I have spent several decades traveling around America in search of the best slow smoked meat. This quest has led me on various barbecue pilgrimages, mostly throughout the south, home to some of the finest barbecue in America. Since I’m a yankee living in the BBQ deprived north I truly appreciate these trips.
However, the one place I keep returning to is LC’s Bar-B-Q in Kansas City, Missouri; specifically for a dish called “burnt ends.” By the way, since LC’s is over 1,000 miles from where I live that’s saying something that I still go out of my way to eat there.
In true barbecue fashion, LC’s is not a fancy place. It also bears a few of the hallmarks of authentic ‘cue; a location in the dodgier side of town, a parking lot where clunkers, pick up trucks and late-model Lexus’ comfortably sit side-by-side and the carnal aroma of slow burning meat.
LC’s specializes in burnt ends, a Kansas City specialty that can best be described as eating juicy charcoal dripping with perfectly seasoned sauce. I mean that in a good way. Burnt ends are the crispy, but still tender, pieces at the point end of a piece of a brisket. At LC’s the cook takes the brisket out of the smoker and carves off the darkest pieces onto a piece of strategically placed Wonder Bread, the bread being there to soak up the fats and the sauce.
For burnt ends to achieve barbecue nirvana they are smoked for at least 12 hours. At LC’s the crusty smoker doors look like those on a bank vault after a 5-alarm fire. When the doors are opened the vent hood can’t even keep up with the spewing smoke. On days when the vent hood is a little cranky the interior of LC’s feels like the caldera of a smoking volcano.
Back in the 1990s a food magazine wrote an article about Kansas City barbecue that mentioned LC’s. I was worried that the place would become overrun with tourists and ruined. In fact, on my next visit they even had their name printed on their take out bags, a sure sign of fanciness. However I am pleased to report that this brief foray into high-end dining did not last and they are back to giving you a to-go order in a plain brown wrapper, just as it should be.
LC’s is not usually open on Sundays. However, since they are not too far from Arrowhead Stadium they are open for tailgaters when the Chiefs play home games. Oh how jealous I am of those fans. I’ll watch their games on TV just to share, if only spiritually, with those fans who were lucky enough to nab a platter of burnt ends before the game. Although I am an East Coaster, I could move to Kansas City if only for LC’s.
Talking about which BBQ place is better starts a holy war among ‘cue aficionados. Some will say that Arthur Bryant’s, also in Kansas City, is at the top of the barbecue heap. I’ve been there and it truly was wonderful. But for me, nothing tops the sweet aroma and taste of LC’s burnt ends. In fact, just writing this is getting me ready to start planning another road trip.
Do you have any suggestions for places I should try along the way?