The Origins of Kansas City BBQ

Posted by Chad Stamm on Aug 18, 2021 3:07:53 PM

In food and beverage


We all know about the infamous Kansas City barbecue, but what about it makes it so special?

For starters, more than any other barbecue region in the country, Kansas City does a wide variety of meats, and they do them well. From ribs to brisket to the ubiquitous burnt ends, you can expect high quality all across the city.

There are certainly infamous establishments, too. Gates is often referred to as the BBQ of the people, and Joe's Kansas City, formerly known as Oklahoma Joe's is the best barbecue you'll ever eat in a gas station. It also happens to be one of Anthony Bourdain's top restaurants you must try before you die. While these are spots that are worthy of anyone's summer barbecue road trip list, what about the beginnings of the Kansas City barbecue brand? Where did it begin and how did it grow to achieve the reputation it has today?

The "original" Kansas City barbecue institution is a place called Arthur Bryant's, currently located in the historic African American neighborhood of 18th and Vine, which also launched the careers of many iconic jazz stars. Arthur Bryant's didn't begin there, though, and it wasn't even started by a man named Arthur Bryant.

Henry Perry is considered to be the father of Kansas City barbecue, and in 1908 he started serving smoked meats to workers in the Garment District. Two men named Charlie and Arthur Bryant used to work for Perry, who died in 1940. Arthur took the helm in 1946 and continued the traditions started by the father of KC BBQ, and now his name is the most iconic in the city's rich history.

How famous is it? Consider the people who have dined there: Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Bill Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama, to name a few. The beauty of a meal at Arthur Bryant's, though, is the food speaks to the regular average Joe, and though it's now run by descendants of Arthur, you can expect the same, no-frills, Bryant quality originally started by Mr. Perry himself more than 100 years ago.

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