It's been 10 years since the burnt-ends sandwich at Gates first passed through my lips. I can still remember the initial smoky and salty bite. I put my sandwich down, looked at my brother-in-law and smiled.
Now this is barbecue, I remember thinking. And since then I've discovered I'm not the only one to fall under the spell of burnt ends. The latest is James Boo of Serious Eats, who writes that the Kansas City staple are "nuggets of barbecue gold."
It's always the dishes you take for granted that you discover you miss once you're out of town. I never realized how much I loved burnt ends until I couldn't find them anywhere. And every time I returned to Kansas City, I was sitting down at the Gates on State Line with my face buried in a burnt ends sandwich only hours after touching down at the airport.
The smoky bark is like crispy chicken skin, fatty and addictive. I always think I"ll just have half the sandwich and then I find myself plowing through the second half. It's the kind of food that you wish you could eat in private because you're not going to eat it nicely.
Since I've moved to KC, I've come to enjoy burnt ends at a host of barbecue joints, including the unreal chili with burnt ends at Woodyard BBQ. It is not a stretch to say that burnt ends are one of the reasons I'm happy to live here. And it's always nice to see Kansas City's best recognized.
[Image via Serious Eats]