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A history of Kansas City-style barbecue

For Immediate Release: April 15, 2009

Contact: Derek Klaus, 816-691-3849 ; Alan Carr, 816-691-3829

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When most people think of Kansas City, barbecue comes to mind. As the heartland of America, nearly everything is a melding of ideas, concepts and thoughts pulled from other regions with a touch of "Kansas City style" added to it. That describes Kansas City barbecue. Simply the best! The 1920s launched the start of K.C. barbecue, and it hasn't slowed down yet.

In the early '20s a man named Henry Perry, now known as the "Father of K.C. Barbecue," moved inside a streetcar barn at 19th & Highland and started barbecuing in an outdoor pit. Perry served up slabs of barbecue wrapped in newspaper. The nationally-renowned Charlie and Arthur Bryant, George Gates, Otis Boyd, John Harris and Sherman Thompson learned Perry's technique and style, then each went on to create their own unique blend of Kansas City barbecue.

One of Kansas City's most famous barbecue joints began with the efforts of the Bryant family. When Charlie Bryant retired in 1946, his brother Arthur bought the business, operating first out of the original 18th & Euclid location and then moved to its present location at 18th & Brooklyn. The legend of "King Arthur" has now risen to new heights. Renowned food critic and New Yorker columnist Calvin Trillin wrote that Bryant's is "the single best restaurant in the world."

Today there are over 100 area barbecue establishments, each boasting its personal house specialty- ribs, pork, ham, mutton, sausage and even fish.

Kansas City barbecue is always slow smoked over wood, usually hickory. Some is smoked up to 18 hours to obtain that one-of-a-kind flavor. Each restaurant has developed its own recipe for sauce, too, which is added right before serving. And while barbecue restaurants abound in Kansas City, there are also amateur enthusiasts who prefer to make their own in smoke ovens.

Many of these chefs enter one of Kansas City's many barbecue competitions in hopes of becoming the next Kansas City BBQ legend. The American Royal BBQ Contest, held the first weekend in October, is the largest such competition in the world. Thousands of amateur chefs compete in this two-day festival of BBQ competition, sauce competition and entertainment. It's easy to find - just follow the smoke, which can be seen (and smelled) for blocks.

The Kansas City Barbecue Society, with over 2,500 members from all 50 states, Canada, England and other countries around the world, is the world's largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts. Each weekend from early spring through fall, their members stoke up their fires in their cookers for a weekend of heated barbecue competitions. No matter how you cook it up, Kansas City barbecue is as special and unique as the people who live in this spicy, thriving city.


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Photo Credit:  Photos Courtesy of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association


Arthur Bryant's Barbecue
Caption: Author Calvin Trillin once declared Arthur Bryant's "the single best restaurant in the world."
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Arthur Bryant's Barbecue, interior
Caption: Kansas City's world famous barbecue is available at more than 100 area restaurants.
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Gates Bar-B-Q
Caption: Opened in 1946, Gates Bar-B-Q offers five locations, each greeting customers with their signature, "Hi, may I help you?"
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Kansas City Barbecue
Caption: Kansas City-style barbecue is slow-smoked for up to 18 hours.
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Kansas City Barbecue Sign
Caption: Kansas City's world famous barbecue is available at more than 100 area restaurants.
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