When we arrived in Kansas City to kick off our BBQ Tour our first stop was at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, or Jack Stack for short. Since I had been to Jack Stack several times in the past, and knew that we could expect to have a great experience – beginning at Jack Stack was the way to ensure the BBQ tour started off on the right foot.
There are 5 Jack Stack locations in the Kansas City area, we happened to be visiting their Freight House location. The Freight House, as you can imagine based on the name, is an old 500 foot long building that was built in 1887 for the purpose of unloading freight from train cars, and holding the goods until such time as they would be distributed throughout the local area. This location has been beautifully restored inside and out, which gives the feeling of a high class establishment immediately upon arrival. Jack Stack is one of 3 restaurants located in this beautiful historic Kansas City building.
If you recall from our Kansas City BBQ Tour Preview, we mentioned that we would discuss the range of dinning styles when it comes to KC BBQ. Today we are going tell you about the upper end of the BBQ dining spectrum. Jack Stack is not your run of the mill BBQ restaurant where there are as many flies as there are patrons – this is something entirely different. As you enter the lobby of Jack Stack and catch your first glimpse of the dining room, you immediately notice that you are about to embark on a truly fine dining experience.
As we walked up to the hostess (remember, this is not regular BBQ) the scent of BBQ was in the air which acted almost as an appetizer. After mentioning that we were scheduled to meet with Scott Grow who is the General Manager of the Freight House location, we were shown to our seats where Scott met up with us shortly thereafter.
Since I had been here in the past, I knew some of the questions that I wanted to ask so I could learn more about how Jack Stack manages to offer such a high end dining experience, and successfully delivers extremely consistent BBQ. While there were probably 10 questions that I had off the top of my head, I asked Scott my first question: “What makes Jack Stack different than all the other BBQ restaurants in Kansas City?” I was absolutely expecting that Scott would explain the contrast in dining experience when compared to other BBQ restaurants – but what I wasn’t expecting is that Scott knew the Jack Stack story so well that he inadvertently answered all 10 of my questions, plus about another 5 that I hadn’t even thought about asking.
After Scott explained the Jack Stack story which goes back 40 years, and is in part based on offering a finer dining experience than is customarily associated with BBQ restaurants, we finally got around to me asking the most important question of the day: “What should we order from the menu?” I guess I was expecting to hear that we can’t leave without trying the ribs or the burnt ends – but to our surprise Scott mentioned something that we had really not paid much attention to when reviewing the menu. He was insistent that we start off with a Crown Prime Beef Rib as an appetizer – yes, one rib… This would probably be a good time to mention that Scott said that this rib would be the equivalent of having smoked prime rib, have we got your attention now?
Quickly jumping back to the Kansas City BBQ Tour Preview, you’ll remember Hint #2 brought back childhood memories of the classic cartoon “The Flintstones” when the ribs that are brought out to Fred’s car are so massive that they tip the whole car over – this will all make sense in a minute.
Okay, back to the rib that we were about to have delivered to our table as an appetizer. What I was expecting is the typical appetizer that leaves you wondering if you should have ordered two, but what showed up was something that looked more like they sourced the rib from a Brontosaurus than from a side of beef. Unfortunately none of the pictures of this Crown Prime Beef Rib will properly depict the size of this one rib. I should have asked how much each rib weighs so we could give you a better understanding of the size of this thing – now I could be wrong, but I’m betting they measure these ribs in terms of pounds, not ounces. If this story is making you feel full, you are right on track with how we were feeling after pulling only a small percentage of what might be the most tender beef that has ever been served off of this massive bone.
There is no exaggeration here about either the size of this rib, or how flavorful the meat was that fell off the bone every time you touched your fork to it. It actually might not even be real farfetched to say that people thinking they would take this beef bone home for the family dog might actually reconsider and gnaw on it themselves the next day.
Shortly after the Brontosaurus rib was dropped off at the table, I was starting to wish that I had one of those hollow legs attributed to certain people being able to eat so much. Just as the reality was sinking in that we might have ordered too much food, our second appetizer arrived at the table – this time it was 3 onion rings, yes three. Jack Stack doesn’t mess around with a plate full of those greasy little onion rings, no sir, this is a high end dining experience. At Jack Stack they bring out your colossal onion rings stacked (in quantities of 3, 6, or 9) on a warmed copper rod. Not only is this functional in that it keeps those onion rings warm, but it’s actually the nicest presentation of onion rings that you’ll witness. The onion rings were perfect, they were hot, crisp, not greasy, and had just the right ratio of breading to onion. Most importantly, the breading didn’t come off the onion when you cut into it.
After taking a breather between the appetizers and the actual meals that we ordered, we prepared for our main course to arrive. While our menu selections were pushing the boundaries of gluttony, this was our first stop on the BBQ tour and our eyes were still bigger than our stomachs. Looking back on what we ordered for our main course, it’s actually kind of embarrassing, but since we are in the business of sharing our food experiences with you, I’ll list out everything that we tried from the menu – this is in addition to the appetizers of course. For the main event we had: Pork Baby Back Ribs, Pork Spare Ribs, Beef Brisket, Burnt Ends (both beef brisket & sausage), Hickory Pit Beans, Coleslaw, Cheesy Corn Bake, and a Loaded Baked Potato. We obviously did a lot of “tasting”, without a stomach the size of a Cadillac there would have been no way that we could have eaten everything – not after overindulging with the Brontosaurus rib.
Everything was truly exquisite, it really was. There isn’t one thing that we tried that I would say not to order, so I guess it’s better to outline what the standout items were that you should absolutely order, this is addition to the mandatory Crown Prime Beef Rib that you’ll order as your appetizer. If I was back at Jack Stack with the menu in front of me, I would order the baby back ribs and the burnt ends again (you can get this as a combo so you aren’t ordering full portions of both), and for the side I would choose the hickory pit beans – but I’d make a strong recommendation to the person I was dining with to order a side of the cheesy corn bake, and then I’d trick them into sharing it with me.
As far as the sauces go, there are a few that you can choose from, however we had the traditional and the spicy version at our table. Honestly we used the traditional almost exclusively, unless you really like to spice up your BBQ I think the traditional is all you need. I did try the spicy version, and it was very good, there was a nice black pepper flavor with it – but for me, I want the sauce to allow the natural meat and smoke flavors to be the main flavors in the BBQ. Either of the sauces would be great, but I felt the traditional worked best for me.