Just got home after a quick trip to Kansas City, where i had lunch with pals Kyle and Link at Arthur Bryant's.
For those of you not up on KC barbecue lore, this Arthur Bryant's is about as hallowed as it gets around here. I've been going to Bryant's since i was about six or seven. In those days, the ballpark that was home to the Kansas City Athletics (and later, The Royals) was located about a half mile up Brooklyn Ave. You could get your sandwich to go, all wrapped up in brown paper, and walk up to the game. In those days, Bryant's didn't serve drinks. You had to get your soda from a vending machine in the dining room.
Aside from fountain drinks, not a lot has changed inside Arthur Bryant's. The smoker is the same, and i like to think that sixty years of meat smoke gunk sticking to the walls add to the flavor of the current products. Bryant's has had to add a few salads to keep up with all the suburban barbecue in town. I don't really approve of salads that include dairy products being served in my old-school barbecue joints, but what can you do? Progress happens, whether you welcome it or not.
The original Bryant's sauce is totally unique. It's rich, but full of vinegar tang. It has tons of paprika (i think), and very little sweetener. It also contains lard. Yes, at Arthur Bryant's, even the sauce has lard in it. I strongly disapprove of the sweeter sauces Bryant's has added to their lineup in the last decade or so. I guess they had to respond to the KC Masterpiece crap that seems so popular with white people. Blech... White people.
My usual order at Bryant's is a sliced turkey and pork sandwich with fries. It's a lot of food, as you can see.
I don't know that Arthur Bryant's is still the best barbecue in Kansas City. There's a lot more competition these days. I do know that it's the most legendary, and that going to the original location, on Brooklyn Ave., is the experience that resonates the most with me. There is history in that dump. It's in the grease on the walls and floor, it's in the giant bottles of sauce that sit in the front windows, and it's in that ancient smoker. God love it.