Missourians didn’t invent barbecue, but the pit masters here have elevated tender, delectable smoked meats to an art form. It’s a signature dish of the Show-Me State, marked by endless variety of meats, sauces, rubs, styles, and techniques. You’ll find tasty, smoky barbecue in every corner of Missouri—along with an argument over who does it better. Check out these smokin’ joints and discover a new favorite.

KANSAS CITY

ARTHUR BRYANT’S BARBEQUE

Take a bit of the Arthur Bryant’s legend home with you. The sauces and rubs are sold commercially. Photo courtesy Arthur Bryants.

Burnt ends are the quintessential Kansas City smokehouse dish. They were invented here and helped make Cowtown famous for barbecue. We have Arthur Bryant to thank for that. Back in the mid-20th century, crowds around Arthur Bryant’s front counter would watch as the counterman trimmed the crispy edges off the brisket, pushing the pieces to the side where hungry patrons could pluck them for a free snack while waiting to order.

Writer Calvin Trillin’s 1972 Playboy essay on Kansas City cuisine cemented the barbecue joint’s status when he waxed eloquent over burnt ends and declared Arthur Bryant’s “the single best restaurant in the world.” Its popularity surged, and Arthur started charging for the burnt ends, served with his original sauce.

Dubbed the King of Ribs, Arthur Bryant served a lot of good food in the nearly four decades after he took over his brother Charlie’s business. His sauce and smoked delicacies became a favorite of Count Basie, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Redford. Former President Harry Truman ate there frequently, and Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama visited, too.

Arthur died in 1982, but diners still pack the place in the 18th & Vine Jazz District, ordering burnt ends, baby back ribs, chicken, turkey, sausage, ham, smoky sliced—not pulled—pork, and all the sides. Eat in or get it to go on butcher paper; it’s all good.

1727 Brooklyn Avenue816-231-1123 • ArthurBryantsBBQ.com

COLUMBIA

BIG DADDY’S BBQ

The blues are blaring, and you can eat on the patio or stretch out on the grass. Big Daddy’s is a Columbia summer tradition. Photo courtesy Big Daddy’s BBQ.

Lloyd Henry’s voice is as deep and rich as his barbecue sauce. He married into a barbecue empire when he wed Fontella Ford, who grew up around her family’s C&K Barbecue restaurant in St. Louis. When Lloyd’s 29-year career as an insurance agent ended, the pair did what they know best: they started cooking barbecue. “We started Big Daddy’s about six years ago with a food trailer,” Lloyd says. “Two years after that, we opened a take-out restaurant” with patio seating. The seasonal eatery is open mid-March through Thanksgiving, closing at 8 pm during the summer.

Eating here is an experience: the line moves fast and people eat on the patio, the grass, or in their car. Blues blare out over speakers, and staffers like to say “barbecue tastes better with the blues.”

Lloyd makes all the sauce, and his wife bakes three caramel cakes from scratch every morning. Their nephew and cousin do the smoking.The recipes are confidential, although Lloyd says he should probably tell his wife the sauce recipe, just in case he “loses his memory or goes crazy.” He calls his sauce a southern-style barbecue with a Kansas City twist.

“My wife always says St. Louis-style sauce, but I think I should know. I’m the one who makes the sauce, and no one else has ever made it. So that gives me a little edge, wouldn’t you think?” he says with a laugh.

Everything at Big Daddy’s is homemade except the french fries, but there is another potato on the menu that customers should try:
Fontella’s potato salad. “Our potato salad is not real chunky. It’s somewhat creamy, and it has a little sweetness to it and a little mustard tart,” he says. “And it just changes my mind on anything when I have it.”

1205 North Garth Avenue • 573-875-2227 • Facebook.com/BigDaddysBBQCoMo

SEDALIA

KEHDE’S BARBEQUE

Kehde’s Barbecue serves customers in a vintage passenger train car decorated with railroad memorabilia. Photo by Edward Lang.

Sedalia was a railroad boom town in the late 1800s, and John Kehde reflects that history in his barbecue restaurant where he serves meat in an old passenger train car. But John’s son, Roger, hopes the meat is the most memorable part about a trip to Kehde’s. Roger took over as chef a decade ago, and his dad says “he puts his heart and soul into it.”

When John goes to the restaurant, he orders a small Carolina sandwich, which has sliced pork, not pulled. He can’t leave without a piece of mixed berry pie. Kehde’s is known for a wide variety of desserts.

1915 South Limit Avenue • 660-826-2267 • Kehde’s Barbeque

SPRINGFIELD

CITY BUTCHER AND BARBECUE

The meticulously prepared fresh, smoked meat, not sauces or rubs, is the star at City Butcher and Barbecue. Photo courtesy City Butcher,

While working at a barbecue joint in Rogersville in high school, Cody Smith was bitten by the chef bug. He headed to culinary school in Austin, Texas, where he studied classic food preparation during the day and spent his nights trying all the Texas barbecue he could sink his teeth into.

He brought his education and taste for beef brisket home to Missouri and opened City Butcher and Barbecue. He serves meat from three smokers, and the meat is cut on a butcher-block table in front of customers and cooked fresh.

Cody’s barbecue style consists of no rubs, just salt and pepper. “The technique we use is vastly different from what you’d get from Kansas City barbecue,” he says. “We leave the point and the flat intact and leave a fair amount of fat on it. Our finished product has a more moist and jiggly texture to it than meat in other regional styles.” What makes his meat good, he says, is attention to detail.

“We have nothing to hide behind. Our quality is in the technique and preparation of our meats,” he says.

He does have three in-house sauces but says, “We encourage people to try the meat without the sauces first and to dip.” That way, the flavor and texture of the painstakingly prepared meat will shine through.

3650 South Campbell Avenue • 417-720-1113 • CityButcherSGF.com

CAPE GIRARDEAU

SMOKEHOUSE 61

Smokehouse 61 has become a popular barbecue place, thanks to “Papa John” Farquhar’s secret rubs and sauces. Photo courtesy Semo Media.

When people hear the words “Papa John’s” in Cape Girardeau, they don’t think of the pizza chain; they think of John Farquhar because that’s his nickname. The 92-year-old foodie, pilot, airplane mechanic, and barbecue enthusiast created his secret barbecue rub recipe decades ago when a local grocer went out of business and allowed him to experiment with the store’s supply of spices. “We’ve won a few awards with it,” John says humbly.

Three years ago when Eileen Gates told Papa John she wanted to open a restaurant, he asked her if she had considered barbecue. “We hadn’t,” she says. But Papa John’s encouragement and the taste of his rubs and sauce quickly convinced her. She opened Smokehouse 61, and her place has become a local barbecue staple. “We season the meat with Papa John’s rub —I don’t even know what’s in it,” Eileen says.

2148 William Street • 573-335-8880 • Smokehouse61.menufy.com

ST. LOUIS

BOGART’S SMOKE HOUSE

One of Bogart’s revered items isn’t even on the menu. The chicken wings are something owner Skip Steele makes to keep his customers happy. Photo courtesy Amy Schromm Photography.

When Skip Steele was just 14, he started making barbecue grills out of used propane tanks and selling them to wealthier neighbors. This little business pushed him into the field of barbecue because “If you build custom Harley-Davidson motorcycles, you learn how to ride ’em,” he says. He sold grills through high school and began selling barbecue during college.

After Skip married, customers followed him to his house. “People would call and say, ‘Are you cooking this weekend?’ and I’d said ‘I’ma be outta town,’ and they’d preorder for the next week.”

After he retired from the shipping industry, Skip started competition cooking. “I got lucky and finished really high in the world championship,” he says. That led him to opening Bogart’s in 2011.

Skip worked in restaurants in Kansas City, New York City, Memphis, and Las Vegas, and he says his barbecue is a hybrid style based on techniques he learned in those cities. “I took everything I learned and said I’m going to do it my way.”

Skip orders the chicken wings on a Friday or Saturday when he eats at his own restaurant: “We put dry rub on ’em, throw ’em on the pit a couple of hours, and hit ’em with a 50,000 BTU roofer’s torch that caramelizes and blackens the outside. Then we toss ’em in a cranberry cayenne barbecue sauce.”

1627 South 9th Street • 314-621-3107 • BogartsSmokeHouse.com