Below is a picture of the outside of Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue located at 3002 W 47th St. (the corner of 47th St. and Mission Rd.) in Kansas City, Kansas. This is like any of those places you’ve probably walked or driven past a bazillion times and just expect it to be mediocre, so you never bother to walk in. Perhaps that it’s a restaurant attached to a gas station might turn you off too.
Yup. A gas station.
In fact, when you walk in, you can head left to pay for a fill up or right to order some ribs.
This is a concept I can get into.
Normally I wouldn’t take a picture of a door, but I do so for two reasons. 1) They are closed on Sunday. So if you’re planning a weekend in KC, take note. 2) Don’t let those closing times fool you. I was informed that Oklahoma Joe’s closes when the food runs out. If you get there for dinner, there is no guarantee they will have the cut of meat you want or even be open at all. I’ve also been told that there is usually a line out of the door during nicer weather days (and sometimes during snow storms) and you wait sometimes up to 1 – 2 hours to place your order.
Even where you order is a reminder that you are not here for service. Below is a picture of the whole operation. One guy takes the order, four other people put the plates together, and there is one other guy (the guy with the goatee) – his job is to butter bread and toast it.
That’s all he did the whole time I was waiting in line. Amazing.
Behind those blue and yellow signs lies the kitchen. There is one pass through window and I didn’t really get to see much of the operation. I would imagine they do the majority of their cooking overnight (low and slow) and pass through food only to restock the station.
I ordered the rib and brisket dinner. It comes with three large ribs, a side of brisket, Texas toast, pickles, and a side – I chose the potato salad. I want to draw your eye for a second to the size of these ribs. What on earth are they feeding these pigs? The color is perfect and that blackened part tasted nothing like char. These ribs are completely delectable and fell right off the bone. There was no fat or grease, just clean smoked flavor. The brisket is also a thing of beauty. Those ribbons pull apart easily and melted in my mouth like butter.
My wife opted for much of the same. Instead of brisket, she asked for the pulled pork instead. You can see that they put very little sauce on the pork itself and I imagine this is so purists can enjoy the meat flavor and everyone else can douse their pork with as much sauce as they would like. The pulled pork was delicious, melt in your mouth goodness. There was no fat or gristle left and I found that I preferred the big chunks of meat to what the shredded, stringy version I’ve had in the past. The cole slaw (barely visible bottom right) was pretty basic and nothing to write home about. The dressing had already melted a bit indicating this cup had been sitting there for at least two or three hours.
Oklahoma Joe’s is a win in every standpoint. It serves delicious food. It’s not pretentious. It’s affordable. And the locals love it.
Even if I didn’t have great friends to visit in Kansas City, I’d be looking forward to going back just for another plate of Kansas City barbecue.