Kansas City’s Barbecue History

Meat Kansas City's oldest barbecue restaurant. | Photo by @tgray713.

If there’s one thing Kansas Citians are passionate about, it’s barbecue. After all, we were voted the “Best BBQ City in America.” Also, let’s not forget our barbecue bracket. With National Barbecue Day (Mon., May 16) just around the corner, let’s fire up the grill and flip through our rich + juicy barbecue history.

Kansas City’s barbecue scene started blazing thanks to Henry Perry, the “Father Of Kansas City Barbecue.” In 1908, Perry sold smoked meats from a pushcart in the city’s Garment District. He would even cook animals like possums, hogs + raccoons. His method of cooking ultimately created the local style of Kansas City barbecue, which is carried on today by the oldest spots in Kansas City.

Arthur Bryant’s (Opened in 1908)

After his passing, Charlie Bryant took over Perry’s business before selling it to Arthur Bryant in 1946. When Arthur Bryant took over, he modified the barbecue sauce to please more tastebuds + renamed the business to his namesake. In 1974, journalist Calvin Trillin wrote that Arthur Bryant’s was “quite possibly the best restaurant in the world.” Former presidents Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter + Barack Obama have even dined at this spot.

Rosedale Bar-B-Q (Opened in 1934)

This spot initially began as a neighborhood hot dog and beer stand. The smell of smoking meats down the road would cause the owners to crave barbecue. They eventually started a barbecue business, which is now the oldest major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family in KC.

Gates Bar-B-Q (Opened in 1946)

“Hi, may I help you?” is the first thing you’ll hear when you enter the restaurant. It initially opened as “Gates Ol’ Kentucky,” with Arthur Pinkard, a former employee of Henry Perry, helping in the kitchen. Gates now has six locations in the metro, with its barbecue sauce + seasonings sold in supermarkets. 

Jack Stack Barbecue (Opened in 1957)

This spot was started by Russ Fiorella as a traditional storefront barbecue stand with only five to six items on the menu. Eldest son Jack Fiorella worked with his dad + founder Russ Fiorella till 1974 before starting Fiorella’s Jack Stack of Martin City. To stand out, the business cooked gourmet meats over hickory wood. Today, it is the largest wood-fired cookery in the country.

LC’s Bar-B-Q (Opened in 1986)

Founder L.C. Richardson started the business smoking meat in a steel drum before moving to a pit. The spot has been coined an unofficial pitstop (no pun intended) on the way to baseball + football games. Apart from barbecue, Richardson is known for the relationships he had with his customers. It is one of the few barbecue spots in the city that still uses a brick pit built by local pitmaster Bill Chaney.

With over 100 barbecue restaurants in Kansas City today, it is humbling to know it all began with Perry’s small pushcart. To honor his contributions, the city declared July 3 as Henry Perry Day in 2020 with a proclamation from Mayor Quinton Lucas.