Posts Tagged ‘BBQ’

Kansas City BBQ Pilgrimage

November 23, 2010 2 comments

Hardcore BBQ fans pray towards Kansas City, their smokey “mecca” that boasts the most BBQ joints per capita in the nation.  It may be the only city where tourism actually centers around a particular cuisine.  Foodies of all walks of life acquaint themselves dreamily with this city through TV, books, and the internet well before making their pilgrimages.  The Fun Foodie recently had the opportunity to spend two days in this BBQ bastion.  I was commited to visiting the three biggies: Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, and L.C.’s..  I had also hoped to make a couple surprise discoveries.

With The Fun Family in tow (my wife plus four kids, 13 and under), the first stop was a relative newcomer, Gregory G’s just around the corner from the Truman Presidential Library.  Reviews were very promising, but our experience was mediocre at best.  Supposedly a “mom and pop” establishment, but the mom and pop were missing.  Had they grown so quickly in such a short amount of time?  If they ever served legit ‘que, it was a thing of the not-so-distant past.  Their food felt commercialized and sterile, lacking any personality or soul.  The ribs were nice and tender, with just a slight hint of smoke.  Decent, but forgettable.  The brisket was sitting pre-sliced in the steam table and was a bit on the dry and bland side.  The sausage was no better than the vacuum sealed links you can find at the grocery store.

Gregory G's brisket; a healthy heaping of beef, but where's the smoke ring?

My highest hopes rested in Arthur Bryant’s, probably the most famous BBQ restaurant in the nation.  This legend came into existence in the 1920’s and has been the focal point of countless television specials, magazine articles and blog posts.  Its locale in a run-down industrial area of downtown may be off-putting to some, but it really isn’t all that bad.  Regardless, the smell of their unique blend of hickory and oak will be comforting.

You’ll think I’m exaggerating, but my heart went all a-flutter upon entering this holy shrine.  We arrived at just a hair before 5:00 pm and were lucky to beat the dinner rush.  I walked right up to the counter guy who was behind a plexi-glass barrier that told me the area probably was as bad as I had read.  I ordered a sausage sandwich and burnt ends with fries.  Burnt ends are a Kansas City delicacy that is difficult to find elsewhere.  The fattiest, smokiest, most charred pieces of the brisket are lovingly trimmed off, drowned in sauce and re-smoked.  We’ve found them at one place in California (check out my cyber-alter-ego review here) and they were really good.  Arthur Bryant’s burnt ends were quite the let down.  The problem was the sauce and the method.  The meat was super tender, but was more like a pot-roast then smoked brisket.  Cooking in all that sauce amounted to more of a braise than BBQ.  Most importantly, the sauce tasted weird.  It had a sharp flavor that was really out of place and overwhelmed the burnt ends.  Just couldn’t get passed it.  Not terrible, just … weird.

The sausage was also weird, but in a good way.  It was sliced thin and, thankfully, served without sauce.  Very savory, smokey and moist.  Arthur Bryant’s lard-cooked, fresh-cut fries are some of the most talked about sides anywhere.  But what we were served were luke-warm and a bit soggy.  Definitely not fresh.  They were tasty enough to let me know that they would be quite special right out of the fryer.  All-in-all, Arthur Bryant’s was a pretty good experience, but pretty good is disappointing when you’re on a pilgrimage.

Arthur Bryant's burnt ends, aka pot roast.

Really, that's sausage. Different looking, but super tasty!

Arthur Bryant's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Not even ten minutes after finishing up at Arthur Bryant’s, we were being yelled at at Gates BBQ.  They have this strange tradition of yelling, “May I help you??” to customers as they walk in.  Some may find it welcoming, I see it as contrived and fairly annoying.  As we were quite full from our first dinner, the six of us split one burnt ends sandwich and a couple orders of fries.  After ordering, I watched a guy pull a blackened hunk of meat out of the pit and heard him do the meat cleaver boogie for what seemed like hours.  He hacked and hacked and hacked away and placed a huge pile of burnt ends on a roll.  I was shocked at the size of the sandwich, easily enough for two hungry adults.  It comes unsauced, which tells me they have nothing to hide. The meat was great, crispy and smokey, but just a tad on the dry side.  Sauce is a must, not to make up for any short-comings, but because their sauce is excellent!  Well balanced, with chiles, cumin and garlic making for a savory accompaniment.  Gate’s Extra Spicy BBQ Sauce is right up there with the very best I’ve ever had.

The key ingredient to Gate's burnt ends? The meat cleaver boogie.

Gates Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Alas, the time had come to leave mecca.  But I still felt empty.  Figuratively, speaking, of course, as I had eaten enough to feed a small third world country.  I had eaten some very good BBQ in my short time in Kansas City, but I was looking for something more along the lines of a life-changing religious experience.  Heading south out of town, my final hope was L.C.’s BBQ, a smallish joint that was a bit off the beaten path.  It’s billowing smokestack was like a lighthouse drawing me to safety.  The air inside the restaurant was smokey and delicious.  The BBQ pit was right behind the service counter, and I looked lovingly into the heart of this humble joint as each order was filled.  Our order?  Pork spareribs, brisket sandwich, burnt ends and fries.  I don’t remember where I started, all I know is that I didn’t want it to end.  The ribs were amazing!  The meat pulled easily off of the bone without falling right off of them, had a great spice rub encrusted on the exterior and were wonderfully smokey.  The sauce complimented the meat nicely without overpowering it.  It was as close to a perfect rib as I’ve ever had.  The brisket was amazing!  Sliced thin, tender and smokey.  The burnt ends were — you guessed it — amazing!  They were chopped up into perfect little bite-sized pieces, with just the right balance of lucious fat, crispy crust and succulent meat.  Somehow, these tender morsels would just melt away upon contact with my mouth, but still had some substance and bite to them.  I felt like bowing my head to honor this meat after each bite.  Remembering the barred windows outside of the restaurant, I felt like I was in a BBQ prison … but with no desire to escape.  Wow.

And the fries cooked in lard were quite epic, too.

L.C.'s Ribs.

L.C.'s brisket sandwich.

L.C.'s burnt ends.

L.C.’s = Best.  BBQ.  Ever.

LC's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon


Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

May 31, 2010 2 comments

Hard core pit masters with the time and equipment will baby ribs for up to seven hours in their smokers.  Without the aid of gas or electricity, much effort is put into keeping the temperature and smoke just right.  As much as I revere this ever-so-pure form of authentic All-American BBQ, the reality of limited time and a cheap smoker brings out the cheatin’ heart in me!  I’ll clarify later.

If you want good ribs, you can’t cut corners in the preparation.  First off, I prefer spare ribs, as opposed to the yuppy choice, baby backs.  Spares come from the belly of the pig and are bigger and much meatier.  But they require some surgery.  There are two distinct sections in whole spare ribs: the tips and the actual ribs.  The tips have a whole bunch of cartilage and gristle and cook up differently.  We split the sections, BBQ the ribs, and use the tips to make some killer New Mexican-style Green Chile Stew (the tips make some crazy good broth).  Also, there’s a rubbery membrane on the back of the ribs that needs to be removed.

Removing the membrane is a cinch.  Use a knife to get under it right on top of a bone.  That's one slippery booger, so use a rag or paper towel to just pull it right off...

Removing the membrane is a cinch. Use a knife to get under it right on top of a bone. That's one slippery booger, so use a rag or paper towel to just pull it right off...

See, just like that!

With the ribs properly trimmed and peeled, they’re ready for a good rub.  My seasoning rub consists of (in order of prevalance): celery salt, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, New Mexican red chile powder, chipotle chile powder, black pepper and cumin.  I like to let the rack and rub get to know each other for a couple hours.

I’ve come to prefer “grill smoking” ribs.  That means I put them directly over a thin layer of lump charcoal along with a chunk of hickory that smolders over to the side.  You’ve got to be careful with this method, as you can torch your ribs if you don’t keep the temperature low.  Let ’em brown on the meaty side for about five minutes (depending on how hot your coals are), then flip to the bone side.  I keep it in the smoker this way for about an hour.  The initial blast of heat makes for a tasty crust, then the coals slowly cool off enough to gently smoke.  The flavor is unbelievable this way.  But here’s where the cheatin’ comes in.  After the hour in the smoker, I wrap the ribs real tight in foil and finish them off in a 225-250 degree oven.  Total cooking time will be between 4-5 hours.  I like my ribs to be tender, but still have some integrity (not quite “fall off the bone”).  At the very end, slather generously with your favorite BBQ sauce (try this Dr. Pepper sauce sometime) and char under the broiler or, better yet, over some lump charcoal.

Cheatin’ never tasted so good!

Categories: BBQ, Recipes Tags: ,

Frisella’s Roastery

January 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Frisella’s opened in my hometown of La Verne, CA in 1993.  It seems I have to drive quite a distance to eat seriously killer food and have been hoping to find something along those lines locally. offered a $25 gift certificate to the Glendora location for just two bucks (details here) so we decided to conduct our research there.

You wouldn’t know it by its name, but Frisella’s is a BBQ restaurant.  Maybe the word “Roastery” was a marketing strategy for the slightly uppity foothill communities.  Or maybe “Roastery” is a more accurate description than “BBQ”.  I’ll explain….

For starters, we ordered the mozarella sticks (which were pretty much what you can get frozen at Smart and Final) and onion strings (which were pretty good).  The marinara sauce that came with the mozarella sticks was excellent, with a bright and fresh tomato flavor and a nice hint of garlic.  I ordered the half rack of baby back ribs, and chose cole slaw and beans for the sides (pictured above).  The ribs were pretty close to perfectly tender and moist, but had barely any smoke flavor.  There was about an eighth of an inch of a smoke ring, which means it was probably smoked for less than an hour.  They use red oak, which has a more mellow flavor than other hardwoods (like hickory, which is what I prefer), so they should be smoking for much longer.  The ribs had a tasty and pleasantly crispy crust from the seasoning rub, but Texans and southerners would scoff at calling this BBQ.  Frisella’s ribs definitely suit the Californian palette that tends to be more in tune with propane grills.  The cole slaw and beans were bland, and the BBQ sauce was boring and a tad on the sweet side.  We also ordered the pulled pork sandwich that came with a side of their homemade (and very enjoyable) potato chips.  The pulled pork was nice and moist, but also lacked smoke flavor.

Though tasty, I would not return for their barbequed meats.  They certainly beat out Chili’s or Tony Roma’s, but I’m looking for a heartier smoke.  They did have a nice selection of italian dishes and the marinara was good enough to pique my interest.

Frisella's Roastery on Urbanspoon