Since I’m nearing the end of my stay in Kansas, I am determined as ever to eat as much BBQ as I can. My current plan is to survey the best BBQ joints in KC by the end of June, tally up the results, and revisit the top three as many times as I can before I leave at the end of July.
I tried quite a few at this point. I went to the best known BBQ joints of Gates, Arthur Bryants, Oklahoma Joe’s, and Jack Stack. I have also gone to a slew of less known but well regarded joints such as LC’s, Woodyard, Biggs, Jon Russell’s, RJ’s, and Smokestack. There have been good moments, even great moments, but I never really experienced an affection as intense as the one that was brought by Stack BBQ.
Before my visit, nothing really drew me to that place. It doesn’t have the fun ambience of Woodyard, the fame of OK Joe’s, or the originality of RJ’s. I mean, even the name of the place is evokative of the best known BBQ joint in KC.
However, since I did give myself the mission of trying as much BBQ as I can, I decided to give it a try. I got the for two people Lunch option thing, which included 3 meats, ribs, toast, coleslaw, fries, and beans for 19 bucks.
I knew that sounded like a lot, but I was ready to be disappointed. I often approach dining with extremely low expectations, so that I would not be depressed. Expectedly or unexpectedly, the mound of food that came to our table was huge.
So here’s the meat. A pile of burnt ends, sliced beef, and sausage.
The meat was simply wonderful. The smell of smoke was almost overwhelming, bringing with the dish an intensity that stood out even in an establishment that already smelled like smoke. The sausage had a fine texture, with the bouncy feel that told you that this was not just some ground meat in casing, but carefully salted and mixed sausage meat. The burnt ends were fine. I categorize burnt ends into two camps: the byproduct ends that are inconsistent, chewy bits merely cut off from bbq meat, such as those from Arthur Bryants (don’t get me wrong, these are desirable features and have a charm by itself) and the “burnt ends” that seems to be not a byproduct but is meticulously prepared, with more consistent and often tender results (such as those from Jack Stack and Smokehouse). The Stack’s ends were more of the latter. Wonderful texture and bark, but for somebody like me who believes that the beauty of burnt ends is in its inconsistency and combination of tough, smoked out bits and tender, juicy parts, it was not ideal.
The beef was just beautiful. Unbelievably moist, fatty (but not grisly) and smokey, these were probably the best sliced beef that I had at a BBQ joint.
Then here’s the sides. Beans, slaw, potatoes, and four carefully buttered pieces of bread.
The sides tell you a lot abou the place. There’s really no half-assed attempts at the Stack. BBQ beans were similar to the meats: rich and intensely smokey. Slaw and fries didn’t really stand out, but in a good way. They were just good standard sides that supported the BBQ without overt presence. The toast was symbolic of the Stack itself. The bread is the product that are often the saddest elements of BBQ meals, with stale bits of commercial white bread that are salvaged only by being doused by meat juices and sauce. The Stack is so thorough that the bread was eatable by itself, toasted to perfection and with a healthy slab of butter.
If you haven’t noticed yet, this place has become my favorite BBQ joint. I have always scoffed at intense loyalty to specific establishments, but I might have to start rethinking my past actions.