Pit Crawlers - Hayward's Pit
The Pit Crawlers paid a visit to Hayward's Pit Barbecue, a Kansas City dining landmark. Hayward's is one of the names many people recognize when the discussion turns to Kansas City BBQ, and it's staying power in a very competitive market for over 40 years lends the expectation that the food served will be notable. Even so, only one of our group had actually dined at Hayward's before, and that was a number of years ago, so we felt we could ease any pre-conceptions that might influence our review. Because of this I think it is fair to say our general disappointment is legitimate, and not the product of unfulfilled expectations.
The sauce was very tasty, and we all liked it. That is good, because most of what we ate needed the enhancement of the sauce, either for the flavor, or the extra moisture, or both. Flavor was lacking in most items. One of our group did a blind taste test in which he could not distinguish between the beef and the sliced pork. I felt the sausage, which I gather from the menu is a signature item, was little different from a good quality product from your local grocery store. The burnt ends were tasty, when the piece was moist, but most were not. Ironically, the beef did not have much flavor, or at least not enough to overcome the flavor of its fat content. The ham, turkey, and slaw were similarly un-distinguished. The baby back ribs tended to be a bit dry, except for the nuggets that were a result of an unusual cut. Nothing we ate was "bad", but not much prompted any of us to much satisfaction.
The best things we ate were the sauce (as I already stated), the fried pickles, and the baked beans, in more-or-less that order. The fried pickles were tasty, and the breading stayed attached, which can often be a problem with these in general. The baked beans were good, and had a nice, smokey flavor, probably from the decent amount of meat in the mixture.
We all felt the way in which menu items were offered and sized was good. The appetizers were good portions. One in particular, the sliders, was a good way for people new to Hayward's to taste the range of the barbecue options, and they were larger than you would expect "sliders" to be. The main menu items were decent in size, although the sides that came with each were fewer in number than might be expected and the portion size on the small side.
As I said, it wouldn't be correct to describe any of the food as "bad", but if our expectations were affected by anything it might be the prices. The cost of items was generally higher than other places we have visited, so we expected there to be a noticeable reason to justify this. We didn't find one. Undoubtedly there are many people who will be satisfied with dining at Hayward's, and we would not say, "don't go", but we found little to merit describing the experience as above average. To be fair, however, we would say, "Try it. You might like it."