Sunday, May 27, 2007

Skew it on the bar-b

Memorial Day is upon us. I remember when I was still in school, the holiday marked a gateway to a magical time. A time without homework or alarm clocks, when a young man's dreams could coalesce in the hot, humid air of a Midwestern summer.

Now it just means we get to have a few barbecues, then go back to work.

But a barbecue is a magical event in itself. Whether you're cooking your own or partaking in the work of an expert, enjoying grilled meat (and even the occasional vegetable) makes any day a holiday. Or at least a meal. Here are my recommendations for barbecue, and because I'm from Kansas City, you should pay attention:

-Avoid Carolina barbecue. Unless you're one of those people who really, really love vinegar on shredded meat.

-If you're in Chicago, there are lots of barbecue restaurants but only a handful of places worth visiting.

Lem's, at 311 E. 75th St., uses an excellent, spicy sauce and will serve you ribs that are just firm enough to stay on the bone. If you're feeling hungry, order a half-chicken for yourself. Don't forget that there are fries buried underneath.

Twin Anchors, at 1655 N Sedgwick St., is kind of surprising. It's tucked into Old Town, for one thing, which isn't exactly a barbecue stronghold. For another, it's got more of a Sinatra vibe than that of a dusty Southern roadhouse. However, while the sandwiches are pretty average, the ribs are worth the visit. They don't skimp on the portions and have several great sauces to choose from--I recommend the "zesty." That's just how I roll.

The best barbecue in the city can be found in West Bucktown at Honey 1 BBQ, 2241 N. Western Ave. These guys know what the hell they're doing, and I haven't ordered anything that I haven't loved. Get a combo if you're hungry--rib tips and hot links are perfect for any occasion, providing you're not wearing a white shirt.

-Of course, if you want to go top-shelf, you've got to go Kansas City. Sorry--that's just how it is.

Arthur Bryant's, the original one at 1727 Brooklyn Ave., is the best barbecue I've ever tasted. It's the kind of perfect combination of meat and sauce that can drive a guy who's the average weight for his height to eat 10 times more than he should. I'm a big fan of the Rich 'n' Spicy sauce slathered on whatever. And don't cry, out-of-towners: You can order online! Be the first in your neighborhood to rock the Bryant's Rib Rub.

A close second, by the way, is Gates barbecue. (growing up, we usually visited the one at 103rd Street and State Line Road.) Although the atmosphere can be a little off-putting--imagine a teenage clerk yelling at you to order as soon as you poke your head in the door--the food is great.

-And finally, because I love you, dear reader, I'll share with you the perfect, the ONLY beverage to enjoy with your barbecue: Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat. It's hard to find if you don't live in Kansas or Missouri, but lucky you... you can buy it on Al Gore's Internet. Repay me with a beer when we next see each other.

Have a great holiday--and welcome to summer!


M. Gants v4.0 said...

Oooooh, BBQ! How I miss it!

The English can't bbq to save their lives.

I did, however, have some very nice grilled meat in Germany though earlier in the month. It wasn't proper bbq as we know it per se, but it was very nicely grilled.

Kylie said...

Never before have I been so proud to be a Boulevard drinking, Royals rootin', Bryan'ts eatin', Mizzou fan! Where do you come up with this stuff? Ha!

ak said...

great post. i've never heard of honey1, but will certainly be there soon. as the resident bbq expert, i'm hoping you might advise on some good bbq spots in memphis. i'll be there in a few weeks and want to experience some 'real' memphis bbq (i.e. arthur bryant's in kc), not the touristy stuff - read "kc masterpiece" in op. help?


Chris Cook said...

Alright Gerry, I can't resist. Also being a proud native of KC, I can't help butting my nose into the conversation when it comes to BBQ.

Just a few things:

A) I agree, Honey 1 rules (in Chicago). Basically, any time you see an older, heavyset gentelman sitting next to a pit, a seat he obviously hasn't left in the last ten hours or so, you know it's going to be good Barbecue.

B) Arthur Bryant's - Fantastic! Gates - eh. But for my money, the best BBQ (well, best food period) in KC can be found at Jack Stack Barbecue. While some purists might shun Jack Stack because of it's less "hole-in-the-wall" setting, the baby backs are mouth watering, and the (traditional KC) burnt ends are like manna from heaven. Not to mention the baked beans! Anyway, if anyone's going, they should definitely hit the Martin City location. Not as conveniently located, but undoubtedly the best atmosphere.

C) While North Carolina is definitely different, I'm convinced it deserves its place among the four capitals of BBQ. The combination of pulled pork and the vinegar-based sauce has to be done just right, but when it is, its absolutely worth the trip east. I have many fond memories of NC BBQ, and, if anyone cares (as I'm sure they don't), I'd personally recommend King's BBQ in Kinston, NC. Their speciallty sandwich (the "Pig in a Pup"), is a magical combination of pulled pork and coleslaw layered on a deep-fried hush puppy bun. Word.

D) Best drink for BBQ - I'd always go with the strawberry soda at Arthur Bryant's. A perfect way to wash down those perfect fries! But then, I've never liked beer, so what do I know.

Anyway, regardless of our personal preferences, I'm just glad another BBQ enthusiast like yourself is helping to keep the Kansas City Barbecue torch burning. There are too few of us my friend, too few.

P.S. To all the pretenders out there, if you're cooking burgers, steaks, or whatever on a Weber in your backyard, you're not having a barbecue, you're GRILLING! I'm just saying...

Gerry said...

ak: try corky's in memphis. I have some friends that swear it's the best barbecue outside the greater k.c. metro area. I had it at the memphis airport once--lame, yes, I know--and it was pretty good.

chris: you'll never convince me of the worth of carolina barbecue.