Burnt Ends and High Water

On Wednesday Todd and I made our first BBQ pilgrimage in Kansas City, to Arthur Bryant’s original location at 18th and Brooklyn, near the old jazz district. I had been there before—in the late 1980s, I believe, with two friends who soon afterward got married.

It was a hot day on Brooklyn, and the warehouses in the distance did nothing to reduce the heat.Arthur Bryant's BBQ, Beth Partin's photosA steady stream of customers walked up to the clear partition, picked up a (reusable) plastic plate, and leaned down to give their order. Beth Partin's photos, Kansas City downtown restaurantsWhen I ordered burnt ends, a KC BBQ specialty, the guy behind the counter wanted to know if I was from here. “Grew up here,” I said, and that combined with the request for coleslaw got me a fist bump—plastic glove and all. I couldn’t resist ordering a red cream either. Beth Partin's photos The styrofoam cup has a little speech on it about how styrofoam cups weigh less than paper cups; the implication is that their lightness makes them better for the environment. (But what about the toxic manufacturing process? And the way styrofoam breaks down into tiny, little pieces that animals can mistake for food?) Despite the speech on the cup, we got real, albeit plastic, plates, and metal utensils.

The burnt ends were not pieces of beef, which is what I sometimes get served when I order burnt ends, but gooey strings with blackened edges, doused in a tomato-based sauce with bottom, rich, spicy, and sweet. (The next day, Todd and I ate at BB’s Lawnside BBQ on 85th near Troost. I had burnt ends soup there, which had a wonderful broth, but it was basically beef and vegetable soup.)Kansas City burnt endsI couldn’t eat more than half of my serving, though I did manage to sample Todd’s pork sandwich with fries. After lunch we waddled along the Missouri River path for a while. I found a shady spot from which to take pictures. The river was definitely high down at Riverfront Park, but it wasn’t flooding there as it was along I-29 in Nebraska and Iowa.Beth Partin's photosEvery time I come back to Kansas City and drive over the Missouri, I think, “Now that’s a river.” I know the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon and all, but the bits of it I’ve seen driving across Colorado and Utah don’t impress me as much as the big Midwestern rivers. It’s not fair, I suppose.

Our last stop downtown was Christopher Elbow chocolates. He has a store in San Francisco as well, though I don’t know where he got his start. He specializes in caramel infusions; I heard of his chocolate store because I went to Latte Land for a coffee one winter day in 2009 and saw “rosemary caramel latte” on the menu. He provides the infusion for that seasonal drink. So I had to order a rosemary caramel truffle.Kansas City chocolates, Beth Partin's photosI also ordered the chicory truffle because it reminded me of a truffle made by William Poole of Wen Chocolates (formerly in Denver; now relocated to New Orleans). This shot shows the wonderful lighting along the counter. And here’s Todd emerging from the very cold store into downtown Kansas City summer weather. Talk about the heat island effect!Arthur Bryant's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

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7 Responses to Burnt Ends and High Water

  1. Todd Bradley says:

    I still think my lunch looks better. The burnt ends had too much sauce for my taste.

  2. Beth Partin says:

    Maybe yours does look better, but I liked all the sauce on mine. It set off the charred pieces of meat.

  3. I first learned about Arthur Bryant’s from Calvin Trillin’s ode to the placeyears and yeara ago. When I was in KC on a biz trip years ago, I wanted to go there but somehow never did. I suspect that I might have enjoyed it more then than I would now. I found Brio Tuscan Grill in Park Meadows underwhelming too when a magazine editor sent me there. I wrote about it at http://j.mp/oZlqGO, and it seems as if that meshes with your experience. As I read through your post, I learned that William Poole is now in New Orleans. I had wondered what happened after he closed WEN in Denver.

  4. Beth Partin says:

    Claire,

    apparently, KC BBQ lovers think Arthur Bryant’s is past its prime, but it’s still better than most of the BBQ I’ve had in the city where I grew up. It’s fun to visit the downtown location, but there are others if you’re staying out south. People on Chowhound, I think, recommended Oklahoma Joe’s. Todd and I also went to BB’s Lawnside BBQ at 85th and Troost but were underwhelmed. Gates and Jack Stack’s are OK.

    Apparently Poole is going to restart Wen. Last time I checked, it hadn’t happened. He and his partner are redoing a B&B in New Orleans, Maison Macarty. You can get to his blog by searching for “Wen Chocolates.”

  5. WebWiseWoman says:

    I now live in Denver; have lived in Pacific NW, Cali (OC), Vegas and home (KC).

    Just visited a bbq joint yesterday who proclaimed “Kansas City” style sauce.

    There is NOTHING that compares to Bryant’s burnt ends; I’m tripping thru KC next month on the way to NOLA and taking I-70 just so I can have some!

    They’re not for the faint of heart (spicy) but if I were on death row, they would be my last request! Been enjoying them since maybe 1964 when we went to KC A’s games at Municipal Stadium (yes, the Charlie Finley A’s with white ostrich cleats) when I was a kid; the ONLY reason I come to KC (sorry, fam, love you but you can visit me)…

  6. Todd Bradley says:

    WebWiseWoman, Beth and I will in KCMO from about September 8 to 19, and I guarantee we’re going to visit Arthur Bryant’s sometime in there. If those dates overlap with your own trip, you should let us know and we can go together.
    Todd Bradley recently posted..where do we go from here?My Profile

  7. Beth Partin says:

    What Todd said. Though I’m not sure I found the burnt ends to be all that spicy. Did you order them with extra spice?
    Beth Partin recently posted..A Substantial Meal at Black PearlMy Profile

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