On any given day you are likely to smell the aroma of barbecue in Kansas City. The very fabric of the community is saturated with the intoxicating scent. Breaking the barrier to become a successful BBQ restaurant in this town is no easy feat. Chef J has learned this lesson as the new kid in town. Working out of one of the historic warehouses in the West Bottoms, his days are spent tending a smoker. Moving beyond the traditional First Friday weekend, you will find him serving up delectable dishes every weekend. Chef J BBQ, at 1401 W. 13th Street, is carving out his own stake of ground in the Barbecue Capital of America.
Front and Center
On any given day you can expect to find a line for Chef J BBQ. Word of mouth has spread like wildfire and this new kid in town is facing roaring success. That is an impressive feat in a city known for its barbecue. As we waited our turn, we scoped out the menu. It’s a fairly straightforward approach that has an assortment of tempting sandwich options. Since it was just the two of us, we decided to pass on the large sampler platters. These would certainly be a good choice for gatherings or small crowds. Chef J himself was right up front helping prepare the plates for hungry diners.
Aged to Perfection
The current pandemic seating has the tables spaced out, but we can see the seating availability will increase with time. The decades-old interiors of these West Bottoms warehouses are such a fun setting for businesses. We enjoy the creakiness of the old wooden floors and the industrial vibe found in these spaces. They have made a few necessary improvements to make this place welcoming, but have retained most of the natural appeal of the original condition. Seating is an eclectic mix of tables and chairs, with a few booths to boot.
For us, it’s hard to think about side dishes, when you are smelling the intoxicating aroma of smoked meats. Chef J dishes up about a half-dozen choices, but we have only sampled about half of them. We went with the Bacon & Blue Potato Salad, which features the slight tang of the underlying blue cheese flavor. Using skin-on new potatoes adds some extra texture to the dish. Our other choice was the Smoked Elotes, which is a cross between cheesy corn and Mexican street corn. It has a pleasing flavor that adds some variety to an otherwise standard side.
A Different Grilled Cheese
There doesn’t seem to be much left to the imagination, with a name like Brisket Grilled Cheese. That’s where we were wrong. Using some of his smoky, tender briskets, Chef J has created a new classic. This panini-style sammie has the makings of a new classic. The meaty addition to a time-tested sandwich kicks this up to adults-version finger food. With plenty of gooey cheese to bind the meat to the bread, we didn’t struggle with pieces trying to escape. Let’s just say that we have sampled some tasty grilled cheese sammies, (Like this one at Summit Grill) but this one really brings a ton of flavor.
Going Beast Mode
We are always looking for some version of a sampler platter when dining at a new restaurant. These offer us a better chance to test the spectrum of flavors that can be found on the menu. While Chef J BBQ serves up some sampler options, they seem to be designed for larger gatherings. What we did discover was the Beast Mode. This sandwich on steroids brings it all to the plate. We are still wondering how they crammed pulled pork, chopped brisket, sliced turkey, and Jalapeno Cheddar sausage into this bun. I suppose the pair of ribs is designed to keep the lid from blowing off. Since we were sharing this monstrosity, we decided to disassemble it and dine directly on the meats. Each one has its own distinct smoky goodness to deliver.
By the end of our protein-packed lunch, we found ourselves with a lack of hunger. Fortunately, we had predicted this and decided to forego picking up a dessert when we ordered. It’s good to know that on a less meaty day we could split a slice of pie. I mean, who doesn’t find a slice of peanut butter and chocolate pie to be utterly tempting?
New Kid in Town
You may be able to tell by our photo that we are in a protein-induced food coma. The meaty goodness being served up at Chef J BBQ shows that this new kid in town is making a mark for himself. It is also apparent in the lines of customers who sometimes stretch around the building. The hours at Chef J can vary since they will often sell out and be forced to close up for the day. Do yourself a favor and visit early, so you don’t miss out on any of their delectable options. We are betting that once you try it you too will become a fan.