I posted some quick reactions to Sunday’s Futures Game a few hours after it ended. Next ESPN post will be Thursday’s top 50 prospects update.
The best Q I had on in Kansas City was the burnt ends platter at the original Oklahoma Joe’s location (that is, attached to a gas station). This absolutely lived up to its advance billing, as the meat had great smoke flavor and the characteristic tooth of real burnt ends (although not the crispy exterior I expected – I admit I’m not a big burnt ends expert, though), without being so dry that sauce was required. Smoke rings were evident throughout, not that I needed proof after tasting them. The French fries were just fair; many of you recommended them and I’m guessing it’s because of the red pepper-based seasoning rather than for the fries themselves, which weren’t as good as what you’d get at Five Guys or In-n-Out. I’d try the beans for a side next time. The insider tip is to call your order in ahead of time, but I spent most of the ~45 minutes in line chatting with the two sports nuts behind me, as well as one of you who spotted my tweet about being in line.
Next-best was Jack Stack, which is solid Q at a table-service restaurant, the most expensive Q I’ve ever eaten by a wide margin. Their signature item is a beef short rib, given some absurd marketing name (“Crown Prime Beef Rib” or whatever, it’s a freaking short rib, get over yourselves), and since that is by far my favorite cut of cow I was all in. It’s extremely well done with a lot of surface area for bark and plenty of fat (maybe too much, but that’s the cut) to keep the interior meat moist through a long, slow smoke. Their pork burnt ends were just chopped pork chunks with a little bark, really nothing special. The beans were outstanding though – sweet, smoky, salty, very slightly tangy, maybe a little too soft, although that’s the style (I like beans just a little past al dente). The seasonal vegetable was asparagus, funny because asparagus is a spring vegetable, but they did do a nice job of cooking it correctly so it wasn’t stringy or mushy. Service could not have been better, Q joint or otherwise. The total cost including iced tea and tip was $36, though.
Last Q joint was Gates, which disappointed. I may have ordered the wrong thing – more on that later – but I got no help from the kids behind the counter who seemed to have no interest in taking my order. I went with the short-end ribs, since ribs seemed to dominate the menu, but they were dry, tough, not smoky, and drowned in a vinegar-pepper sauce.
I had Sunday brunch – yes, I rolled out of bed around 9:30, thanks to the time difference – at Bluestem Cafe, which had a small line out the door before it opened at 10:30, usually a good sign. The special breakfast sandwich of the day comprised an over-easy egg on top of pulled pork with very crispy potato wedges and a small salad of mixed greens, a pretty significant amount of food for lunch and enough to hold me through the Futures Game. The pork was moist but the sauce was vinegary, so this could have been braised rather than smoked and I wouldn’t have known the difference. Everything else was clearly fresh and high quality, and they get extra points for the cute bartender.
I tried Eggtc for breakfast on Monday morning, looking for something quick but still local, although the quality just wasn’t there. The eggs on the benedict were poached too long – or poached earlier and held – so they had started to cook through, and since the greatest pleasure of eggs benedict is the sauce made by the warm but runny yolk, this was kind of a failure. The home fries had also clearly come out of a bag.
Finally, I have to thank all of you who weighed in on Q options for my weekend, including Jeff Passan of Yahoo! and Brooks Melchior of Sports by Brooks (via his Twitter feed). Brooks says my next trip to KC should include a visit for Stroud’s for fried chicken and cinnamon rolls and a second chance for Gates where I order the “beef and a half” sandwich rather than ribs.