Thursday, August 31, 2017

RJ's Bob-Be-Que Shack in Mission, KS

RJ's Brisket sandwich
Today I stopped by RJ's Bob-Be-Que Shack in Mission, KS on the corner of Johnson Drive and Lamar.  From their website..."Robert "Bob" Palmgren, is a Kansas City native, who got his start in food service while working at his family's grocery store off Armour & Troost. After his years at the store, Bob discovered his passion and began his lifelong career in professional, fine-dining cuisine. He has since moved around the country serving as chef, executive chef, restaurant consultant, and contractor at many restaurants and public and private events across the culinary spectrum.  After over 25 years in the fine-dining and food retail arena, Bob resolved he would finally pursue what had, up to that point, been only a hobby: BBQ. RJ's Bob-Be-Que Shack was born. Named after Bob's son, RJ (Robert, Junior), the restaurant is Bob's grand opus. With more than 30 years of toying around at BBQ contests, Bob and his girlfriend Denise realized his dream of owning and operating his very own restaurant."  They've also been featured on Kansas City's "Check Please" television restaurant review show and Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

I arrived around 4:30 on Thursday.  I had a fantasy football draft so I had to go a bit early.  This is a restaurant where you seat yourself and a waitress serves you at your table.  They have a bar with plenty of beers on tap and liquor as well and I decided to sit at the bar.  There weren't too many people at the restaurant at this time of day.  There were three Shawnee police officers sitting at a table and another gentleman that was sitting at the bar. 

Their menu is A La Carte, so the sandwich doesn't come with sides.  I ordered their large brisket sandwich and it took about 10 minutes to get my order.  The sandwich is served on toasted bread with no sauce.  This is the first place I've visited that serves their sandwich with toasted bread, so that was different.  My first thought when she gave me my food was "wow, that's a lot of bread!"  There was a bottom slice of bread, some brisket on top of that, another slice of bread, some brisket on top of that and then another slice of bread on top.

The brisket was a bit dry and tough, but had a good flavor to it.  I ate half of the sandwich without sauce and decided to split the other half in two pieces to try their sauces.  Their original sauce has a bit of a brown sugar taste to it but was not too sweet.  The second sauce is a "Southern BBQ" sauce and it was VERY sweet.  I am not a fan of the Southern sauce.  I noticed they have a "Habenero Sauce" so I took a piece of brisket off the sandwich so I could try that sauce as well.  It has quite a kick to it and the taste lingered in my mouth and tingled.  It really did linger for a while after I tried it.  I had two glasses of water trying to get the feeling back in my mouth but I could still feel the heat!

My bill was $9.86 for a large brisket sandwich.  The fries or any of the other sides were between $2.50 and $5.00.

I'm glad I found this place, but I'm not a huge fan of the brisket.  Since there is a Johnny's right down the street, I'd probably just go there if I was in the area and wanted some barbecue.  I've heard some people really like this place, so maybe they have other items that are worth trying.  I'll have to give it a shot again sometime.

I've got 15 restaurants down now.  I've added one to my list and I had to remove one that went out of business, so that will even out.  Till next time....

Here's a picture of half the sandwich.  A lot of bread and not much meat.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in Gladstone, Missouri

Decided to take a drive on this rainy Sunday to check out Smokehouse Bar-B-Que in Gladstone, Missouri.  Smokehouse opened in Gladstone in 1987.  They also have locations in Independence, MO and Kansas City, MO at Zona Rosa.  According to their website they have one goal..."Provide Kansas City diners with the highest quality barbecue, along with unparalleled service. Smokehouse Bar-B-Que exceeds that goal on a daily basis offering only the best hickory smoked beef and succulent chicken as well as savory seasonings, delicious sauces and rubs."

I arrived around noon on Sunday.  This is a sit down restaurant and when I walked in the hostess seated me at a booth.  My waitress was quick to arrive at my table to take my order.  I ordered their brisket sandwich without sauce.   The menu stated that you could order the sandwich with or without sauce and I like that you can order it either way.   I asked if I could get the barbecue sauce on the side and she said that was fine.  The menu also stated that the meal comes with coleslaw and fries and as you can see in the photo above, my meal came with fries only.  I was looking forward to trying the coleslaw since they kind of brag about it on their website, but I didn't get the opportunity.

I got my food seven minutes after placing my order.  The brisket is served on a soft hoagie bun without sesame seeds.  The brisket was hot and tender but a bit bland.  I ate half the sandwich without sauce and finished the other half with sauce.  The sandwich was much easier to eat with sauce on it.  The sauce is a pretty standard barbecue sauce.  It was pretty mild with a little sweetness to it, but not overpowering. 

I finished the sandwich and started on the fries.  I quickly noticed there was a hair in my fries.  I flagged down the waitress and pointed out the hair and she let out a small gasp and grabbed my plate and walked away.  I thought her reaction was a bit odd.  She didn't say a word.  A few minutes later she returned with a bowl full of fries, but I had already lost my appetite.  If she would have asked me if I wanted more fries I would have told her no.  She said she would give me a to-go box for the fries if I wanted it and I said that was fine.  She brought my bill without saying another word.  I looked at the bill and she did deduct $2.39 for the fries but she still charged me for the sandwich.  With the discount my bill was $10.30.  I am still a bit stunned that the waitress never said "I'm sorry" or offer any kind of an apology.  I actually got more of a "this kind of thing happens all the time here" vibe from her.  Not a good look, regardless.

Overall I was pretty disappointed in this visit.  The sandwich was just okay and getting a hair in your fries is never a good thing.  I've told people I've been pretty lucky so far in that I haven't had a bad visit to any of the restaurants I've tried.  I'd have to count this as my first bad visit.  It was bound to happen eventually and it'll probably happen again.  It was even more disappointing that I went out of my way to try this place and they tout their "highest quality barbecue" and "unparalleled service" on their website.

This is visit number 14, which is twenty percent of the list.  Just a small milestone on my way to visiting all 70.  Till next time....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Zarda Hickory Pit Bar-B-Q in Lenexa, KS

Zarda brisket sandwich and fries
Today I visited Zarda Bar-B-Q for lunch.  Zarda Bar-B-Q has been open since 1976, when they opened their original location in Blue Springs, Missouri.  They opened the location in Lenexa, Kansas in 1979 and have been going strong ever since.  That makes 38 years now that the Lenexa store has been open.  Growing up as a kid in Lenexa I remember Zarda as being one off the "go-to" barbecue places in town.  I have eaten there many times in the past, but decided to stop in today to officially check it off my barbecue quest list.

I got there around 11:50 AM on Wednesday.  This is a place where you order at the counter and they serve your food there and then you seat yourself.  There were five people taking orders at the counter as I walked in.  They were already fairly busy and must have been getting ready for the noon lunch rush.  One of the people behind the counter asked if she could take my order and I asked for a brisket sandwich.  They have a regular and a large size and I ordered the large sandwich with a side of fries.  My total bill was $11.09.  I noticed that the drink station at Zarda is behind the counter and they serve your drink along with your meal.  The other barbecue places I've been to with a similar setup all have a self-serve drink station, so this was a bit different. I received a ticket with my order number on it and they called my number about five minutes after I placed the order.

I noticed that they have a salad bar for lunch, which so far on my visits is unique to Zarda.  I didn't pay much attention to it while I was in the restaurant, but when I got home I got on their website to see the salad bar is $6.99.

The restaurant was about half full at this time of the day, so I found a table relatively easily.  The brisket sandwich is served with their regular "original" sauce on it.  I prefer my sandwich served without sauce but they didn't douse it by any means, so it was ok.  The meat was hot and tender, but did not have much flavor to it.  I decided to finish the sandwich without adding additional sauce to it and decided to try the sauces with the fries.

Zarda has three sauces to choose from
The fries are wedge-cut fries, but otherwise nothing to write home about.  The Zarda original sauce is a little sweet and has a small kick to it.  A pretty good sauce overall, but not my favorite barbecue sauce by any means.  They have an apple harvest sauce that had what I thought was a brown sugar taste to it.  I looked at the label and they add apple cider vinegar and molasses to it, among other ingredients.  I wasn't really a fan since I'm not a fan of sweet sauces and this was really sweet.  The bold and spicy sauce is exactly what it says it is:  bold and spicy!  It has quite a kick to it and I really liked it.  Overall, I'm a bigger fan of Hayward's sauce when you compare the two with each other, but choosing which sauce you like better depends a lot on the individual's taste.

I checked in to Zarda from my Facebook page while I was there and their social media person commented on my post within a couple of minutes, so they're really on top of their social media game!  They suggested I try the reserve burnt ends, which I am definitely going to try next time.  Overall, this was a good experience.  I knew going in that they have good barbecue, but wanted to try the brisket for the purposes of this review.  It's a good sandwich and I'd put it about in the middle of the list of all the places I've tried so far.

I've got 13 places down now.  One more and I'll hit 20% completion.  Please feel free to like, share and comment on these posts.  It helps keep me motivated to complete this crazy quest!  Till next time....

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hayward's Pit BBQ in Lenexa, KS

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I decided to visit Hayward's Pit BBQ in Lenexa today.  Hayward's was founded in Overland Park, KS in 1972 and was located on College and Antioch for 45 years. It was sold to Eric Sweeney in 2014 and relocated in early 2016 to Lenexa, KS on Sante Fe Trail Drive near old downtown Lenexa. I remember visiting the location on College and Antioch many times but this is the first time I've been to their new location.

I arrived around 5:00 and sat at the bar.  This is a sit down restaurant where they take your order and serve you at your table.  I was greeted by a couple employees as I entered the restaurant and noticed that they make a point to say hello to everyone that walks through the door.  In fact, the manager greeted every customer that came in and knew almost everyone personally.  This place has a lot of regulars.  On Thursdays they have a slab of ribs special for $17.99 and a lot of people must come in every Thursday for the ribs because there was a constant flow of people coming in to order and/or pick up ribs.

I'll have to try the ribs next time because today I was there to try the brisket.  I ordered a large brisket sandwich and coleslaw and I had my order within a few minutes.  As you can see in the photo above, the sandwich is served on a toasted sesame seed hoagie bun without sauce.  The meat was hot and tender, but bland.  I could have eaten it all without sauce, but the meat didn't really have much of a taste to it.  I decided to eat half the sandwich without sauce and then split the other half in two pieces so I could try both of their sauces.  They have their own branded sauce and they have a regular and a spicy sauce.  The regular sauce is good.  It has just a little sweetness, but not overpowering by any means.  I really liked their spicy sauce.  It was not too spicy, but had enough kick to it that it lingered in my mouth a bit.  As I was eating a lady came in to order three bottles of sauce.  Apparently this restaurant is the only place they sell their sauce and she was picking up some sauce for her son, who lives in Dallas, who she was going to see this weekend.  (CORRECTION on 8/21/17:  You can order their sauce on their website at www.haywardsbarbq.com and also on Amazon.com.) There's a fan of Hayward's Barbecue Sauce.

My bill was $12.58 for a sandwich and side.  The coleslaw wasn't anything special, but was a decent sized serving.

I'll have to go back and try the ribs and burnt ends.  Their menu claims they have the best burnt ends in Kansas City, "period."  I'm not sure if that title is self proclaimed or what since they don't specify.  I wanted to try some, but it was $16 for an order so I passed this time.


If you go there for the brisket sandwich, try either of the sauces on it.  Both are very good.  Just wish the meat wasn't so bland.

I've got 12 places down now.  Still have a ways to go, but making progress!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sugarfire Smoke House in St. Charles, Missouri

Brisket sandwich and Coleslaw.  
Took a trip to St. Louis this weekend and decided to try one of the best barbecue places in town, Sugarfire Smoke House BBQ.  There are multiple locations in town, but the St. Charles location was closest to us so we went there.

The building looked like an old drive-in restaurant like an A&W or like a Sonic today.  They even let you pull up and order from your car and they come out and serve you.


There are two large smokers outside behind the restaurant that were both full of cooking meat.  When we walked inside, there were two pork butts that had just come off the smoker.  They looked great, but I was here to try the brisket.

This is a place where you order at the counter and they serve you at the counter and then you seat yourself.  I ordered the large brisket sandwich and coleslaw.  The total bill was $13.61. They have both a drink station and a barbecue sauce self serve station. 

The sandwich is served without sauce.  The brisket was very tender and flavorful with a crisp bark on the meat that was very tasty.  They had five different types of sauces on each table but this sandwich was so good that there was no way I was going to ruin it by putting sauce on it.  I finished the entire sandwich without sauce because I didn't need it.  I LOVE that.

I did take a couple strips of brisket off the sandwich so I could try all of the sauces.

Here are the five sauces available on each table.
The first sauce was just labeled "#47."  It was really good and was a pretty mild and standard barbecue sauce.  No bite to it at all.  The second sauce I tried was the "St. Louie Sweet" sauce.  It was way too sweet for me, but if you like sweet sauce you'd like this one.  The third sauce was the "Coffee BBQ" sauce.  It's a little like the #47 sauce, but has a coffee flavor to it.  Very unique and very good.  This is the first barbecue place I've seen that has a coffee sauce!  The fourth sauce is the "Dragon's Breath" sauce.  Because of the name I was expecting it to be really spicy, but it really wasn't.  It did have a slight kick to it, but it was not overpowering.  The taste did linger on your tongue for a while after tasting it, however.  The fifth and final sauce was the "Honey Badger" sauce.  It's a bit sweeter than the #47 sauce and not quite as sweet as the St. Louie sweet sauce.  Really good option if you like a little sweetness in your sauce, but not too much sweet.

The coleslaw was just a standard coleslaw you'd get anywhere and nothing special.  We did try an order of ribs while we were there.  The rub on the ribs was very good and the ribs were chewy and stuck to the bone, so they're not the fall off the bone type of ribs by any means.

The pork ribs
My buddy Frank was with me and he tried the pulled pork sandwich and said it might be the best pulled pork he's ever had!

The brisket sandwich would be a top contender as the best sandwich of the eleven barbecue places I've tried thus far.  It was very easy to eat the sandwich without sauce and it was excellent.  I'm not going to count this place in my final ratings since they're not in the Kansas City area, but I thought I'd go ahead and write a review since I was there.  I'm very glad that we tried it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Slap's BBQ in Kansas City, KS

Look at that sandwich!


Today I decided to check out Slap's BBQ in Kansas City, KS.  It's right off I-70 on Central near downtown Kansas City.  A little about the restaurant from their website: "Slap’s BBQ is the evolution of Squeal like a Pig BBQ’s competition cooking team.  Squeal like a Pig BBQ was started in 2013 as a vehicle to accelerate and promote the years of combined cooking and BBQ experience of two brothers Mike and Joe Pearce.  The Slap’s BBQ restaurant was built on our desire to create a product and customer experience with passion, perfection, and tradition while laying the foundation for 2 brothers to follow a dream of opening a BBQ restaurant."  Slap's BBQ restaurant was opened in June of 2014.

This is a small shack of a place.  There are five tables in the entire place and there is a small counter with stools to sit at.  They are in the process of adding a patio area but it was still closed off and under construction.

This is a restaurant where you order at the counter and they serve your food there and then you seat yourself.  I ordered the large brisket sandwich and it was served with pickles.  I didn't get a side this time.  The sandwich is $8.97, which I thought was a great deal considering how much meat they put on it.  They serve your food instantly at the counter.  I grabbed my drink at the drink station and sat at one of the open tables.

The sandwich is served without sauce.  The meat on the sandwich was tasty and tender but a bit dry.  They have two different sauces, neither of which was labeled.  One was spicy and one was sweet.  I preferred the spicy sauce because, as you know by now, I don't really like sweet sauces.  I finished about 1/3 of the sandwich before putting sauce on it and finishing it off.  It wasn't the best brisket sandwich I've had thus far, but it was definitely a good sandwich.

One interesting tidbit about this place is that they do not guarantee that they will have everything on the menu when you arrive.  They cook a certain amount of each kind of food each day and when it's out, they're out and they don't cook more until the next day.  In fact, the hours on their lunch menu state that they start serving at 11:00 AM and they serve until they run out.  So I guess you'd better get there early!

There were a couple ladies sitting near me that ordered the ribs and the ribs looked very good.  There was also a table full of KCK police officers that were raving about the burnt ends, so I'll have to try those next time as well.  This is definitely a place worth going back to to try the other selections.  It's easy to get to right off the highway, either 670 or I 70.  Definitely check it out if you haven't already.

This is number 11 on the list.  I've got a lot more to go, but it's encouraging I'm in double digits!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Jack Stack - Martin City

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Decided to make a stop at Jack Stack in Martin City tonight around 5:00.  There are a lot of good food options at Jack Stack, but I was there to try the brisket sandwich.  Jack Stack is known as one of the "high end" barbecue places in town.  I arrived at the right time and was seated right away.  My waitress showed up instantly and I was never left alone long.  I had three different waitresses come check on me in the time I was there.  They all help each other out.

I ordered the brisket sandwich on a sesame seed bun.  There is an option to order it on a hoagie bun, but I went with the sesame.  It comes with two sides and I ordered coleslaw and fries.  My waitress brought out the coleslaw before the sandwich which was a bit odd, but ok.  The sandwich and fries arrived a few minutes later.

The sandwich is served with sauce on it.  My waitress asked if I wanted more sauce and I declined.  The meat was served very hot and was tender and flavorful.  The meat was very juicy.  I noticed they don't really trim the fat on the slices of brisket, or if they do they leave a lot of the fat on the meat.  This must help keep the meat juicy.  I finished the sandwich and didn't need any additional sauce.  There wasn't much sauce on the sandwich and to tell you the truth I didn't really taste it much.

They have a fry seasoning in a shaker on the table and I used that on my fries.  It was pretty good and made the fries very tasty.

My waitress asked if I wanted carrot cake and although I'm not a big dessert guy I do love carrot cake, so I decided to try it.  She delivered it a couple minutes later.  It might very well have been the best carrot cake I've ever had.  It was excellent!  I didn't finish it and brought some of it home to eat tomorrow!

The best carrot cake I've had in a while, maybe ever!

The sandwich and two sides was $11.99.  The carrot cake was $7.50, but well worth trying at least once!

A lot of people rave about Jack Stack, and for good reason, however I've had as good or better brisket at a couple of the other places I visited so far and I've still got a lot more to go.

This has been a lot of fun so far.  I've got 10 down, so at least I finally hit double digits!