History of Kansas City Barbecue

Henry Perry

The Beginning of  Kansas City Barbecue Kansas City's barbecue cuisine began as early as the 1920's, resulting from a melting pot of sauces and traditions brought to this area from Texas and the Deep south. While Bryant's is perhaps the most famous barbecue establishment, the actual barbecue phenomenon began with a man named Henry Perry. During the Depression, Perry distributed slabs of barbecued ribs grilled in an outdoor pit and wrapped in newspaper to make ends meet.  Customers were satisfied, and the trend caught on, influencing upcoming barbecue chefs such as Charlie and Arthur Bryant, George Gates, and Otis Boyd. Each of these men added his own flavor and style to barbecue, creating the barbecue that Kansas City has become famous for.

Arthur and Charlie Bryant

Ribs from the renowned Bryant's Barbecue had their beginning back in the early 1930's, when Arthur Bryant, migrating from Texas, was asked to work with his brother Charlie at "Old Man Perry's" place on the 19th Street. Arthur eventually bought the restaurant and made dramatic changes, the most significant one being the sauce. The original sauce was one of the hottest ever made, but has since been tamed to a moderately spicy recipe. Arthur Bryant's legacy of barbecue, frosty beers, and famous beers, and famous unpeeled fries continues to operate from the original site.

 Otis Boyd

Otis Boyd began his barbecue legacy in the mid 1940's, opening his restaurant in the heart of Kansas City's jazz district at the corner of the 12th Street and Vine. Although Boyd received formal training at a chef's school in Chicago in 1939, he claims to have developed his from "whatever was around the kitchen". Boyd's expertise with hickory smoking his meats may remain a well kept secret, but those who have discovered his talents claim his homemade sausage is the best in town.

Fiorella's Jack Stack BBQ

Started by Russ Fiorella in Kansas City in 1957 and previously known as Smokestack BBQ, Jack Stack began as a traditional storefront barbecue restaurant with a modest selection of five to six items. Jack Fiorella, the eldest son, worked with his father until 1974, when he decided to branch off and start Fiorellas Jack Stack of Martin City. To stand out in the competitive Kansas City barbecue scene of the mid 1970s, Jack and his wife, Delores, began cooking with Gourmet Hickory Wood and created the most extensive barbecue menu in the country.

Burnt Ends come from the cut of the Brisket called the point. In the 1950’s, this cut of meat was deemed unsuitable for sliced brisket due to the marbling and the fact that it was “burnt” after smoking for so many hours. Therefore, barbecue restaurants at the time gave these extra pieces away for free; Arthur Bryant’s gave them to customers waiting in line and Smokestack Bar-B-Q gave them away as scraps for furry friends. It wasn’t until later that it was discovered that these bite size pieces were actually nuggets of gold! Their thick caramelized smoky bark and melt-in-your-mouth tender inside have made them famous and a staple to barbecue restaurants across Kansas City.

Georges and Ollie Gates

The Gates (father and son) were also influenced by Old Man Perry, their business having roots in the 1940's. The "right" sauce was discovered in 1949 and has been the same ever since, with new flavors added along the way. Gates Barbecue has expanded to include several restaurants in various locations around Kansas City. Ollie Gate's "Rib Tech" school trains his pitmasters, assuring perfection of this family's cuisine.


Smokehouse Bar-B-B-Que

Smokehouse Bar-B-Que exceeds that goal on a daily basis offering only the best hickory smoked CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF® and succulent chicken as well as savory seasonings, delicious sauces and rubs.


Today there are over 100 area barbecue establishments, each boasting its personal house specialty- ribs, pork, ham, mutton, sausage and even fish.

Jon Russell’s

is a hand-crafted micro smokehouse that was created with quality and freshness as the focus. The recipes have been developed with over 20 years of Competition Barbeque by Chef Russell Muehlberger and high school buddy Jon Niederbremer. Their many awards include the prestigious American Royal Grand Champion 1992 Invitational and the Reserve Grand Champion for the 1991 Invitational. They have State Championships in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa; additional awards hail from Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and as far away as Las Vegas Nevada.