A historical timeline of Kansas City barbecue

Photographer: Jeremey Theron Kirby

There’s a lot of history behind that piece of smokey brisket on your fork and the bottle of lip-smacking sauce in your fridge. Find out how Kansas City became the iconic barbecue destination that it is today.

1869

On July 3, the first bridge across the Missouri River brings a boom to Kansas City. Locals celebrate with a massive barbecue.

1907

Memphis native Henry Perry opens the city’s first barbecue spot in an alley. Offerings include woodchuck, possum and raccoon.

1932

Iconic black newspaper The Call celebrates the 25th anniversary of Perry and notes there are “more than a thousand barbecue stands” in the city.

1936

Anthony Rieke opens Rosedale Bar-B-Q, the oldest family-owned pit in the city. Former employees go off to start spots like Wyandot and Johnny’s.

1940

Henry Perry dies, leaving his second ‘cue spot to employee Charlie Bryant, brother of Arthur.

1946

George and Arzelia Gates buy Ol’ Kentucky Bar-B-Q. George plans to maximize profits on bootleg whiskey, but Arzelia insists otherwise.

1972

Calvin Trillin declares Arthur Bryant’s the best restaurant in the world in the pages of Playboy.

1996

Oklahoma Joe’s opens in a gas station in KCK.

2011

Anthony Bourdain names Joe’s the best barbecue in the world. One year later, Bourdain recants and pledges fealty to Texas.

Categories: Food

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