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