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Yates Center – Smokey Ben’s BBQ and More

Smokey Ben’s BBQ and More in Yates Center, Kansas, “the hay capital of the world” is a rare gem on the prairie.   It is very unusual to find a barbecue restaurant in such a rural community, much less a good one!  Smokey Ben’s is Located on 54 highway, and is roughly half way between Fort Scott and Wichita.

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If you like “fall off the bone” ribs, this place is for you.  In fact, their ribs are so tender that I’m curious how they get them on the plate in one piece.

My favorite thing about Smokey’ Bens BBQ and More is that the smoked flavor of their meat is spot on.  I took a peek out back and noticed that they accomplish this feat of barbecue mastery by using an old offset style wood burning smoker.  Most restaurants prefer to use highly automated commercial style smoker that much of the art and science (and smokey flavor) out of the process.  While the pit-master at Smokey Ben’s has more of a challenge on his hands, the results speak for themselves.

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While visiting with a worker, I learned that everything on the menu is made in the smoker minus the cobbler (which looked delicious, but I was too full to try).

Smokey Ben’s BBQ and more is currently for sale.  I hope the next owner takes lessons from the current pitmaster!  I would encourage you to get to Yates Center soon and check it out.

Until next time,
Chris

Erie – Horizons at Prairie Ridge

The Neosho County seat community of Erie, Kansas is a pleasant and clean little community.  This riverside town is well kept and the people are friendly. One of the little community’s only real drawbacks is very limited amount of eating establishments. Food choices consist mostly of a bar, a gas station, a pizza and sandwich shop and a bowling alley.   While none of the aforementioned places are bad, I can say with confidence that there is another restaurant in the community that stands out in the pork department.

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Horizon’s at Prairie Ridge, as the name implies, is a restaurant overlooking the local golf course. At the suggestion of a friend, I wondered in over the lunch hour one summer day for a burger. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite pork delicacies on the menu and quickly decided that I had to come back.  Fast forward to December, and my friend and I had the opportunity to return.

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Although the cold weather kept us from eating on the patio and enjoying the lovely golf course view, the upscale interior provided a pleasant place to dine.  We called ahead and ordered the pork wings (actually, a tender and delicious piece of meat from the shank).  Only a handful of Kansas restaurants serve these tasty treats. (See the review of Taco Lucha in Manhattan for another.)  Our pork wings were served up with sticky barbecue sauce and a side of amazing battered French fries.  If you love pork like I do, you owe it to yourself to try some pork wings. You won’t be disappointed.

Until next time,
Chris

Andover – Billy Sims Barbecue

I don’t make a habit of eating at franchise restaurants, That being said I can’t resist barbecue whether it’s a chain or not. When I heard there was a new barbecue restaurant in Andover, Kansas, I had to give it a try.

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Billy Sims Barbecue is aptly named after former University of Oklahoma football player Billy Sims. As you would expect, the Oklahoma based franchise has a football theme.  The Andover location is situated in a once vacant corner gas station that has been remodeled to give the appearance and atmosphere of a typical barbecue restaurant.

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There were a few good and bad points to this particular location and to the restaurant in general.  I’ll just throw it all out there. The Andover location is hard to get into. It sits on a corner where traffic only flows from one direction. After making a U-turn on 54 highway, I was able to turn around and get into the parking lot. I would also have liked to see more homemade sides.

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Now for the good. There is a large southern pride smoker located just behind the counter. The means to make good barbecue are present and the meat was pretty good. I would go so far to say that it was better than some (but not all) popular Kansas City restaurants. I could see that my ribs had an adequate amount of rub and they were served dry, as they should be, so I can sauce them myself. The sauce was similar to what many Kansas City restaurants offer. As you would expect from an Oklahoma based chain, bologna was on the menu. If you liked smoked bologna, it would be worth trying from a Billy Sims franchise.

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Coincidentally, Billy Sims Barbecue was one of the many topics of discussion with the local farmers at the recently visited, Angelo’s Deli, which you can read about here on In Pursuit of Pork soon. Overall I prefer to support hometown businesses when I can, but as far as the barbecue meat is concerned, Billy Sims Barbecue certainly competes well.

Until next time,
Chris

Frontenac – Pallucca’s Meat Market and Deli

After a recent move to Southeast Kansas, fellow blogger Mike, a southeast Kansas native, suggested a few places I should check out.  One of these places, Pallucca’s Meat Market and Deli is a real hidden gem.

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Palluca’s is located in the back half of the old Pallucca and Sons Supermarket is located in downtown Frontenac.  Frontenac, Kansas, near Pittsburg,  is a town rich in Italian history, due primarily to the coal mining industry, once a large part of the area.

As the name suggest, they have a meat market full of fresh cut pork and homemade sausages, as well as a deli. I picked up a delicious homemade Cuban (with prosciutto rather than ham or pork loin) which I then brushed with olive oil, pan fried and ate for supper.

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What the name does not suggest (but the smokers do) is that they also do catering. If that wasn’t enough, they also have a small grocery area full of imported Italian foods.  There are several varieties of olive oils, breads, pastas and anything else you would need to prepare a genuine Italian feast.  Many of these items available would be nearly impossible to find anyplace else in Kansas.

I can’t wait to check out some of the many varieties of flavorful sausages on my next visit. You should check them out too!

Until next time,
Chris

Manhattan – Bourbon and Baker

Bourbon and Baker is one of the newest and trendiest restaurants in Manhattan, Kansas. In a city full of new and trendy restaurants, it takes something unique to stand out from the crowd. As the name implies, this restaurant specializes in whiskey and bakery goods…..not your usual combination!

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According to their website, “The inspiration behind Bourbon & Baker is rooted in the Midwestern and Southern influences of our families, educations, cultures and culinary experiences that brought us to Manhattan. The foundation of our menu is the comfort and soul of many cuisines. It is designed to allow you to enjoy a variety of small portions at your own pace, whether you are flying solo or sharing with a group. So, sit back and relax. We’re here to make sure you enjoy.”

An important thing to consider is the “small portions”. This is not an all you can eat buffet.  Don’t go here if you’re starving to death and you want to fill up quickly. That’s not the idea here.  You are supposed to sample a variety of dishes. A perfect opportunity for sharing and hanging out….think date night or good time out with friends.

For a pork lover, Bourbon and Baker does not disappoint.  I sampled three pork dishes. The first was a pork quesadilla. This was pretty fantastic.  My second dish was a cornbread pork slider. While a bit messy, the cornbread, fresh from the bakery was outstanding.  My final dish was braised pork belly. The pork belly is a fatty piece of meat with hints of smoke. Bourbon and Baker also offers delicious St. Louis style ribs. Along with your pork, be sure to order the duck fat French fries. You won’t be disappointed.

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They are located at 312 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, Kansas 66502 and are open every day except Sunday.  Be sure to check out the bakery on your way out for delicious dessert item.

Until Next Time,
Chris

Coffeyville – Phelp’s Hog Heaven

A friend and I were looking for a place to grab a quick bite for lunch in Coffeyville, Kansas. As luck would have it, he suggested a local barbecue restaurant…to which I cannot say no! Phelps’s Hog Heaven located at 511 west 11th street in Coffeyville is a sure bet if you want pork in Southeast Kansas.  According to their website, all meats are hickory smoked, which is always a good sign when you want good barbecue.

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Phelps’s features a wall of flame, which as you might guess is a photo gallery of food challenge winners. To get your picture on the wall you must manage to eat three extremely hot ribs….a task failed by many but achieved by a few brave spicy food lovers.

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I chose to forego the food challenge and order a sampler platter complete with a majority of the meats available. One of my favorites was the smoked bologna, a specialty across the border in Oklahoma, but a barbecue item sadly left absent from many Kansas restaurant menus.  The ribs were pretty good too. In fact, Phelps’s Hog Heaven could be one of the better Kansas Barbecue restaurants to be found outside the Kansas City metro area.  I would encourage you to give it shot. Check out the bologna and let me know if you successfully complete the wall of flame challenge!

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Until next time,
Chris

Fort Scott – Sharkey’s Pub and Grub

Sharkey’s Pub and Grub is a local Fort Scott favorite. It is easy to understand why they have long hours and why their menu goes far beyond the deep fried fare commonly found in pubs. On a recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few good pork choices available. I chose the Cuban sandwich (you can never go wrong with a Cuban)!

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The Sharkey’s Cuban was piled high with ham and pork loin and of course had pickles and lots of cheese. It paired deliciously with seasoned fries and a cold drink.  Behind the restaurant you can spy a wood smoker which is often in use (a sure sign of good meals to come).

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Sharkey’s is on Facebook at  and can be located at 16 N National Ave. in Fort Scott, Kansas 66701.  Like any good pub, they have an extensive drink selection and lots of specials. Check them out the next time you are in Southeast Kansas!

Until next time,
Chris

 

Kansas City – Zarda Bar-B-Q

Sometimes you might crave BBQ in the KC area, but can’t decide where to go. The fact that you have too many good choices can be a problem. Do you go to one of new, untested places you’ve only heard about? Do you go to one of the old, famous places and fight the tourist crowd? Do you go to one of the highly advertised places and stand in line for an hour? Eating BBQ in KC can be a tough life at times, but it doesn’t need to be. If none of the choices above sound good, it’s time to look at some of the overlooked, but tried and true places around the metro.

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One prime example of this type of place is “Zarda Bar-B-Q and Catering Company”. With locations in Lenexa (on 87th just west of I-35) and Blue Springs, MO (on MO Hwy. 7) they aren’t too hard to find. What I’ve found about Zarda over the years is that they are amazingly consistent, and they’re a pork lover’s dream. The ribs and pulled pork are always good, and the sausage, while a different style than most places, has great flavor. They will serve everything “wet”, or with sauce on it. If that’s not your cup of tea, then ask for it to be served dry. The sides are always good there too (which is important). I would contend that they have some of the best beans in the whole city!

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Between the good location, the spacious (and nice) dining area, and the overall food quality, it’s a great place to go if you’re in town visiting (or live here), and don’t want to waste time driving, standing in line, or waiting on slow service.

Until next time,
Mike

Leavenworth – Homer’s Drive Inn

For hundreds of years, people have dreamed of travelling through time, but the love affair with this idea probably peaked soon after the publishing of H.G. Wells’ famous book “The Time Machine” in 1895. I’d like to inform you that as of 2014, you don’t need a degree in quantum physics, or an above-average grasp of the theory of general relativity, to come close to figuring out time travel. All you need is a car, some gas, and a map that can get you to Leavenworth, KS.

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Now, I’m not saying that the Leavenworth area is stuck in the past (though some might argue it is), rather, I’m saying that if you want to get the feel of travelling back in time, you need to go no further than “Homer’s Drive Inn”, in Leavenworth, located just south of downtown, on U.S. Hwy 73/KS Hwy 7. Homer’s has been in its current location since 1938, and it doesn’t appear that much has changed with the place in about 50 years! From its black and white checkered tile floor, to its red vinyl upholstery covering on the booths, it’s no wonder that this place was a finalist for the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s “8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine”.

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The day I visited Homer’s, I felt blessed by the pork Gods, as I walked in and found that the Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich was the day’s special. Needless to say, they didn’t need to twist my arm to get me to order one. I have to say, it was quite possibly the best pork tenderloin sandwich I’ve ever had. It was huge, and was perfectly tender, with just the right amount of breading. I’ve had several pork tenderloins over the years at county fairs other events, and I’d put this one up against any of those any day.

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So, while the untestable theories about time travel are just lying out there for us to ponder, I’ll go ahead and hypothesize that you’ll love this place if you get the chance to go try it. Furthermore, I am thoroughly convinced time travel is impossible, or people would be travelling back from the future to eat at this place!

 

Until next time,
Mike

Kansas City – Q39

As the name implies, Q39 serves barbecue and is located on 39th Street in Kansas City. This is about where the similarities with other Kansas City barbecue restaurants end. When I had first heard about Q39 from a newspaper article, I was pretty skeptical. The author mentioned things like how hip and trendy the location, menu and atmosphere are. However, “hip” and “trendy” are adjectives not usually used to describe your typical barbecue joint. You are more likely to hear worlds like “old” or “smoky”.  Lord knows there are lots of old, smoky and rustic places in Kansas City to get good barbecue.

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One of the best, Oklahoma Joes, is located in an aging gas station. My guess is that Q39 creators Rob Magee and his wife Kelly knew that they were going to have to do something very different in order to set themselves apart from the many others.  If setting themselves apart was the goal, they most definitely succeeded! According to their website, “Q39 calls the eclectic 39th Street area home. Its neighbors are the Country Club Plaza, Westport, Downtown…)”  This is a part of the city  now home to a much younger and certainly more liberal crowd then the outlying KC suburbs. On that end, the décor is much more modern and hip than competitors.

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The menu includes a full bar, and many wood fired options. For me I chose to skip the salmon and salads and go straight for the pork!  When my barbecue plate arrived I learned quickly that I had better throw away all my preconceived notions about what a barbecue restaurant “should” be. Don’t let the eclectic crowds and fancy menu full you, this barbecue is absolutely fantastic. As it turns out, Q39 is home of Munchin’ Hogs, a competition barbecue team with one of the best track records in the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

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As a KCBS judge I know competition barbecue and I know the food served to me at Q39 could likely win any contest on any day. The ribs were delicious, the sausage was excellent and the pulled pork was absolutely perfect. In fact their pulled pork is the epitome of what Kansas City style barbecue is all about. Pair it with their traditional KC style sauce and you have a grand slam home run that flies out of the barbecue park! Do like I did, and throw away your old ideas about barbecue as fast as you can.  Get to 39th street and let Q39 teach you a new thing or two.

Until Next Time,
Chris

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