There is a man in the world of barbeque that is synonymous with Kansas City – Arthur Bryant. He and his brother Charlie starting kicking out some of the worlds best smoked meats in 1940. We made our pilgrimage to the historic 18th and Vine district of Kansas City to get a taste of Mr. Bryant’s world famous recipes. *Spoiler alert* We were not disappointed.
It was a cold Tuesday afternoon in Kansas City. Grey sky and remnants of snow on the ground. Spotting the two large signs, we pulled into the mostly empty parking lot at 18th and Brooklyn. Our nostrils were hit with the aroma that all barbeque lovers know so well – a sweet smoky scent which almost sticks to your tongue with every inhale. We exchanged a knowing look before opening the Jeep’s doors. We paused a moment, both of us seeing with our noses. I went to grab my camera and when I turned back, Josh was already around the building’s corner. Was it because of the cold, or trying to catch up with Josh, or my eagerness to put a visual with the scent – I don’t know, but I ran up to the old brick building like a child running to a toy store.
Trying to avoid the lunch rush, we arrived around three o’clock. Yet, there was still a line at the counter! The dinning room had about 15 tables full of seemingly satisfied faces. Some leaned backed in their chair, picking at clean plates, placid smiles on their faces.
The décor is exactly what you’d expect of your local BBQ dive. Clean, but had a certain patina that is earned with nearly 80 years of smoke dancing over every surface of the building. The chairs in the various stage of a chair’s lifecycle. The tables, slightly skewed from the grid they were originally placed in. Some sets of tables had been pulled together for large groups that were no longer there. Pictures adorning the walls. Only these pictures were of visiting Presidents, A-list actors, and hall of fame athletes. These famous faces all seemed to share the same smiles I saw sitting around the tables when we walked in.
We (thought) knew what we were going to order before we arrived. So while we waited in line, we watched the kitchen work. Orders being yelled out from the register, gorgeous smoked brisket and turkey and pork being sliced and piled high on “white bread”, mountains of fries being added to plates and trays. Half and full slabs getting cut to order. From the portions we were seeing, no one would walk out the door hungry. When we found the front of the queue, we had changed our order no less than five times, But decided on two dishes - the ‘Burnt End Open Face’ and the ‘Combo Sandwich’ (Turkey and Brisket). Both with fries. We asked the expediter/cashier,
“What should we get to drink?”
“Either the red soda, or a beer.” She answered, matter-of-fact-like.
So we got both, sat down with our food and drink, snapped a couple pictures then dug in.
Most platters at Arthur Bryant’s are served ‘dry’ – meaning no sauce is added by the kitchen. You add the sauce at the table. The choices being - Original, Rich and Spicy, or Sweet Heat.
Combo Sandwich (Turkey and Brisket)
It was huge! The turkey had a beautiful smoke ring, as did the brisket. Both meats were very tender. I started with adding the original sauce and, WOW – was it flavorful. Full of spice and bite – with a subtle heat to it. The consistency of the sauce was good. Enough stick to hold onto the bread and meat, and thin enough to spread throughout the entire sandwich without running. I had to remind myself to try the other two sauces. Both of which were good in their own right. The ‘Rich and Spicy’ elevated the heat from the original sauce to the forefront of your pallet. While the ‘Sweet Heat’ played up, you guessed it, the sweeter side of the original.
Alex’s Rating – 4.75 Flames
Josh’s Rating - 4.5 Flames
Burnt End Open Face
The burnt ends are one of the few dishes that come lathered in sauce from the kitchen. They sit atop one slice of “white bread” and they were glorious. Healthy cubes of delicious beef that seemed to dissolve after one chew. We think the sauce was the original but never thought to ask anyone. The char was just perfect and added a great texture next to the succulent meat.
Alex’s Rating – 4 Flames
Josh’s Rating – 4.5 Flames
After the main dishes were finished, and only a few fries remaining in either basket, I picked up my Boulevard Pale Ale, took a few sips, and ate a couple more deliciously seasoned fries. When I looked up, I saw Josh leaned back in his chair, with that familiar placid smile. I was going to comment on it, then realized I was in the same exact position. I kind of laughed to myself as I realized, there is a word for this seated position – Satisfaction.