Jeff Allen's eyes drift to the TV above the bar at RJ's Bob-Be-Que Shack (5835 Lamar, in Mission). His eyes lock on ESPN's update on his injured teammates, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
"He's all right," Allen says of Hali. He says he expects Hali to play in Sunday afternoon's showdown with AFC West rivals the Denver Broncos. "I don't know about Justin," he adds.
The Chiefs offensive lineman also suffered an injury, another tweak of his groin, during the Chiefs' 41 - 38 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Allen exited briefly but returned.
"Just a nagging injury," he says. "I'm playing through it. They really don't care if you're hurt or not. If you're hurt, don't play. You get passed up if you're hurt and you can play."
Allen watches as ESPN replays San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers throwing the 26-yard go-ahead touchdown with 24 seconds remaining.
"No one likes Rivers," Allen says. "They know they shouldn't have won that game."
The loss dropped the Chiefs to 9 - 2 heading into a home game with Denver. Thankfully, the Broncos also fell.
"We kind of know what to expect; it should be a good game," Allen says. "It's tradition. Everyone who came before you, they had the same type of rivalry. It just carries on."
Allen and I have come to RJ's, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on Halloween, on our latest barbecue adventure. A sign covering a front window announces: "Buck-a-Bone Tuesday." A dollar gets you a St. Louis - style rib. Chiefs and U.S. flags also fly out front.
A Diners, Drive-ins and Dives
logo adorns RJ's menu, noting an appearance on Guy Fieri's Food Network show.
"I love that show, man," Allen says. "The first episode I saw, he went to this place called Lucky's in Chicago. I went to it the next day and decided to do the challenge. It was on Man v. Food, too. I got my picture on the wall."
The walls at RJ's aren't adorned with images of full-bellied diners. Here, it's John Wayne. In fact, an entire wall is dedicated to the Duke.
"Are you guys ready to order?" asks James, our wiry waiter, whose pointy mustache suggests an old-timey strongman.
"I'm going to do the sampler," Allen says. The sampler is a gauntlet of RJ's smoked meats: a smoked half chicken, six St. Louis - style ribs, choice of chicken, brisket, pork, Polish sausage, turkey or ham (or burnt ends for a $2 upcharge) and two sides.
"That's for two or three people," James says.
Allen laughs. "It's cool." Allen picks beans and fries for his sides.
I also get the sampler, with fries and corn.
"Steamed or deep-fried?" James asks about the corn. "The fried corn, if you haven't had it, you should try it out. They drop it in the fryer just enough to caramelize the outside."
Fried it is.
James offers to bring over a bottle of RJ's habanero barbecue sauce.
"You can bring a side of it," Allen says.
The plates come loaded with bowling-shoe-sized chicken breasts, quarter-sized cubes of burnt ends, meaty ribs and a couple of pickle spears. The beans are served in a gravy boat.
Allen digs into the burnt ends, dousing them with house sauce.
"They're good," he says. "Still like Plowboys'. I like their fries better."
The crisp and salty spuds grab everyone's attention. Pitch photographer Chris Mullins, along to shoot, can't keep his fingers off them.
Allen tells us that he takes photos as a hobby, and discusses camera choices and photo shoots with Mullins.
"Last week, I shot some of my teammates and their families for Christmas cards," Allen says. Mullins slathers his ribs with the sweet sauce and digs in. "These are good ribs," he says.
"I love it," Allen says. "They're kind of like the burnt ends as far as texture and crispiness. They're not better than Oklahoma Joe's, but this is a good rib. Tender."
Allen isn't a fan of the sauce. "It's all right," he says. "It's not the best. I've had better. It's sweet, but you can taste the vinegar."
He plows into the big bowl of beans. "They're good," he declares. "They're real good. I like them a lot."
The fried corn on the cob and chicken also receive high marks. The meaty bird is tender and moist. James was serious. The food is too much for someone who doesn't play in pro football's trenches. I need three boxes to transport my leftovers home.
Allen is finishing up, but first he tries the habanero sauce on a rib. "Don't try it if you don't like hot stuff," he warns.
"Does it linger?" Mullins asks.
"No," Allen says. "It just has a little kick. I liked it."
Allen recommends it in small quantities, preferring it to the regular RJ's sauce. He finishes his ribs, which he names his favorite meat at RJ's.
"I'll come here for ribs," he says. "And the corn. I liked the fries. They're good."
Ribs for just $1 on Tuesdays, definitely worth it.
We leave full. Allen heads back to 1 Arrowhead Drive for more practice. The Broncos await in five days. He's not going to like their sauce, either.
RJ's Bob-Be-Que Shack
5835 Lamar, Mission
Two sampler platters:
12 ribs, a full chicken, two orders of burnt ends, two baskets of fries, beans, and fried corn on the cob
7 out of 10