The debate over the best barbecue in the US can get heated quickly, encompassing not just quality, but also whether one regional style is inherently better than another.
But according to Yelp, the best barbecue in America comes from a Kansas City joint called “Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.” Yelp recently released its list of the highest-rated restaurants in America, and Joe’s snagged the top barbecue spot (and No. 4 restaurant overall).
The iconic restaurant, which is tucked away in a gas station, isn’t exactly an unknown in the barbecue world. It was named one of 13 places to eat before you die by Anthony Bourdain, and routinely appears in roundups of the best barbecue restaurants in America.
So what should you get to eat there?
While the ribs are excellent, and the fries are the best in Kansas, if you want a true Joe’s original, you should check out the Z-Man Sandwich. The sandwich features sliced smoked brisket, smoked provolone, a few onions rings, and a dab of barbecue sauce — all on a Kaiser roll.
That combination will eradicate your mouth my friend,” a Yelp commenter wrote
Joe’s originally emerged out of an award-winning barbecue team anchored by Jeff and Joy Stehney, called Slaughterhouse Five. The team began competing in the early 90s, and has
won a ton of big contests, including Kansas City Barbecue Society’s team of the year in 1993.
“Pretty soon people began to tell us that we should open our own restaurant,” Joy Stehney said. “Of course that was flattering, but we were both employed in the restaurant industry at the time, and we knew firsthand how much effort and risk would be involved in opening our own place. It wasn’t something we rushed into.”
But since the late 90s, the three Joe’s locations have been a runaway success. Due to an early partnership, the business was first called Oklahoma Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, but the Oklahoma was chopped off in 2014 to reflect that it had been a Kansas-owned company for 17 years.
As to the potential for expansion, don’t expect a bunch of Joe’s popping up all over the US.
“Three barbecue restaurants are enough for us,” Jeff said. “Our ambition has never been to be the biggest. Our goal has only ever been to be the best. I think we’ve achieved that … every morning when I arrive at the restaurant and smell that wonderful smoke coming out of our smokers. After all these years, it’s still magical.”
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