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What is the History Behind Kansas City's BBQ Tradition?

There are many areas of the country where you can find great barbecue. But there is something special about Kansas City barbecue. One of the reasons Kansas City stands out is we have a high concentration of amazing restaurants in a relatively small radius.

But few people know that the Kansas City barbecue tradition actually started with a man named Henry Perry in the 1920’s. Perry had a stand, in downtown Kansas City where he served smoked meats to nearby workers. Using an outdoor pit, Perry made slabs of barbecued ribs for his customers. His stand was an instant hit and the barbecue trend quickly caught on.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper into the history of Kansas City barbecue. Here are three restaurants that helped make Kansas City barbecue what it is today:

Arthur Bryant's

Arthur Bryant's

Image Via Arthur Bryant's Facebook

Charlie Bryant’s entrance into the world of barbecue began when Henry Perry hired him. After Perry’s death in 1946, he left his business to Charlie. Charlie decided to sell it to his brother Arthur and from there, Arthur Bryant’s was born.

Arthur Bryant added his own unique flavor to the sauce. Arthur Bryant’s soon became known for its sliced beef, burnt ends, and President’s Choice sauce. To this day the restaurant remains a staple of Kansas City barbecue.

Gates BBQ

Gates BBQ

Image Via Gates BBQ Facebook

George Gates was largely influenced by Henry Perry as well. An employee of Perry’s helped George Gates launch his restaurant in the 1940’s. In 1956, the name was changed to Gates & Son’s BBQ because George’s son Ollie decided to take a more active role in the business.  

In 1975, Gates began distributing their products to local grocery stores. And by 1983 they were distributing their products nationally. Gates now has six locations across the Kansas City region. It is known for its ribs and Original Classic sauce.

Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue

Fiorellas Jack Stack Barbecue

Image Via Fiorellas Jack Stack Barbecue Facebook

In 1957, Russ Fiorella started Smokestack Barbecue with his son Jack. Then in 1974, Jack Fiorella branched off from his father and he and his wife Delores started Fiorella’s Jack Stack of Martin City.

The barbecue scene was very competitive in the 1970’s so the Fiorella’s had to find a way to stand out. The Fiorella’s began cooking their gourmet meats over hickory wood.

Jack Stack is now Kansas City’s most upscale barbecue restaurant. It’s known for its crown prime beef short rib and baked beans. They also serve wine and cocktails and their extensive menu serves more than just barbecue.

Today Kansas City is home to more barbecue places than you can count. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comment section below!


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