You can’t say the words “Kansas City” without your mouth watering a little.
We are king of barbecue. We can all agree we’re better than the Carolinas, Memphis, and definitely better than Texas. Kansas City has its own style. It’s only within our own style where Kansas Citians start to split in opinions.
What is the best Kansas City barbecue? You’ll find over 100 options and over 100 answers.
Some like hole-in-wall dive joints, some like a little more upscale. Some like traditional barbecue and some like something with a little more flair. And some can’t pick just one favorite barbecue restaurant. It’s like picking a favorite child – impossible.
I am a born and raised Kansas Citian. There is one restaurant that stands out when I think of Kansas City barbecue: Fiorella Jack Stack Barbecue. Why? Family. Family traditions die hard and in my family. “Jack Stack,” as we say, is the best. I rarely went to a restaurant as a child. I am the oldest of four kids and as you can imagine four kids in a restaurant is a handful. And four kids in a restaurant when screens and WiFi didn't exist. So no, I didn’t frequent the service of Jack Stack growing up but it was always in my home. It’s been spread over the kitchen table countless times – pounds of meat, sauce, buns, beans, and – oh yes, the cheesy corn. Oh, the cheesy corn. We’re talking about barbecue and I’m talking about cheesy corn. It’s that good, I promise you.
Why barbecue? Why Kansas City? It dates back to 1908 when Henry Perry “the father of Kansas City barbecue” began serving his smoked meats to workers in downtown Kansas City. He then moved “Perry’s barbecue,” near 18th and Vine district. And then moved again a few blocks away to an old trolley barn. Of course, Kansas Citians know this area famed for its jazz in the 20s and 30s. After Perry’s death, Charlie Bryant took over the business then sold it to his brother – take a guess – Arthur Bryant. Arthur Pinkard worked for Perry as well. He helped George Gates found – take another guess – Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q.
But where does Fiorella’s Jack Stack fall in line in Kansas City’s history? 1957. Russ Fiorella (he’s Italian) dropped his wife off at the hospital to give birth to their sixth child, left, and bought a roadhouse called The Lucky Inn which became Smokestack BBQ and then Jack Stack BBQ. How’s that for a labor and delivery story. How dare he?!
Russ ran a small neighborhood grocery store where he was also the butcher. As grocery chains began to chase out the mom-and-pop shops, Russ chose to follow his passion for barbecuing. It just happened to be during his wife’s labor (it was a girl, by the way). Oh, it doesn’t stop there. To help pay for the restaurant, he sold the seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom house in Kansas City and moved the family of eight into the second-floor apartment above the restaurant, named Smoke Stack.
By 1974, Russ and his son, Jack, opened Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ in Martin City. Today, Jack Stack Barbecue is one of the more upscale barbecues in Kansas City. The restaurant ships to all over the nation. And like many barbecue restaurants in Kansas City, it holds numerous awards and recognition, both locally and nationally.
As far as best barbecue in Kansas City, it’s like your favorite child – you can pick one but you sure do love them each in their own way. This one has good barbecue and some damn good cheesy corn.