Nothing tastes better than Kansas City BBQ washed down with a side of the blues. A road trip to taste award-winning BBQ and grammy-winning blues artists in KC is easy and worthwhile. All you need to pack are jeans, a winter jacket, and an appetite for adventure.
Everyone on earth needs to experience firsthand why Kansas City ranks #1 for the best barbecue in America while Memphis ranks #5 and St. Louis #7, according to Fox 4 in Kansas City.
There are hundreds of terrific BBQ joints in Kansas City. For the sake of time and to get a weekend sampling in, we recommend making stops at the BBQ and Blues joints below. If you’re more ambitious and want to hit more barbecue favorites like Joe’s, Gates, and Q39, download the KC BBQ Experience App and have at it.
Your Kansas City BBQ Stops
Slap’s BBQ opened in June of 2014. Slap’s is an acronym for Squeal Like a Pig.
To stay sharp, Slap’s BBQ’s Squeal Like a Pig pit team competes on the Kansas City BBQ Circuit throughout the year.
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue has been serving smoked meats with Wonder Bread and fries since 1908. Author Calvin Trillin put Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue on the national radar when he published in Playboy that it might just be the single best restaurant in the world.
Jack Stack Barbecue is on Zagat’s “Highest-Rated BBQ in the Country” list and has evolved into the largest wood-fired cookery in the United States. Jack Stack has five locations. While most of the Kansas City BBQ joints on this list are counter-style, Jack Stack is great for a sit-down dinner
BBs Lawnside Bar-B-Q has been serving up Authentic Kansas City BBQ and Blues since 1990. You’ll dine family-style while you enjoy live music from KC legends like Mama Ray, Brody Buster, and Four Fried Chickens and a Coke.
Plowboys Barbecue has three locations — Blue Springs, Overland Park, and Downtown Kansas City, MO at 1111 Main St.
Plowboys Barbecue entered the Kansas City scene in 2001. The owner Todd Johns and his crew have won a slew of awards including Sausage Champion at the American Royal Open (2018); Park Reserve Champion at the American Royal Invitational (2014); Chicken Reserve Champion at the American Royal Invitational (2010); and in Brisket Champion and Grand Champion at the American Royal in 2009.
Finally, Harp Barbecue in Raytown is the rising BBQ Star in Kansas City. It’s only open on Saturday at Crane Brewing in Raytown and it always sells out. Hat tip to the Ritz brothers and their podcast called State Your Line for turning me onto Harp Barbecue.
Harp Barbecue has been featured in Food & Wine, TexasMonthly, Thrillest, and Cook’s Country. They know what they’re doing.
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Pictured above. KC Cole. A sandwich made with brisket, whole hog, and pimento cheese. Photo credit: Harp BBQ IG.
Kansas City Jazz vs. the Blues
Kansas City is known as a jazz town but it dishes out some mean blues too. If time allows, visit the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District, which salutes jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.
The Blue Room is adjacent to the museum and has live jazz performances on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Kansas City’s Big Joe Turner was known as the brainy-voiced “Boss of the Blues” from 1920-1980. Big Joe Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Today’s KC blues legends include Samantha Fish, Amanda Fish, Heather Newman, Danielle Nicole, Nick Schnebelen, Diane “Mama” Ray, and Brody Buster.
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Each artist is considered Kansas City blues royalty. If they’re performing while you’re in town, grab a ticket and listen into the wee hours of the night. You’ll leave hungry for more music and more Kansas City BBQ.
Where to Stay in KC
The President Hotel is recognized by the Historic Hotels of America and has been part of the Kansas City skyline since 1926.
Picture your favorite blues legend tickling the ivories of the grand piano in the lobby. After you check-in, have a drink at the Drum Room. Then visit the six venues listed on the front or hop on the streetcar and go to Ploughboys Barbecue (1111 Main St.) or the recordBar (1520 Grand Blvd.) to hear live music and blues bands.
Download Your Itinerary
Here’s your weekend itinerary in a nutshell. Print the two-page agenda and eat your heart out.