Monday, September 30, 2013

Hayward's Pit

Pit Crawlers - Hayward's Pit
Tues, 8/26/13

    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."


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Try Something New

I love BBQ! I kind of like to think of myself as a BBQ geek. So like any other type of geek I just can’t stop at the norm. A computer geek doesn’t have just any computer and a music geek can’t own just one genre or type of music. Now I’m not saying I’ve done it all or know it all by any means. I’m someone that believes He who knows it all (or thinks he knows it all anyway) knows little to nothing at all. That being said I love trying new things and that’s just what I did. Oh ya and it paid off big time!

Me and my good ole cueing buddy Dennis were talking about different meats to smoke and one thing lead to another. Next thing I know I’m standing at the counter of Steve’s Meat Market buying a butt half of a whole pork loin. Why wouldn’t you want this cut up? That’s what the butcher asked anyway. My answer…. Because I’ve never done it like this before.

Once home I treated this awesome piece of meat like a shoulder. Injecting with my favorite hog injection and rubbing down with a nice cherry rub and in the smoker she went. We cooked her at 275  with a do not disturb attitude for the first couple of hours then sprayed it down every 30 minutes for the next few. When that piece of meat came off the smoker it looked like the chunk of meat that toppled Fred Flintstones car.

We let it set for about twenty minutes then sliced it. The knife cut through like butter and the result was one of the prettiest pieces of pork I’ve ever seen. And it tasted even better! Melt in your mouth greatness. Try something new! It’s delicious. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oklahoma Joe's Original KC Location

"The Gas Station BBQ Joint"
A lot of people claim to have the best BBQ in the nation or even in the world and we all certainly have our favorites. For those of us who live in Kansas City’s BBQ is more than a food it’s a sport. And for this reason people can sometimes get pretty heated in who they think is truly the best of the best. Now I’m not here to tell you who I think the best are but I will say it’s pretty hard to argue against a joint that day after day and night after night put out a product that draws in swarms of people forming a line that wraps around the store and leads out the door from open to close.
 This story starts back in 1991 when Jeff Stenney purchased his first smoker, got the BBQ bug and started the BBQ team “Slaughter House Five”. They quickly became a BBQ force to be reckoned with winning many Grand Championships, including the American Royal BBQ and becoming the 1993 KCBS Team of the Year. In 1996 Jeff Stenney and Joe Don Davidson opened Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City and people have been forming those lines ever since. The Oklahoma Joe’s original location is inside a gas station at 3002 W. 47th St. however the now also have locations in Olathe Kansas at 11950 Strang Lane Rd and in Leawood Kansas at11723 Roe Ave.
We arrived at the “Gas Station just before 6:00PM and the line was already out the door! After 45 minutes to an hour we made it to the counter to place our order.  We ordered BBQ chicken, a full slab of ribs, pulled pork sandwich, red pig chili and we each of us got the Z Man Sandwich (slow smoked brisket with smoked provolone cheese a crispy onion ring on a toasted kaiser bun). For sides we had slaw, spicy slaw, fries, and red beans and rice.

To start we dove into the sides! The slaw was good but the spicy slaw was better. The red beans and rice were good as well a light heat and good flavor. The fries were great coated with a dry rub seasoning making them delicious
with ketchup, BBQ sauce or just by themselves. . We of course use fries as a tool in sauce testing. They have a couple of sauces one of which is an American Royal BBQ Sauce Contest Champion. All of which were awesome but if you’re a heat seeker like me try their hot sauce “Cowtowns Night of the Living Sauce”. The chicken was really good juicy and tender with just the right amount of smoke. The pulled pork was also cooked just right as was the brisket that made up the Z Man Sandwich. We pulled some of the brisket off our sandwiches to see how it holds up on its own and it most certainly did. These pit masters know what they are doing! Once we tested the brisket on its own it was time to try the sandwich as a whole. I thought this was the highlight of our visit that was until we had the ribs. To put out slab after slab after slab after slab to all those people waiting in line is one thing but for each slab to be cooked to perfection is another and that what they do. And let’s not forget the red pig chili. Some of the best chili any of us Pit Crawlers have ever had!

Oklahoma Joe’s is open every day except Sunday and judging from the packed parking lot, you better hurry up and go wait in line.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

RJ's Bob Be Que Shack

Alright so here we go! Now I know it’s been a while since the last review of a BBQ joint but were no quitters. Spring has sprung and the barbecue season has begun. The smell of grills and smokers fill the air and the Pit Crawl crew is on the move with more reviews. We have an awesome list of cue joints to check out and we picked a good one to start with. RJ’S BOB-BE-QUE SHACK!

With menu items like bbq nachos, bison empanadas, Cajun crab cakes, and our personal favorite crispy pig tails. Thin strips of pork sirloin lightly breaded and deep fried. Served with a delicious horseradish dijion mayonnaise and sriracha sauce. This is not your usual bbq joint and with an owner like Robert Palmgren it has a pit master like no other.


Robert “Bob” Palmgren wasn’t trained in the art of bbq but rather is a French-trained Certified Chef who has cooked at some of this country's best known dining establishments. Bob spent 30 years working at these places before fulfilling his life-long dream and opening RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack in 2003. This place not only has award winning smoked meats, homemade soups, and grilled fish with a French twist but it also serves breakfast. Located on the corner of Johnson Drive and Lamar Avenue this place offers a real home grown original.


We had the Crispy pig tails as a starter. Oh ya and we loved em! For dinner we had smoked chicken, brisket pulled pork spare ribs and just for fun Dennis ordered up some jalapeno sausage and Brett doubled down with brisket soup.
We all loved the brisket soup and jalapeno sausage so we owe Brett and Dennis a great deal of gratitude. We not only loved these items for their taste but we loved them for their inspiration as well. If you have read any of our older post you know we love trying new ways to make and smoke sausage. Corn husks how awesome is that!
Bob-Be-Que beans, cheesy corn bake, and fries finished up our feast.  The fries were fries, the beans were good but just beans. The true winner of the sides was the cheesy corn bake. The brisket was great and burnt ends even better. The pork was cooked just right the chicken however was sliced breast meat with little taste of smoke. Maybe because it was boneless and skinless. I would have preferred a thigh skin on. But it was the spare ribs that won our hearts. Some of the best spare ribs we've had yet. The only thing any of us had when we left RJ’s-Bob-Be-Que Shack was when we could go back again maybe for breakfast next time.






PS –If you like Bloody Mary’s and bacon they have a drink for you!


Keep on Queing!



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Father Son BBQ Time

Last year I was to judge the American Royal Jr. World Series of Barbecue. And yes you read that correctly I said Jr., A kid’s barbecue! How great is that. Well I think it’s pretty awesome anyway.  So this got me thinking; I have a ten year old who is getting into cooking. I mean at least if the recipe comes from a Star Wars or Cartoon Network Cookbook. But he is showing an interest, and with my extreme obsession of BBQ I thought it would be a good opportunity for some good old fashion farther son time. We started at the local barbecue store searching for the perfect rub. At this point you might be saying to yourself why not make a rub? Maybe you missed my boy’s age (ten) or possibly you’ve never cooked with a child before. Some short cuts are a necessity! Besides who doesn’t like to go to the barbecue store? I’m pretty sure my boy read every label to every BBQ rub in the store. For those of you that have been to the BBQ store you know can only imagination how long we spent there. It was fun though and after some time and thinking a rub was chosen (Mostly for the picture on the shaker). We chose Squeal and moved on to the market for some chicken thighs, legs and breast. While we were there we picked up some basic brine ingredients along with some corn on the cob, a premade pasta salad and fruit.

Once at home we through together the brine for the chicken parts to soak for three to four hours and began to prep the corn and fruit. For the corn we peeled back the husk without tearing them off, tore off the hair and buttered the corn then sprinkling them with salt and pepper. After the corn was salted and peppered we pulled the husk back up and covered them with foil. For the fruit we had a cantaloupe and a pineapple.  The pineapple we cut into half inch slices and the cantaloupe was cut into thick wedges. At this point we set everything aside, broke for lunch and a bit of TV.

After four hours of Adventure Time it was back to work. We took our chicken out of the brine and let it sit for a few minutes. During that time we started the grill (which was easy we were using a propane grill). Once back inside we trimmed the chicken legs, wrapped the bone in foil and Finn covered both the boneless skinless chicken breast and the legs with the rub we bought. We set a smoker box under the racks with soaked pecan chips for extra flavor and a cooking we go. We placed the chicken over the flam and the corn we wrapped in foil on the top rack.  After ½ the cooking time we turned the legs, breast and corn then went inside to get our fruit ready to grill. Yes Grill!!! When the chicken hit 170 degrees we sauced our chicken and five minutes later pulled it off the cooker. The corn was left on. I cleaned the grates and rubbed them with oil using tongs and a paper towel. The cantaloupe was place over the hottest parts of the cooking surface and the pineapple over the less hot surface area. This is because the pineapple will cook faster than the cantaloupe. After a few minutes we flipped the fruit let it go a few minutes more and off it went. The corn was last off the cooker. Everything was plated by Finn who has quite the talent for that sort of thing and dinner was served.

We had an awesome time planning, prepping, cooking and eating. I love grilling and smoking but I love my family more than anything so sharing this passion with my son was truly the greatest way to do either.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

The People we meet in bbq

Well we’ve been on this BBQ journey for two years now. Hard to believe, but true, and so far, every bit of this pit crawl has been Amazing. We started out at Zarda Q and, from there, went to one of my personal favorites--and a place I believe anyone who loves BBQ needs to visit Smokin Guns BBQ.  We headed to a Kansas City Classic, Gates BBQ, and over to Don’s farm to test out his handcrafted smokers. I threw in one of my favorite smoked chicken dishes. We had some awesome Q at Woodyard BBQ, with the Pit Crawlers and again on my birthday.  All in all, we've been having a great time eating some great food and meeting even greater people.

People who cook BBQ love BBQ! There’s no other way to put it. Call it passion, pride or better yet, their heart and soul. Every bit has layers of love. It’s possible that the passion for BBQ that people have they were born with or handed down from family tradition. Maybe it’s simply a learned love. All I know is I’m thankful to be a part.

I don’t want to get into reviewing the reviews on our blog. You can go back and read them yourself and if you missed any, I think you should. What I would like to talk about briefly are the people we met. The ones I was talking about above who have that great love for BBQ. I guess what I really want to do is thank some people.

Our friend Don, the smoker builder, has to be one of the most gracious hosts I’ve ever met--giving us access to his smokers (and his entire farm really)--while never trying to influence us in any way on what we thought of his smokers. He just wanted to do what all BBQ lovers want to do: Have fun! This wasn’t about any sales pitch or an opportunity for exposure. Don just wanted to get out and have some fun--which we all did.

The folks at Gates have the passion and most definitely were born with it. Few BBQ restaurants have as deep a family history as Gates. The service we got from this family was as kind as any you could get anywhere.

When we arrived at Smokin Guns in north Kansas City they were about to close and we had no idea. We arrived just before closing and were treated with kindness and pride. In no way did they make us feel rushed or like we were keeping them. In fact we didn’t even know we were keeping them until we left and while leaving noticed the hours on the door. All they wanted to do was serve us the best BBQ with as much love as they could.

At the Woodyard, we not only found passion and pride we also found a friend in Paul the manager there. Telling us stories and answering questions, he felt more like one of us than a restaurant manager. We all felt at home there.

The very first blog posted was on Zarda Q. Eating there was like having dinner at a close relative's house.

I was sad to hear that Smokin' Babes was closing it's place to focus on catering. I certainly felt welcome there and that feeling was totally due to the people working because, when people love what they do, it reflects back on you. They love BBQ.

And Last but not least: Papa Bobs. This is a family place. When you go there, whether you’re a once- or twice-a-weeker or a first-timer, you feel like you’re a part of the family. To me, owning a family restaurant of my own, this means a lot.

I know I haven't mentioned everyone weve meet but you get the point. So to all we’ve meet along the way and to all we hope to meet in future legs of our Pit Crawl: Keep on lovin' that Q.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

American Royal

This past weekend I had the privilege of helping out at theAmerican Royal BBQ competition in Kansas City. They call this event the WorldSeries of BBQ and with good reason. On Friday the best of the best square offin the American Royal Invitational. This is where grand champs compete (onlyabout 50 teams) for what just about all que masters think to be the mostprestige’s honor in all BBQ.

Saturday is full of action! Inside there’s a barbecue expowith cooking demos all day, sauces, pits and even a mechanical bull for kids toride. Outside is all smoking. About 600 teams cooking chicken, ribs, pork andbrisket. Early Saturday afternoon its turn in time for the invitational contestand most of those teams are doing double duty. What I mean when I say this isthat most of the teams competing in the Invitational also stay and compete atthe open. The American Royal Open is just that open to all who are up to thechallenge of going up against nearly 600 other pit masters. They even have a Jr.Contest for up and coming BBQ masters.

If you love BBQ the American Royal is a must go. From theparties starting Friday night to the great food everywhere to the expo there istruly something for everyone from 6-106. Now I was there on official duty most of the time however I was able toescape and walk around a bit. I even meet some legends in the barbecueworld.  Oh yah I almost forgot the foodwas awesome!

American Royal 2013 here I come.