Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winslow's - City Market

Westy, Ashley, Gunnar and I hit Winslow's one night when Mark had to work a double shift at his P.O.S. job. I had never been here, so I was excited.

We ordered the wings to start and they were really peppery and not so yummy. I ordered the burnt ends sandwich and it was anything but burnt...
This sandwich was gristly (sp?) and had more fat than meat. It was so yucky I sent it back. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich instead which was pretty good. The sauce was damn good; vinegar-y and pepper-y and delicious. The sweet potato fries were too sweet for me (they add sugar and cinnamon: unnecessary).

Ashley ordered a turkey sandwich. Instead of being turkey meat, it was turkey loaf like from a school cafeteria.

John's 3-Meat sandwich was good for him and his palate (which I sometimes doubt). John, Gunnar and Ashley liked the fries. None of us liked the beans. Gunnar liked the potato salad but Ashley said it was sweet and gross.

In all, Winslow's is decent and the service is good. I would eat the sauce and the pulled pork again but I would steer clear of the burnt ends, sweet potato fries, and beans.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The 2


Wyandot BBQ 2 at 7125 W 75th st, OPKS is, and has been for a long time, an odd restaurant. From the outside it looks like it used to be a Taco Via or something similar. It's not much different inside which gives it the feel of a down home joint. The lack of updating made me feel like the owners have either dedicated themselves to the barbecue and don't really care how much the restaurant profits or that they don't really care how many new customers they attract.Their prices are lower than most. I paid $11.61 for my meal and a refillable drink. The staff was SUPER friendly and helpful. I got a big smile from the girl at the counter and help finding a to go box at the end of my meal from another girl cleaning tables. They all seemed to have worked together for some time and made me feel right at home. There were a few TVs in the corners playing news, sports and Judge Judy. Aesthetically this place is not attractive, but I think that was overcome by the actual meal.

I usually try to taste as many of the options as I can in one trip to the restaurants on our list. This time I was on my own so I didn't get to share. I ordered the mixed plate to encompass as much menu as I could. The mixed plate comes with beef, ham, 3 ribs, 2 pieces of cold Texas toast and a side as a standard, but you can mix and match. I can't recall if there was an upcharge because I didn't substitute anything. I have to say that the ribs were the centerpiece of the meal. They had a fantastic smoke taste that still let the meat's flavor come through. I liked the tough-ish skin that was created by the smoking process followed by the natural greasiness of the meat. The grease seemed to carry the rub flavor to the bone which earns a BIG thumbs up. What I was disappointed in on the ribs was that they seemed to still have the silver skin attached. It COULD have been the toughness from the smoking, but the ends of the ribs didn't have this problem, so I think that the pit master may not have the knowledge to remove this before doctoring the slab. That is hard to swallow. (yep, I said it.) If it's your job to know meat, partner, you should do some research.

The beef on the plate was just as tasty. They had a good smoke flavor with a shallow smoke ring, which seems to me that there is some pretty intense smoke in the pit. While much of it stayed in slices some of it was practically shredded just from handling. I think that this probably happens while the meat is kept warm on the steam table more so than in the pit. I know you can't smoke meat to order and I'm okay with this. The handling of the meat from pit to plate can ruin it, though. Wyandot 2 kept the meat moist and flavorful. Good job.

The ham... If this is how my dear Aunt Lucille served it I'd have been at her house every Sunday. Since it's not Aunt Lucille's I have some reservations, and I don't mean the kind with white linen tablecloths, crystal glasses and a maitre d'. The meat tasted fine and was cooked well. It wasn't bad, per se, but it didn't seem appropriately flavored for a barbecue restaurant. The overwhelming seasoning was clove. I know it's a traditional way to flavor ham, I just wasn't expecting it and it didn't add anything to the experience. The chef maintained the moisture in the meat and, like the rest, I liked the smoke flavor, but unless I'm having a holiday dinner and I'm in a pinch for extra meat I'm not going to order the ham again.

The sauce wasn't distinctive, by any means. More of the half-assed, ketchup based stuff that I've gotten at most other Kansas City local joints. I hear it's acceptable to use ketchup as a base and I'm sure it's used well by some, but I'm starting to get the feeling that too many restaurants are using it as a fallback, and losing the 'personality' that can be gained with a stepping-up at the foundation of BBQ in the kitchen. In my opinion, in a city known for its BBQ culture a restaurant should be judged first and foremost on its ability to produce good meats. The next appraisal should be individuality in its sauce. Wyandot 2's isn't an exceptional sauce. It was sweet with a little smoky red chili twinge at the finish, but with no middle palate it left me disappointed, though I've had worse. Apparently others aren't as picky because I'm in the middle of trying about 80 different BBQ restaurants.

At the end of the day I liked this place. I'll go back, and I suggest you give it a try. It's a fast, tasty option for good meat with ample seating. This means a lot coming from a guy with an ample seat.

UPDATED BY MARK (November 5th, 2010)

Sarah, Gunnar and I dropped in to the Wyandot 2 BBQ last night since it's been years since I've been here and Sarah's never been.  She was really confused at first as to where I was going when I started driving to 75th and Metcalf.  She says to me "Where are you going?  Wyandotte county is the other way!"

Well, pulling up it seems obvious that this place used to be a pizza hut, but that must have been many years ago because this BBQ place has been around a long time.  And it really is showing it's age.  The interior is VERY dated looking.  Sarah and I both got sandwiches which say you can choose between bread and a bun.  We forgot to choose during ordering so we ended up with the bread, and it sucked.  Seriously, look at the picture of my sandwich.  This is from the counter to the table.  It looks like an M80 went off, destroying the bread.  Anyway, the meat was really good.  This is one of those sliced pork places, but I still went with the pork and beef.  Both meats were excellent, and Sarah's turkey was good for her.  I thought the turkey was a little dry, but then again it IS turkey.  

We got Gunnar a hot dog.  This has to be one of the wonkiest looking hot dogs I've ever seen at a restaurant.  It tasted like a Wrangler hot dog that they threw on the grill.  And if you know me, you know I love the Wranglers.  

As for the beans:  imagine the flavor of green peppers.  Not terrible, but I don't like green peppers that much so I'd pass on them next time.

And the sauce is just... well... ummm...   It tastes like clovers or cinnamon.  Not my favorite flavor for BBQ sauce.  

So, I guess the moral to this story is, they have good tasting meats.  Just bring your own sauce.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Big Q Barbecue

Well, this place was a pleasant little surprise.  Pulling up to the place, I realized that I HAD actually been here before, but it was many years ago and I couldn't really remember what it was like.  It's tucked away in a quiet KCK neighborhood at 34th and Steele, so most people wouldn't know about it unless they lived in the area.  
It's a pretty modest dining room with huge atrium windows lining the front of the building.  It was a very quiet Monday night when we showed up, but the service was quick and friendly and the food did pretty well.

They had an interesting option on the appetizer menu for Pork Buffalo Wings.  I had to try that, but unfortunately the waitress misunderstood my order and thought that I DIDN'T want them.  She doesn't know me.  Oh well, maybe next time I'll try that out.
Mark got the potato skins appetizer, and they put some good burnt ends on top but finished them with some crappy american slices.  I would have gone with cheddar.  Even though it doesn't melt very well, it would have at least had some better flavor.

They don't have pulled pork, only sliced.  And the night we went they were out, so I stuck with the basic brisket.  It was really well cooked, and the flavor was good although it could use some more rub and smoke flavor.  I ordered a single rib to try, and it was probably good enough to try a slab if I ever got the hankering.
Mark's burnt ends were pretty damned good, and I liked the thick cut fries.
All in all, it was a pretty nice little place in an out of the way neighborhood.  As a side note, I noticed a whole lot of trophies when I walked in.  As I was leaving I took a closer look and realized that they weren't for BBQ competitions.  They were for softball.  So don't be fooled.  

Big Q Barbecue2117 s 34th st, Kansas City, KS(913) 362-6980 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

K&M Bar-B-Que and Catering

This was a restaurant on the very edge of the challenge. Mark and I figured we'd knock it out before going to the Overland Park Arboretum. The place looked really nice and was quite busy on Saturday afternoon. The dining rooms were huge and it looks like they have three private rooms for private room kind of stuff.

Mark and I started with the smoked buffalo wings. I know Bobbie will probably argue that this does not constitute barbeque and it doesn't count, but we like hot wings, so deal with it.

The wings were decent. I don't like smoked wings but the sauce was great. Good ranch too. No celery sticks :(

We ordered ribs, burnt ends, a brisket sandwich, potato salad, beans, french fries and mac-n-cheese for Gunnar. I think the waitress thought we were crazy, or stupid. Well, she'd be half right.

My opinion:

The ribs were terrible (I could hardly choke the leathery-ass, flavorless meat down)

The regular sauce was too sweet but the spicy was decent

The burnt ends were great

The brisket was tender and juicy but bland

Frozen fries, pre-made potato salad (both okay)

Beans were really good (best part of the meal)

Gunnar loved his pickle until he barfed it up

Overall, it was okay. I wouldn't drive out of my way to go there, but I wasn't pissed that we had it on the challenge.

K&M Bar-B-Que and Catering
603 N. Webster St.
Spring Hill, KS 66083

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hayward Son.

I remembered this place from about ten years ago. I went there at lunch during a spring day of painting house exteriors, so I was ready then for a nice hot lunch, and my boss sprung for it, too. Sweet! It was packed that day. Maybe it still gets packed for lunch?

The Saturday night we went it was not. They actually made us wait for a table, though we called ahead for a party of 8. The drinks came quick enough, but that's where the service stopped being exactly that... Service. It took twenty minutes for a sausage and burnt end appetizer. I would consider a smoked meat a pre-prepared option, so it was hard to imagine what took so long to re-heat them. They were good once we got them. The sausage wasn't as spiced as I prefer, but it was good. The burnt ends were equally charred and moist, so they fell apart nicely when masticated. (You can deposit my $0.50 to my PayPal account.) We also ordered wings which were nicely breaded and cooked well, but served without sauce. I got the rib platter because I had the other meats as an appetizer. The ribs were cooked pretty well, but they were not very hot, which confused me even more as to why it took another 25 minutes to get them. At this point we were already talking about limiting the tip. As far as the meat goes; it came off the bone easily, but it left an odd scent as I exhaled with it in my mouth. I used to get overcooked pork chops from my dad that had this "quality".

The sauce was lightly sweet and it was nice and thick, so they have THAT going for them. I'm not a huge fan of the sweetness on which some restaurants base their sauce, so the light sweetness was a welcome difference.

I'm not going out of my way to go here again. I would accept an invitation from friends, if that was their choice for dinner, to allow for a little redemption. There just wasn't enough stand alone goodness to choose this place over, say, the Jackstack another ten minutes down the street.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Smokin' Guns Redux

For our first restaurant to officially kick off the KC BBQ Challenge we decided on one of the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives stops and hit downtown NKC for a little Smokin' Guns. As it is not the inherent nature of a travel show to give any destination a REAL review it seemed like a good choice.

Walking in was awkward. There were a few tables full of people who most likely go there often, which is good. Repeat business is a sign of either consistency, good food or stupid people. After our stop I don't think anyone there was stupid for returning, but I think that they're probably there because it's close, not because there aren't better choices. There was no music playing the entire time we were there and we seemed to be the boisterous table because we talked. I really wanted 101 The Fox to be playing in the background. It would have matched the paneling perfectly. We grabbed a table before we realized that no one would be coming to take our order, and that we had to pick from a menu hung on the wall. Like Mark said, it's one of those signs with the soda advertisement in the middle and letters that can be replaced easily. One like you'd see at a drive-in or skating rink. One that should never be in a restaurant because of the grease and dust that would collect in the cracks used to hold the lettering in place. Just a note... this place didn't seem like the kind of joint that would change the menu very often.

Ash and I got settled, talked it over and ordered a combo platter to share. I wanted the chance to get a feel for as much as the restaurant had to offer. Ribs, pulled pork, sausage, sweet potato fries and beans. Mark got some brisket and Sarah got the quarter chicken, so we all had a bit of one anothers' to round out our tasting. The Smokin' Guns sauce is good. It's not overly sweet as most KC sauces tend to be. It had a nice vinegar balance and good spicing. I'm not sharp enough to tell you what spices they were, that's something I hope to learn in this challenge. The ribs had a nice rub on them too. I used some on the fries and loved it. The ribs themselves weren't in my top 10. The meat stuck between our teeth which in my book is a no-no. I've since learned that in competition ribs should not fall off the bone, but stay firmly in shape and give some sort of "tooth tug". I would be a poor BBQ competition judge, because I love rib meat to practically jump off the bone and melt in my mouth. The sausage was pretty darn good. Lots of whole spices cooked within the meat and a nice crisp pop as you break through the skin. I'd have that again. The breast meat that I tried was dry, but again, the rub was tasty. The pulled pork was dry too. I think that maybe on a busier night the meat could be great, but it seemed that the fat had drained completely from the meat and it left a kind of funk in my sinuses as I swallowed. I am not a fan. I think the brisket was right. It may have fallen victim to the slow night, but it maintained some light greasiness and fell apart without any extra chewing. I'm giving the beef a thumbs up.

Overall I was pleased to find a new place where I can find a couple of menu items that I'd go back for. The sauce should be your crowning achievement as a BBQ restaurant. Smokin' Guns achieves that crown. It gets tarnished when the vessel of delivery is lackluster, but you're still wearing the crown, Guns. I think that the restaurant may have been the next logical step in a competition BBQ Team's succession. At least it felt that way. Cash in and run some XM through a couple of shitty speakers and you'll warm it right up in there. I'll come back XM or not.

Hayward's Pit BBQ

Bar steer wants you to drink.  Heavily.

When I walked into Hayward's BBQ for Westy's bachelor party, I unwittingly walked into a place frozen in time.  Or possibly an episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares waiting to be made.  I didn't quite realize what was happening as we browsed the lobby, which is covered in possibly a hundred photographs of celebrity's from the mid-80s to the early 90s.  This place apparently was huge at one point.  I'm not totally sure of the chain of events that left it as a shell of a BBQ restaurant that it is today, though.

Sausage and Burnt ends; half eaten.
Dinner started off well enough.  I called ahead of time to make sure they could get our party of 8 in without too much trouble on a Saturday night.  'No problem' they tell me, and they weren't kidding.  Walking into the expansive dining area I was somewhat surprised that they were almost empty.  That was the first sign of things to come.

Chicken wings.

I had to try as much variety off of the menu as possible, so I ordered up some chicken wings and a sausage & burnt end appetizer.  It may have taken 20 minutes to get the appetizers out, but they were pretty good.  I was expecting something more like buffalo wings, but they were really just lightly breaded and deep fried.  And the burnt end & sausage plate went over pretty well.  Not the best burnt ends, but they were meaty and we all liked the sauce.  The sausage tasted a bit like a meatball, but I liked it.

Westy waits for the inevitable:
his wedding and his terrible dinner.
Then the next huge wait came.  It probably took another 25 minutes for our actual dinner to be served.  Being we were all talking and having a good time, I can't say exactly how long it took from order to serving, but it had to be approaching an hour.  It was insane.  This is BBQ.  It's not like there's much actual cooking to do.  Most everything is already cooked!  By the time the food came out, it was obvious that it had been sitting under a heat lamp for quite a while.  And it was fairly terrible.  The brisket was fatty and bland.  The pulled pork was fatty and bland.  And the ribs were just bland.

The beans were just strange tasting.  Not inedible, but I'd think twice about ordering them again.  They tasted a little like chocolate.

This is a restaurant with some serious problems.  I have a feeling this place has virtually no management.  I would suspect the kitchen is operating in disarray.  And I have a feeling that the servers are either overworked, or they're caught waiting on an inept back of house, because the service was painfully slow.  As an example, the menu says that the dinners come with pickles.  When they were served sans pickles, I asked our waitress if she could bring us some.  By the time they got there a couple of guys were already done with their sandwiches, and I was more than half done with dinner.  For pickles.  On a plate.  It took ten fucking minutes.  Yeah, service was that bad.
Westy made the bold move of choosing the rib platter,
but wasn't rewarded for his boldness.

The back of the menu gives you a little bit of history of the place.  From what I gathered, it goes a little something like this:

  • Some guy starts a small BBQ place in the 70s.
  • It's wildly successful with lines out the door, so he finds a huge new location to handle the crowds.
  • The restaurant rides on it's merits through the 80s and thinks it's the shit.
  • Time passes by and the management becomes complacent.
  • Eventually you end up with a huge restaurant virtually empty on a Saturday night, serving mediocre food at a glacial pace.

Charlie's sandwich was impressively large.

I've seen this type of thing before.  So, while the experience was well below our expectations, this place COULD turn around.  The sauce was good.  Charlie's sandwich was huge.  The appetizers showed promise.  The food was bland and poorly cooked, but that's pretty easy to fix.

So there you have it.  One more restaurant off the list is done.  I have a feeling I'll have more experiences like this in the near future.  Come on KC!  Get your shit together!
Sweet potato fries from a bag.

Hayward's Pit BBQ
11051 Antioch Rd
Overland Park, KS 66210-2121
(913) 451-8080