To whet your appetite for The Pitch's annual Best of Kansas City issue, we're counting down our favorite Top 50 dishes each weekday until October 7.
If you're lucky, the line doesn't stretch out the swinging screen door at Arthur Bryant's. Instead, it's just long enough for you to change your mind a dozen times while staring at the laminated articles on the wall, which cover the history of everyone who has eaten at Bryant's before you.
Stephen Spielberg is usually the moment I start craving burnt ends. James Spader is when I'll know if rib tips are an option today. Jimmy Carter is where a tourist will typically turn around and ask what to get. By the time I get to Sarah Palin, I know I'm only two minutes from handing a plate through the counter window.
It's then that I catch a glimpse of the massive smokers filled with hickory and oak, which began slowly turning brisket into gold long before I woke up this morning. It's why I'm compelled to order the beef sandwich every time I step onto the linoleum here.
Tender, thick pieces of brisket are barely contained by two slices of white bread. The lean meat has a beautiful, peppery bark, complemented by the vinegar-based barbecue sauce that sits waiting in a squeeze bottle at each table. This is beef as it was meant to be enjoyed, with the slight fiery taste of smoke.
An Arthur Bryant's sandwich requires several strategic breaks. You need time to drink. Time to breathe. Time to shove in a few rough-cut, skin-on fries. Before my eyes glaze over, they always return to the photos and the line that continually replenishes with people. It's then that I notice how the tables and atmosphere haven't changed at Bryant's since the days of Carter.
The debate over the best barbecue in Kansas City is one that I'm excited to have for the next 50 years. But Arthur Bryant's is the discussion's starting point -- the place where you can find Kansas City's history wrapped up tightly in plain brown butcher paper.
Our list so far:
No. 49: Il Parma from Bella Napoli
No. 42: Apple strudel from Grunauer
No. 40: E-Crush from Hi-Hat Coffee
No. 34: Stroud's cinnamon rolls
No. 33: Smoked Polish from Werner's
No. 27: Spring rolls from Vietnam Cafe
No. 19: Flank steak sandwich from Happy Gillis
No. 18: Chicken Picatta from the Hereford House
No. 17: Mom's Macaroni and Cheese from McCoy's Public House
No. 16: Fried green tomato salad from Café Roux
No. 15: Veggie burger from Room 39
No. 14: Onion rings from Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue
No. 13: Cranberry scone from Oak Street Coffee
No. 12: Chicken walnut pasta from Osteria il Centro
No. 11: Steakburger, Fifty-Fifty and a special chocolate frosty from Winstead's
No. 10: Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewery
No. 9:: Ice cream-and-cookie sandwich from Murray's
No. 8: Autumn Cookies from Chacko's Eatery
No. 7: Crab cakes from Cafe Sebastienne
No. 6: The Matterhorn from Andre's Confiserie Suisse
No. 5: Cheese pizza from d'Bronx
No. 4: P.E.I. mussels from Bluestem
No. 3: Samosas from Chai Shai
No. 2: The BLT from The Peanut