Kansas City’s barbecue craze can be traced back to Henry Perry, who, in the early 1920s, began barbecuing in an outdoor pit adjacent to his streetcar barn, serving slabs of food wrapped in newspaper. Perry’s ‘cue became so popular that fans began imitating his technique and style to create their own unique recipes.
The second wave of barbecue pioneers were the families of Bryant, Gates, Boyd, Harris, Fiorella and Thompson—three of which are familiar names that remain emblazoned on still-thriving restaurants. Kansas City had earned a reputation as a renowned stockyard and meat-packing city by the ‘30s and ‘40s, making it the ideal migration destination for pitmasters in search of work. Together, their distinctive tastes, talents and flair laid the groundwork for an unprecedented, eclectic barbecue culture that’s recognized on a global scale.
Now, Kansas City barbecue enthusiasts can satisfy their cravings at more than 100 mouth-watering restaurants dotted around the metro. There’s even the Kansas City Barbeque Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and sustaining the cuisine worldwide.
Speak Easy: A Visit KC Podcast
The Past, Present and Future of Kansas City Barbecue with Ardie Davis
Ardie Davis, better known by many for his larger-than-life, 'cue-themed alias, Remus Powers Ph.B., knows a thing or two about barbecue. He invented the American Royal's Sauce Competition, has authored 12 books on the topic and he's in the Barbecue Hall of Fame. We picked some bones together and talked KC-style smokin', regionalism and what's next for the cuisine.