Kansas City is known as the “city of fountains.” It’s also known as the “world’s barbecue capital.” If locals had their way, ever the twain would meet and the city’s fountains would be burbling not with water, but with barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauce runs through the veins of local barbecue aficionados. It’s an integral part of the city’s heritage. More than at the other regions–the Carolinas, Texas and Memphis–in which barbecue is a religion, Kansas City pit masters know that sauce is the crowning touch to their low-and-slow handiwork.
In combination with dry rub seasonings, the sauce gives smoked meats their personality. It’s what you taste most along with the smoky flavor. One of the very best barbecue sauces my friend Bill Resnik and I experienced during our September, 2012 barbecue tour of Kansas City comes from Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ, a restaurant Food Network host Rahm Fama contends serves up the “best barbecue in the city.” The best barbecue deserves the best sauce.
At Danny Edwards, ketchup is the base for the sauce which also includes white and brown sugar, chili powder, mustard flour and allspice. It’s not an overly assertive sauce, but the heat from the chili does sneak up on you and provides a nice counterbalance to the sugary sweetness. The sauce is of medium consistency, not too thin or too thick. One of the best qualities of any sauce is that it stays in the background very well. It allows the meats to be showcased. It’s applied just lavishly enough to complement the meats without taking them over. You can add more if you’d like, but probably won’t need to.
In a city with more than one-hundred barbecue restaurants, not all of them can trace their lineage as far back as Danny Edwards whose father ran a barbecue business during the Depression. Edwards cut his teeth on barbecue. By the time he was seventeen, he was cooking, carving and becoming an adept pit master. He opened his own barbecue restaurant eight years later, a small downtown establishment seating only eighteen guests. His eponymous downtown restaurant is much larger and more modern, allowing him to transition from traditional smoking pits to a hickory pit which uses a combination of gas and hickory smoke to maintain the heat and smoke at optimum levels.
The two items for which Danny Edwards is best known are smoked brisket and burnt ends. The dry rub applied to the briskets is made from brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, garlic and salt, ingredients which are well balanced. None of the fat on the brisket is trimmed, allowing flavors to penetrate deeply and make the brisket moist and tender. The briskets are smoked for sixteen hours on low-and-slow heat of 210 degrees. After sixteen hours, the briskets are extricated from the smoker and cut vertically into the “flat” (the largest, leanest part of the brisket) and the point from which burnt ends are made. At that point, the fat is trimmed out and more rub is applied for another two hours of smoking.
Contrary to the name, burnt ends aren’t burnt at all. The edges of the brisket are a little dark with a nice caramelization and a crusty bark. Best of all, burnt ends inherit a significant amount of flavor from the fattiest (but melted down) part of the brisket. Today what were once throw-away bits of the brisket are some of the most cherished and craved of all. At Danny Edwards, the burnt ends are outstanding, possessing a higher degree of smoke flavor than burnt ends normally had. The combination of a naturally flavorful meat, discernible smokiness and a complementary sauce make these my favorite burnt ends anywhere.
Unlike our experience at Oklahoma Joe’s, the siren-like aroma of smoke enveloped us from the moment our car door opened. We were sheathed in a wonderful smoky cocoon during our entire stay. Bottle that smokiness and it would make a best-selling aftershave. The smokiness was imparted nicely onto the half-rack of ribs Bill enjoyed lustily. The ribs were meaty and moist with nary a hint of fat. As with too many ribs, the annoying membrane wasn’t removed before the smoking process, but that’s a nit.
Danny Edwards offers some sides heretofore unseen at other pantheons of barbecue excellence. They also prepare the standards better than almost everyone else. The baked beans are phenomenal with a nice smoky flavor penetration and shards of meat. Asian coleslaw, a lip-pursing tangy slaw made from purple cabbage, is a side which should be be on the restaurant’s everyday menu. A cucumber salad made from freshly picked, garden fresh cucumbers is a seasonal offering, but a refreshing change from the de rigueur barbecue restaurant sides. Onion rings are crunchy and thickly battered, but with moist, sweet onions therein.
There are only a handful of barbecue restaurants in Kansas City in the debate as to which is the very best. Danny Edwards is one of those, a perfect combination of sauce, smoke, flavor and delicious barbecue.
Danny Edwards Blvd BBQ
2900 Southwest Blvd
Kansas City, Missouri
816 283 0880
LATEST VISIT: 8 September 2012
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Burnt Ends, Babyback Ribs, Asian Coleslaw, Onion Rings