Kansas City barbeque is widely revered across the country. From our distinct take on sweet and spicy homemade sauces to ambiance of a hole in the wall that just so happens to provide the best-smoked meats in the Midwest, Kansas City has developed a distinct persona for when you think of barbeque.
As a Kansas City native, I have grown to be a picky barbeque eater when venturing outside of the city. If there isn’t a roll of paper towels and more than one sauce to choose from on each table, instinctively I would turn up my little nose.
When I heard about Q39 a few years ago as it first started to pick up in popularity, everything I heard went against what I had ever known about Kansas City barbeque. Cloth napkins? No thanks, I’ll pass. When I finally mustered the strength to give it a try, I understood why everyone considers Q39 to be a game changer for KC BBQ.
The creation of Q39 was inspired by Rob Magee who was a chef at the Hilton when he decided to put together a team named the Munchin Hogs. The goal was to enter in the American Royal, a well-known and highly competitive barbeque competition held here in Kansas City.
The team ended up earning an astronomical list of accolades over the years including overall third place at the American Royal in 2007 and winning 7 grand championships in 2012. The list goes on, but the point is that these guys know what they’re doing.
Q39 has two locations in the greater Kansas City area. The original Q39 is on 39th street (hence the name), alongside many other infamous KC food spots. I’ve been to both locations, and while they are in two completely different areas of economic stature, both atmospheres remain consistently rustic with a subtle element of class.
To start off my experience at the 39th street location, I went with the tall grass cheese fondue served with apple slices and soft pretzels because I’m weak when it comes to a good pretzel.
I had heard that the portions were large and so my dad and I shared the pick three combo plate with brisket, sausage and pulled pork. Whether it’s strips or burnt ends, brisket is usually my first choice. The brisket here has since become my favorite. So tender and juicy that I would not change a thing! The sausage was a little on the spicy side for me, and I usually can handle a tad bit of spice, so be aware. As for the combo plate, definitely not enough for the two of us alone, so it’s a good thing we ordered the fondue as well.
As for sides pictured are the white bean cassoulet and apple slaw. Let me preface by saying I usually hate coleslaw. I have never been a fan and mainly has to do with the sauce. If its super thick and creamy I’m not about it. I had heard that Q39’s take on coleslaw was unique, so I decided to give it a go. And surprisingly, I liked it! What makes Q39’s slaw different is that they mix apples into it and have a very light sauce which gives it a much sweeter flavor. Moral of the story, don’t write off the slaw!
The second trip was to the Overland Park location and learned pretty quickly that no matter what day of the week, you should be prepared to wait. Since the second location is much larger in size I assumed this wouldn’t be as big of an issue but was proved wrong. It luckily worked out for us that we did not wait much longer than 20 minutes, but on a Monday evening, the place was jam-packed with people.
This go-round we started with the bacon wrapped shrimp. Very good, but with the jalapeños there was a definite kick!
This time, I asked the waiter to bring me their most popular dish, which ended up being the burnt-ends brisket burger. He explained to me that the way that it was cooked was by braising the brisket and forming it into a burger patty to then be cooked like a normal burger. Topped with burnt ends, spicy pickle slaw and their classic sauce on a toasted bun, I think my eyes rolled back when I took my first bite.
Also pictured is the salmon filet with jalapeño cilantro slaw and seasonal veggies.
It’s safe to say that I have accepted Q39 for what it is, which is a completely different take on Kansas City barbeque. While they may not have the traditional grab and go mentality of a lot of the KC spots around town, that’s what makes them stand out.
A game changer for Kansas City barbeque, Q39 deserves a 10/10.