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9 Bites of Kansas City Slideshow

9 Bites of Kansas City Slideshow

Burnt Ends

Where to go: Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ

After taking the briskets off the pit in the morning, Danny Edwards splits them and takes the lean part to slice for sandwiches. Then he takes the tops and cuts off the fat, seasons the meat, and puts it back in the pit. After a time, it’s chopped for the burnt ends. Unlike other barbecue joints, these are not fatty leftovers gussied up to avoid waste, but crisp and tender morsels of goodness.

Chicken Spiedini

Where to go: Garozzo’s Italian Ristorante

Another meat dish invented in Kansas City is the chicken spiedini, a savory Italian shish kebab. The dish was invented at the restaurant, which still serves the local staple. The chicken is marinated, rolled in Italian breadcrumbs, skewered, and grilled.

Kansas City Strip

Where to go: Jess and Jim’s

Another BBQ classic, the strip is the cut of meat Kansas City is famous for. This cut of meat uses the short loin, and does not have any tenderloin, resulting is a particularly tender piece of meat. Because of its roots in Kansas City, it is served at almost all of the city’s 100-plus BBQ joints.

Molcajete

Where to go: Taqueria Mexico

Kansas City is home to Southwest Boulevard, a strip filled with authentic Mexican cuisine. One of the most notable is Taqueria Mexico with their signature dish, molcajete. The dish is a combination of various kinds of meat (chicken, steak, shrimp, and sausage) smothered in a house-made spicy sauce.

Pizza

Where to go: Minsky’s

Named one of Travel and Leisure’s top cities for pizza, Kansas City is home to some seriously delicious and gourmet pizza joints. A traditional local spot is Minsky’s, who prides itself on their slogan "Gourmet, and going to stay that way!" Whatever your favorite pizza topping may be, this place will deliver.

Chilaquiles

Where to go: Port Fonda

What started as a dish served out of Patrick Ryan's food truck has become a featured menu item at his brick-and-mortar restaurant of the same name. Ryan, who cooked with Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolabampo in Chicago, learned a thing or two from his mentor about making authentic Mexican sauces.

Baked Beans

Where to go: Jack Stack

Even those who disagree about where to get the best ribs or brisket would be hard-pressed to find better baked beans anywhere than at Jack Stack Barbecue. Smoky and chock-full of big chunks of brisket, these are the gold standard.

Shrimp and Grits

yelp/rye-leawood

Where to go: Rye

James Beard Award-winning chef Colby Garrelts has riffed on a Southern classic, making it uniquely Midwestern. Using grits from a local farmer, he serves a slightly different rendition of the dish at both the upscale Bluestem, as well as at Rye, his more casual eatery.

Brussel Sprouts

Where to go: Pizzabella

Pizzabella's delicious dish pairs Brussels sprouts with pancetta, cranberries, almonds, and a vinaigrette. Once you take a bite, prepare to join the ranks of the converted, for even those who typically disdain this cabbage-like vegetable find that this dish is quite addictive.


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Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


Share All sharing options for: The Burnt Ends of Kansas City: A Guided Tour

Given that Kansas City boasts the most barbecue restaurants per capita in the U.S. (at least among major metropolitan areas), I'm not sure that my recent tour of twelve smokehouses there qualifies as "definitive," or even comprehensive.

But, if my hometown, food-writing legend Calvin Trillin, could substitute humorous hyperbole for authority, then I might have a worthy kernel or two to offer here. I recently reread Trillin's famous love letter to Kansas City barbecue (and sundry cheap eats) that appeared in a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine. It not only remains one of the most-cited pieces of writing among Kansas Citians, but promises a barrel of laughs decades and countless readings later. Entitled "No! One of the Worlds' Foremost Authorities on Ribs, Cheeseburger, French Fries and Frosty Malts Takes a Gourmet Tour of Kansas City," the article (filed under "Opinion" by his editors) reads to me more like a myth, resurrecting delicious giants from my childhood and beyond, blurred by a greasy film of nostalgia. Many of them — like Winstead's, known for their thin-patty burgers — still haunt our city today, sadly, shadows of their alleged, former glory.

For Kansas City barbecue, Trillin's article reigns more like a charter. It established Henry Perry as the father of Kansas City barbecue, thereby making Charlie Bryant — the man who took over Perry's barbecue restaurant in 1940 — the scion and heir to his legacy. Charlie's business eventually passed to his brother Arthur. And it was under Arthur Bryant's ownership that Trillin, in his 1972 article, conferred upon the restaurant the bombastic title of "the single-best restaurant in the world."

Trillin's writing also set into motion the gears of commerce and romance over a scrap of meat at Arthur Bryant's that Trillin described as the "burned edges of the brisket." He wrote of it: "The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself. I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful, overpriced restaurant in some strange town, trying to choke down some three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge, a blank look comes over me: I have just realized that at that very moment, someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Not for long. Barbecue restaurants quickly capitalized upon Trillin's anecdote and started selling those "burnt ends." At their best, "burnt ends" are the crisped and charred "bark" from the fattier corners of the brisket — beef crackling that has been blackened by smoke. Deemed too burnt and fatty to eat, traditionally these trimmings were set aside as the cook's snack. But following Trillin's article, the demand for these scraps quickly outpaced production. So, at most barbecue restaurants, burnt ends turned into something entirely different.


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