The KC BBQ Experience: Barbecue Beginnings

Visit KC

Barbecue in Kansas City is more than a menu item or a method of preparation. It’s an institution, rich with history and culinary tradition that shapes the city’s dining landscape every day—and has since the early 1900s. For decades, visitors from across the globe have traveled here, drawn in by its smoky aroma, just to get a sample of KC’s acclaimed cuisine.

Henry Perry, From the collection of: Visit KC

Kansas City’s barbecue craze can be traced back to Henry Perry, who, in the early 1920s, began barbecuing in an outdoor pit adjacent to his streetcar barn, serving slabs of food wrapped in newspaper. Perry’s ‘cue became so popular that fans began imitating his technique and style to create their own unique recipes.

Perry's Barbecue, From the collection of: Visit KC

The second wave of barbecue pioneers were the families of Bryant, Gates, Boyd, Harris, Fiorella and Thompson—three of which are familiar names that remain emblazoned on still-thriving restaurants. Kansas City had earned a reputation as a renowned stockyard and meat-packing city by the ‘30s and ‘40s, making it the ideal migration destination for pitmasters in search of work.

Gates Bar-B-Q, Ben Pieper, From the collection of: Visit KC

Together, their distinctive tastes, talents and flair laid the groundwork for an unprecedented, eclectic barbecue culture that’s recognized on a global scale.

Gates Bar-B-Q, Ben Pieper, From the collection of: Visit KC

Now, Kansas City barbecue enthusiasts can satisfy their cravings at more than 100 mouth-watering restaurants dotted around the metro. There’s even the Kansas City Barbeque Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and sustaining the cuisine worldwide.


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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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