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Barbecue History Runs Thick In Kansas City

Everything might be up to date in Kansas City, but when it comes to Kansas City barbecue, old-time tradition stands strong. The Greater Kansas City Metro Area is home to more than 90 barbecue restaurants, its own barbecue society and a flavor that’s most assuredly all it’s own.

The region’s love affair with barbecue is said to date back to the early 1900s when a man by the name of Henry Perry began working out of an old trolley barn at 19th and Highland. It’s said by 1908, Perry was doling out slow-cooked ribs served up on newsprint for a quarter a slab. Kansas City Barbecue masters George Gates and Charlie Bryant trained under Perry, and Bryant eventually bought the place and ran it with his brother, Arthur, until he retired in the 1940s.

Arthur Bryant took over and spruced up the trolley barn, the sauce and the reputation of Kansas City barbecue. In fact, Arthur Bryant’s specialty was enjoyed by two presidents – Carter and Truman – and a host of other celebrities. The original restaurant stands today at 1727 Brooklyn Ave. It’s been joined by two other locations, as well.

As the Bryants made Kansas City barbecue legendary, other kings of cookery came online. George Gates opened up his own Kansas City barbecue joint around the same time Arthur Bryant launched his empire. Gates brought his son Ollie into the business. By the 1950s, Ollie was serving up food at Gates & Sons Bar-B-Q, which also survives today with a total of seven locations in the area.

Other Kansas City barbecue masters influenced the flavor of Kansas City’s own style sauce and today there’s no denying this form of cooking is one of the things that put the region on the map. The region now boasts its own society, the Kansas City Barbeque Society, and is famous for its rich, smoky flavors. The society has more than 6,000 members around the world and is dedicated to promoting the cooking style and a whole lot of fun, too.

So what is it about Kansas City barbecue that makes it so different?

It’s all in the flavor! Rather than mimic the tastes of Texas or the Carolinas, Kansas City’s cooks created their own distinct blend. The region’s famous taste involves a dry rub of spices, slow roasting over real hickory and a thick, medium spicy, tangy sauce that pulls in the rich flavors of Midwest tomatoes with a touch of molasses for thickness, body and sweetness. The result is a barbecue flavor that’s lip-smacking, rib-sticking delicious and quintessentially Kansas City!

by Tiffany Lewis, Kansas City Premier Apartments, Inc.

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