August 18, 2008

Arthur Bryant's: Mecca for Trillin fans

On the way to the stadium for the Red Sox/Royals game, we stopped for dinner at Arthur Bryant's barbecue. I was very excited about this, having read Calvin Trillin's rhapsodic odes to the joys of Mr. Bryant's Kansas City meat cookery. Bryant's is the ur-barbecue in Kansas City. When my brother found out I'd been to KC, his only concern was, "Please tell me you went to Arthur Bryant's."

This is a brick building across from a vacant lot, with cheap tile floors and formica tables, and a long line up to the counter of meat pilgrims from every walk of life. You order your meat from the first man, and your sides from the cashier; there is clearly a method to this, and we did our best to fake our way through. And brother, let me assure you that it is worth it.

These beef burnt ends are where it's at, moist, tender, and sopped in a fantastic dark red, complex sauce that's only just barely sweet. There is pillowy Wonder bread (the ordering window is lined with the brightly colored bags of it) underneath, turning into a savory muck as the sauce soaks in. The pulled pork is also exemplary, but I had to go for the ends.

The fries are nothing special, I wouldn't bother on a return trip. But the slaw is excellent, chopped and well-seasoned, not sweet, and the beans are excellent as well. These beans are not as sophisticated and balanced as the ones at Jack Stack, but they are spicy-delicious and go well with the meat. The lemonade is too fake-sweet -- if you want something other than beer or iced tea, I'd go instead for the sugary, bright-red cream soda, something I've never seen anywhere else.

We have acceptable barbecue here in Massachusetts, particularly at Blue Ribbon, which is quite near the house, but there is really nothing like eating barbecue in its native habitats, made by people who've been perfecting the art for generations. Yum.

Posted by foodnerd at August 18, 2008 01:17 AM
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