your contact info.

giantslor said...

Eat at Joe's -- Joe's Kansas City. It's consistently top rated and one of Anthony Bourdain's "13 places to eat before you die." You will no longer believe that better BBQ exists than what's available in KC.


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.