Name: Q39 Date: 6/8/21 Address: 1000 W 39th St, Kansas City, MO Order: Beef brisket plate (with burnt ends), add pulled pork, side of white bean cassoulet (link to menu) Pricing: $$$
Speedy: I recently embarked on a cross-country roadtrip with my brother (same parents variety, not blog-about-barbecue-with variety), which took us through Kansas City. Of course we had to find a place for ‘cue in the burnt ends capital. After a bit of research, we settled on Q39, a more up-ish-scale restaurant that is (relatively) new on the scene, opening in 2014.
We walked in on a Tuesday night, and the place was packed, but after a short wait, we were seated. Q39 has tables and a wait staff, and a large bar area, as well as outside seating. It’s decorated in a rustic fashion, and overall, was a nice atmosphere.
My order was easy – the beef brisket plate (which comes with burnt ends and slices), but I did add on some pulled pork and the Bro went with the housemade chipotle sausage plate, as well as the onion straw appetizer.
While service was good overall, the wait was a bit longer than normal for a barbecue joint (perhaps due to the crowd), but still, our food was out shortly.
Let’s not bury the lede. In Kansas City, burnt ends are king, and Q39’s burnt ends were the star of the show. Tender but not too fatty, with a nice sauce that had a hint of sweetness, every bite was flavorful and a real treat. At Q39, there is a burnt ends appetizer (which they were not serving that night), but otherwise, you cannot order the burnt ends alone – only with the brisket plate. This is too bad because the slices on the brisket place were not too exciting. They were served with sauce already applied, which was necessary on the lean brisket that was on the dry side. It still had decent flavor, but paled in comparison to the burnt ends.
Monk: Interesting that you can’t get the burnt ends without ordering the brisket. I wonder if this is the norm in Kansas City, or a case where Q39 is looking to save costs.
Speedy: Hard to know, Monk. I assume they’re cooking full briskets, so trying to sell at the same rate. I think this also explains why your brisket just comes lean – the point has already been used. The pork was also served sauced, which I felt was a mistake. The “zesty” sauce does have a vinegar base, but is also loaded with sugar, favoring sweetness over tang. The pork was cooked well and had decent flavor, but the sauce took away from the flavor for me.
Monk: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a KC barbecue joint uses a sugary sauce on their pork.
Speedy: The Bro’s sausage was my second favorite part of the meal. The homemade sausage had good flavor, nice snappy casing, and was not greasy at all. Overall a good effort.
The white bean cassoulet is a side I’ve never seen our heard of, but from a taste standpoint, it was basically Brunswick stew. It was very hot out – so not stew weather – but I would order it again. The Bro loved his baked beans (I didn’t try any), and the onion straws (with barbecue remoulade) were really good, and worth ordering.
Overall, I would recommend a visit to Q39 to anyone in Kansas City, especially if you focus your attention on the burnt ends.
Monk: Back in 2016, I posted the first of what turned out to be a four part web series from Flatland, the digital arm of Kansas City’s PBS station. This well produced documentary explores the history of the dish, from waste to freebie afterthought to a dish that is now found in most parts of the country and is incorporated into other dishes. The full video is available above.
Description: Burnt Legend, a joint project from KCPT, Flatland and Recommended Daily, peers inside the smoky, rich world of Kansas City barbecue and shines a light on one of the city’s defining foods. Host Jonathan Bender talks to pitmasters, barbecue fans and historians to look into how brisket is smoked, chopped and transformed into a saucy, crispy pile of heaven.
Speedy: After a successful mail order from Black’s Barbecue, and considering I was still sheltering in place, it seemed like a good idea to order some more ‘cue. After some serious Googling, I decided on Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. Like Black’s, the order came super quick, and packed very well, and took several sittings to eat. The meat came with a detailed instruction book that recommended warming the brisket and burnt ends in boiling water, while using the oven for the ribs. I went first with the brisket, which came pre-sliced in pretty thin slices.
After warming the package in boiling water (as directed, while still in the packaging), I cut open the package and got a good smell of smokey ‘cue. I tasted first without the sauce, and it was just OK for me. With such thin slices, there was no bark, and it missed that peppery seasoning. While the taste was good, it felt like more high-end deli roast beef, as the thin slices made it seem like it was made for sandwiches, and not sliced thickly as proper brisket should be. Everyone knows that bark can make or break a brisket, and without it, the brisket was lacking. Adding the sauce helped with the flavor, but having to do that tells you all you need to know.
Monk: From my experience at the Kansas City-style barbecue at John Brown Smokehouse with native Kansas Citizen (City-an? City-ite?) Sean Ludwig of NYC BBQ and The Smoke Sheet, his guidance (for at least that place) was to stay away from the thinly-sliced brisket and go for the burnt ends if you wanted brisket. Guess the whole thinly-sliced deal for brisket is kind of a Kansas City thing based on this admittedly small sample size.
Speedy: I had a similar experience with the ribs, finding them underseasoned. These were warmed in the oven, which gave me the opportunity to add seasoning myself, I ended up not doing that, which was a mistake. While cooked well and tender, I just wanted more flavor. Overall, I didn’t find these to be any better than store bought pre-cooked ribs.
This leaves us with the Kansas City staple – burnt ends. Going in, I was most excited for the burnt ends, a meat I don’t often get a chance to eat. Reheating the burnt ends in boiling water worked well, leading to piping hot meat, which was tender, but also lacked the bold flavor I was hoping for. The sauce complimented the burnt ends very nicely, but in the end, I still found them to just be average. By no means am I a connoisseur of burnt ends, but I certainly expected more.
Monk: I was going to order the same package from Joe’s KC but a week after Speedy since I already had ordered bulk barbecue from Jon G’s Barbecue for pick up here in Charlotte for the weekend. However, after his experience Speedy went ahead and let me know that I could probably skip them and spend my money elsewhere. Which is a shame because I too was looking forward to the burnt ends. In any case, thanks for the heads up, bro.
Speedy: At the end of the day, my second experiment with mail order ‘cue didn’t go off quite so well. I just felt there was an overall lack of seasoning, leading to a bland product. I’d be interested in visiting Joe’s KC Bar-Be-Que in person, but I won’t order from them again.