Correction – Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque is the oldest Black Owned Restaurant in Kansas City, MO. Updated 10/31/19
I am truly excited to highlight amazing Black owned spaces nationally and even internationally. As a Miami native, however, my friends and family were concerned about The Hungry Black Man’s Midwest Foodie Tour because of the freezing weather beating down the area. But for my people, I will take on the cold any day! Unfortunately, the Black food scene in Kansas City resembled the weather in its isolation and icy receptions. Our first two days were the most challenging, but we had faith things would get better during our weeklong journey.
Things started looking up when we visited Gates BBQ located at 1325 Cleaver II Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64110. Instead of a BBQ vibe, the restaurant felt more like a classy western diner. The moment we walked in, just about every employee welcomed us with a chorus of welcomes instantly putting a smile on our faces. The staff was incredibly polite, accommodating, and genuinely concerned with our happiness. I would imagine the tips here are constantly on the higher end for sure.
As a Jim Crow era, Black owned business, they’ve seen their share of experiences over the years. I had the honor and pleasure to speak with two generations of the Gates family and hear first-hand how this Black business has endured seventy-six (76) incredible years of business in Kansas City. Mr. Ollie Gates, the son of the founder, Gregory Gates (named after his grandfather), was on hand to share the joy and pain of business ownership, but more importantly, the flavors of delicious BBQ.
The menu is basic and tasty with the showstoppers being the pork ribs, chicken, baked beans and the BBQ SAUCE! As far as Kansas City BBQ goes, the cooking methods are reminiscent of Florida BBQ, South Florida to be specific. The BBQ embodies the wistfulness, flavor, and heartiness found in southern backyards, take-out windows, farmers’ markets, and of course church parking lots. It honestly reminded me of Troy’s BBQ, another staple Black Owned BBQ spot where for 30 years, they’ve provided Palm Beach County with unrivaled BBQ.
Instead of leaving the meat to smoke for 16 hours, then returning and serving, these pit masters stand over infernos of heat derived from lava red oak wood burning in pits like the ancient practice of digging a deep hole and cooking over an open flame. Obviously, Gates BBQ isn’t alone in this method. Renowned African American pit master Ed Mitchell of North Carolina says one of the best methods for preparing tender delicious ribs is utilizing the high heat method. Using it, he promises to have amazing ribs on your plate in an hour and a half, or even less!
Our culinary journey started with the ginormous sampling platter and a couple of sides. Gate’s ribs were the show stopper! Flavor is packed to the damn bone. The first bite will have you enjoying a tender and meaty rib that defies Kansas City expectations in look and initial bite. Your palate will then savor cracked black pepper meshed with hints of vinegary-tomato acidity, giving the meat a beautiful tang. The sauce takes it to another level. It’s so good, the classic or sweet and spicy barbecue sauce can be poured over the ribs, brisket slice, sausage, French fries, bread, potato salad, every damn thing. I was excited to hear that the sauce will be hitting supermarket shelves soon. For now, I can order my bottles, which I will most definitely do.
Gates clientele is super diverse. There was just about every walk of life, including a super nice white woman who ran up on me to praise this spot and to let me know she’s been coming here since 1969. I had to hear more of her story, so we sat down and shared some of our beans with her. When I tasted them, I instantly regretted giving her my shit. I should have kept all them beans. Listen. Those beans are off the damn chain. These beans are made from scratch. Literally. The flavor is sweet and unique. It reminded me of what the best can of Bush’s Beans would taste like if Jesus and Mother Teresa were pit masters. Bits of their delicious beef sausage cut up in these beans is a meal in and of itself. As a matter of fact, I’m taking this back to Miami. It should hold well in my carry on.
Stay tuned for more on Gates BBQ soon. Their history was too extensive to capture in this small review of the food. I’m talking everyone from Muhamad Ali, to Cab Calloway, to Bill Clinton have eaten at this timeless space. The pickles can be used to create you own sandwich with the sauce, bread, beans, and white bread. Yes, I did that.
If you find yourself in Kansas City, I would strongly suggest that Gates BBQ be your first stop. There are several locations around Kansas City! Call them a 816-531-7522.
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