Stan's Bar-B-Q: All the Low Glory

Photo courtesy Peter Mumford
"One cannot eat barbecue every day, at every meal. No matter how much one wants to, one has to space out the pork ribs and pulled pork and smoked ham and half-chickens and even the occasional foray into brisket and hot links with fruits, vegetables, grains that aren't in the form of grocery store white bread, and protein that doesn't come out of a Southern Pride smoke box. One's doctor has told one so. Repeatedly.

There are as many different kinds of barbecue in the United States as there are pit men smoking. It is a highly personalized kind of cooking, and the influences that form the final product run deep and speak of histories older than all of us.

There is Deep South barbecue, which is different than Florida barbecue. There is Carolina barbecue with its pork-heavy roots and dependence on mustard, and then there is Eastern North Carolina tidewater barbecue which is pork exclusive and heavy on the vinegar--a style developed to cover the rank flavors of pork that was less-than-fresh back in the days when the Carolina shore was awash in pigs and slaughtering yards.

There is the St. Louis rib, of course. There is the country rib, which is much bigger and served, generally, as a single bone. In the Southwest there are Mexican costillas which are like country ribs, but sometimes fried hard like chicharones. Texas has beef barbecue--brisket, mostly--which speaks to Texas's history of cattle ranching and cowboys and also drives some barbecue afficionados crazy because, really, beef barbecue ought to be its own separate category. Brisket doesn't respond to the low and slow heat of the smoker the way pig does. It doesn't take to the smoke the way a rib or a shoulder of god's most delicious animal will when loved up and tended to by an old master. Beef barbecue is one of the reasons why I don't trust Texans: When a pig is available, why would anyone choose to smoke anything else?"

- From this week's review of Stan's Bar-B-Q

Stan's is less like a restaurant than it is a small and highly personal museum of Kansas City history--the kind that could only be made by a transplant who loves his hometown and pines for it like a missing limb.

Stan Phillips is that kind of guy--one who learned the secrets of mutt BBQ while traveling all over the country but drew his first love and primary inspirations from watching his dad smoke ribs and pork shoulder in the backyard while growing up. And at Stan's Bar-B-Q, he brings all that weight of memory and education to bear on a menu that is simple, plain and straightforward: just barbecue and things that go with barbecue, nothing more.

Check out the review of Stan's coming up tomorrow. And when you're done reading, I suggest making plans for getting out there sometime this week. It's supposed to be hot, bright and summery, and there's no better weather for BBQ, cold beer and some potato salad.

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