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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Love Gates. I was a customer on 31st and Indiana. I eat at Gates each time I returned to visit in Kansas City.
You did a credible of describing the culinary excellence, always associated with Gates’ BBQ. And with your diversity statement, you captured the tri-cultural environment that serves to further such excellence. However, you failed to mention the infinite marriage of the Gates’ family and the entire community. They exude home-grown community partnerships, whether in real estate or in steady enployment for hundreds. In short, the recipe extends beyond the pit. That makes for an even better taste. I’m just saying!! Grand Dad
Hey. Thanks for your comment. We have learned a great deal if this amazing family. So much so, that we would like to produce a more intense feature on them. Stay tuned.
We will soon!
The taste of Gate’s BBQ is very unique. It has s little spicy kick. My uncle and aunt use to bring it to our family reunions. I had my brother-in-law to bring some to me in Detroit. I could just eat a whole rib by myself.
There is no correction needed if you could read. It said was ONE of the oldest. Not the oldest.
As a employee of Gates I would like to say the company is a great company to work for. Ollie Gates is very good to his employees. He also hires felons who has had trouble getting a job. He owns almost all the property frm 12th and Prodpect to 12th and Brooklyn. What other BBQ owner has the street the same color as their business
I went there, it was the best food I’ve ever tasted. I would go back to Kansas city Missouri just to eat.
Me and my band mates, always came thru with your leader: Count Basie. 1977-1984.
All the food looks delicious I like the way the plates are set up the way you have the condiments on the plate is very appetizing continue the great work you’re are doing you have proven black people are highly intelligent and are capable of doing just about anything love you much Janet Chamberlain Coulter Tulsa Oklahoma
We will be in Tulsa in a week!
Hello I am the white lady that stopped to talk to you about eating this wonderful BBQ for most of my life! It is one of my comfort foods. If you are in Kansas City you need to stop by get a welcome when you walk in the door. Try the sweet and mild with the perfectly cooked fries. I have to have strawberry pop with my BBQ it is the perfect combination of flavors. I enjoyed talking with you. Safe travels.
Would you believe it was 2 super nice white ladies? Similar stories. It was a please meeting you. This place is a true gem that unites folks under the common banner of amazing cuisine! Looking forward to our next visit.
I’ve been addicted to Gate’s BBQ all m life! Have tried “the other” but, I’ll drive 2-3 hours just to get a slab of Gate’s!!! I’ve done some extensive travels in my life and I have yet to find better!
Love Gates!! I stop on 12th street on the way from the airport when I come to KCMO.
The best bbq you’ll ever have in your life plus me Ollie Gates is so down to earth and a very nice gentleman