While my last article detailed one of my favorite dinners to prepare for friends and family, I recognize there are many people who do not have the time or interest to prepare such meals.

For those who prefer their special dinners prepared for them, I thought I would write about a special restaurant that both inspires my barbecue passion and delights the taste buds.

Growing up just west of Kansas City, where barbecue is a way of life, I have had the opportunity to taste some of the best smoked meats on earth.

In fact, one of the highlights of my life was the time I got to be a judge at the Lenexa State BBQ Championship.

Imagine sitting at a table for hours and having people bring you sample after sample of amazing barbecue to try and rank.

That, my friends, was a great day!

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

When people ask me what is my favorite barbecue place, it’s hard to narrow it down to one.

But there is one restaurant that stands out from the crowd — Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.

The story of how Joe’s came to be is an inspiration for wannabe chefs such as me.

Owner Jeff Stehney and his wife entered a barbecue contest in 1990 and enjoyed the competition so much they decided to buy a competition smoker and put together a team they called the Slaughterhouse Five. They began racking up awards and became friends with the owner of Oklahoma Joe’s Smokers, Joe Davidson.

The Stehneys and Davidson then decided to go into business together, and Joe’s BBQ and Catering was formed in 1995.

They went on to open their first Oklahoma Joe’s barbecue restaurant in 1996 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, followed by their second restaurant in an old gas station at 47th Street and Mission Road in Kansas City.

In 1997, the Oklahoma restaurant closed, and today Jeff and his wife own and operate three different locations in Kansas City, Leawood, and Olathe, under the name Joe’s Kansas City.

To call Joe’s the best barbecue in Kansas City is a real distinction when you consider how many great barbecue restaurants there are in the KC metro area.

But this is not just my opinion. In fact, The New York Times, The Denver Post and USA Today all have declared Joe’s the best. Joe’s also has tons of trophies and awards from such prestigious barbecue contests as the American Royal and the Lenexa State BBQ Championship that line the walls and selves of the three locations.

The Joe’s experience

Before you enter the restaurant and see all of those accolades, you likely will find a line extending out the front door. In fact, I never have been to Joe’s when there wasn’t such a crowd.

But don’t worry, they have an efficient operation and they are able to move lots of people through in quick order.

The smell of smoked meats, the anticipation of eating this incredible barbecue and the extensive selection always makes the line time fly by.

Joe’s specialty is its pulled pork — by far the best I have ever had. The meat is tasty, tender and moist enough to melt in your mouth.

The perfect balance of tenderness and moistness is why the pulled pork stands out.

It takes real practice not to dry out the outer layer of the pork, and Joe’s has it down to a science.

While I make respectable pulled pork, Joe’s is just beyond duplication — but I will keep trying.

Since I usually only get to eat this amazing barbecue one or two times a year, I like to choose the ribs and one meat — pulled pork — dinner with spicy slaw.

If you decide to order the fries instead of the slaw, you won’t be disappointed, but you might be overwhelmed.

The large quantity they give you probably is better shared by two, so you still have room for the main show.

Joe’s specialty sauces

When it comes to barbecue, the smoked meat is only half of the story.

The best barbecue places also are known for their sauce, and Joe’s has one of the best you will find.

Actually, they have two — original, which is a sweet Kansas City-style sauce, and a hot version called Night of the Living Sauce.

My personal preference is the original sauce on the pork combined with the spicy slaw for that extra little kick.

If you don’t like your food too spicy, don’t be afraid of this slaw. It has just the right amount of kick to go well with the pork.

While Joe’s has the best pulled pork around, it also serves up brisket, ribs, turkey, ham and chicken.

There even are some amazing specialty sandwiches such as the Z-man, which is a brisket sandwich topped with smoked provolone cheese and two crispy onion rings on a Kaiser roll.

But whatever you order, be sure to try the pulled pork!

Whether you are making a business trip to KC or just looking for a weekend excursion — Kansas City is just a few hours up the road, after all — this is THE barbecue restaurant you should try.

I am certain you will not be disappointed. You might even be inspired to buy your own competition smoker and put together a barbecue competition team!

Who knows where it will lead?

This information was provided by Arkansas City Police Chief Dan Ward.