Hayward’s Pit BBQ has been a staple in the Kansas City barbeque scene since 1972. Hayward Spears, the founder of Hayward’s Pit BBQ, opened the first location in the southern suburb of Kansas City - Overland Park, at the cross streets of 95th and Antioch Road. The story goes that he had a line out the door from day one. Nine years later, Mr. Spears moved 15 blocks south to a much larger space at Antioch and College Boulevard, where it remained for 35 years. In 2014 Hayward’s was passed onto Eric Sweeny. At 13, Eric’s first job in barbeque was loading wood into the pits of Hayward’s. He has now amassed an impressive resume in the realm of barbeque. And in 2014 he added owner of Hayward’s Pit BBQ to that resume. In 2016 Hayward’s Pit BBQ moved once more, to a location about 20 blocks Northwest – to Santa Fe Trail Drive in Lenexa, Kansas. This is where Josh and I went to taste the famed sauce and meat of Hayward’s Pit BBQ.
Heading out to Lenexa, Kansas – sort of sounds like we are headed to some old western town. Lenexa is included in the greater Kansas City Metro area, and is home to the great Lenexa BBQ Battle - one of the most distinct barbeque competitions in the nation. FlashPoint will be a Platinum Sponsor for the 2019 rendition of the great Lenexa BBQ Battle.
Kansas City has seen a very cold winter, and the day we went to Hayward’s was no exception. There was snow falling and the temperature was hovering in the high teens. Neither Josh nor myself had been to the new location of Hayward’s and did not know what to expect. Pulling up to the building, it just looked right. A stand-alone building with a wooden porch that wrapped around from the front to the side. Across the street, a very active set of train tracks. In the time we were there, at least two trains roared by – which only added to the atmosphere.
As we sat down we had the place to ourselves. Like I mentioned in our first review, we like to go in the mid-afternoon, after lunch rush. By the time we left, the place was filling up pretty quickly. At Hayward’s you sit down then order from a server. Which, in my opinion, is a better way than the - waiting in line to order, then standing and waiting for your food to be ready, then navigating the sauce station and drink dispenser, then having to search for a table that is hopefully clean. No thanks, I’ll gladly wait for a table, then order my food, get my drink, then my food. So many BBQ joints do the cafeteria-style service – and to me, it just does not work very well and creates a chaotic dining room vibe. I digress; lets get back to why we went in the first place – the smoked meat. We decided on the “Rib and Burnt end Platter” – two sides, Cheesy Corn Bake; Fries, and the “Hayward Special” (an open face two meat sandwich) – one side, Beans. For our beverage, we went with Torn Label’s (a local brewery), Alpha Pale Ale.
Rib and Burnt End Platter
The ribs were St. Louis style, and let me say they were VERY tender. The smoke ring was nearly to the bone and the bark on these ribs was absolutely perfect – crispy and flavorful without even a hint of burn. The color on the ribs looked photo shopped. Spice from the rub was subtle and welcomed. The meat nearly fell off the bone. What was left was a pile of stripped bones. Not even a speck of meat residue on the bones. We highly suggest adding the spicy rendition of Hayward’s sauce (which I think blows the regular sauce out of the water) to the ribs.
The burnt ends were equally tender. The texture on these little pieces of meat candy was excellent, with the meat melting over your tongue and the bark adding a bit of bite and crunch. The hickory flavor was screaming through. We put this platter down in a matter of ten minutes.
The fries came out hot and crispy. The only seasoning was a little salt. Thick cut and exactly what you might imagine a side of fires to be with a barbeque platter. The cheesy corn bake had a subtle mild cheese flavor with hints of paprika. The use of sweet corn was smart; this side had the consistency of cream of corn, which we didn’t hate.
Alex’s Rating – 4.75 Flames
Josh’s Rating – 4.75 Flames
This open face sandwich comes with your choice of two meats, served on two pieces of Texas toast. We went with Brisket and Turkey. I’m going to start with the good here – the brisket. The brisket came out cubed not sliced or shaved, which was a welcomed switch up. Much like the burnt ends the bark was incredible next to the tenderness of the meat. The beans were nice, a little soupy and very sweet, but sort of acted like a pallet cleanser. Then we get to the Turkey, O Boy – This was a big let down. I’m just going to sum the shaved turkey up in three words – Flavorless and Dry. No need to say much more.
Alex’s Rating - 3.25 Flames
Josh’s Rating – 3.50 Flames
I just wanted to add one quick personal note, I grew up in Overland Park, Hayward’s Pit BBQ was my first real memory of enjoying professional barbeque. It was my Mother’s favorite, which made it our defunct family barbeque joint. Was my Father constantly saying he could equal Hayward’s quality at home? Yes – and we even let him believe that (and we still do). But, whenever our family was headed out for BBQ, it was never up for debate as to where we were going; it was always Hayward’s. The place holds a special place to me.