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BBQ Joints > Kansas

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ - Olathe

11950 South Strang Line Rd.
Olathe, KS 66062






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June 15, 2011, 7:30 p.m.

I have opined elsewhere, in reviews and comments, that OKJ creates sub-par barbeque. Putting my money where my mouth is and willing to eat my words, I made a return visit to Oklahoma Joe's for lunch today willing to change my mind if I had a bad first visit.

Maybe it was Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird playing on the sound system, but I was brimming with optimism on this, my second visit. I ordered the brisket and sausage jumbo ($6.79). I was told that's called "Beef Heaven" by the locals. Number One Son ordered the pulled pork and sausage or "Hog Heaven" ($6.79). No sides, just sodas for two and tax brought the whole bill to right at $20.

I have previously alleged that OKJ has no smoke flavor. Before diving into Beef Heaven, I opened the sammich and studied the meat. Brisket had less than 1/16" smoke ring. Sausage, which is reddish to begin with, had no perceivable smoke ring. I sampled a bite of the sausage first. It was very tasty, but the grind is pretty fine leaving the sausage soft, if not spongy, to the tooth (but definitely not generic Ekrich). The brisket was lean and extremely tender, I'll say perfectly so, and absolutely delicious in terms of beefy taste. HOWEVER, aside from the thin margin of smoke ring, there was no perception of smoke on the meat. Tasty, to be sure, but this is supposed to be a barbeque joint and that means smoke on my tongue. Fail.

By the way, the sauces were interesting. I loved the "hot" sauce which was actually more spicy than hot. The regular house sauce struck me as similar to Bryants - a heavy paprika taste swimming in tomato sauce and vinegar, nothing more. Fail. I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, but the bread bun was generic and spongy. It wouldn't be hard to procure a heartier bread that didn't fall apart from the sauce. Fail.

Oklahoma Joe's has banners all around the store celebrating numerous bbq competition wins including 1993 American Royal Grand Champion. I commend them, but I wasn't at the Royal in '93 to compare what they cooked then to what I was served today. All I can say is I like more smoke flavor in my Q and I don't find that at OKJ. The beef at Smokehouse or JackStack is outstanding. For my money, there is only one place in town to get over-the-top sausage and that's at Wil Jenny's who serves a tight, coarse grind imported from the German Texas Hill Country.

License plates from Oklahoma are a key element in the restaurant's décor and I think they sum up their fare perfectly. "Oklahoma is OK" But I live in KC, not OKC and I want BBQ that is way better than just OK.

In closing, let me say that this review and the other forty that follow depict how subjective something like BBQ is. There can't be a right and a wrong when it comes to this "cuisine". My motto is "Cook what you like to eat." And I do. For ALL of you who love OKJ, I'm going to leave you some room at the table - I'll be eating somewhere else. But finding and eating what you love is the beauty of life on earth and I'm glad all of you have found yours. Bon Appetit!