This was not my typical birthday dinner. Normally I pick something slightly upscale, where wine and a beautiful plate of well-prepared fish and beautiful bright veggies prevail. And fancy, decadent desserts, but of course! After all, a birthday is still a special occasion, and although they're coming along faster and faster these days, it can be fun to dress up a little (very rare for us) and toast to making it through another year of life!
But this year would be a little different.
I'd been having a hankering for some very traditional Kansas City barbeque. We'd been wanting to try Oklahoma Joe's for some time, hearing and reading that it was possibly the best in KC. And though there are three locations, the original locale in Kansas City, Kansas was the one we really wanted to check out since it's uniquely located in a gas station, of all places. Quirky and, to me, fun! So, on my 53rd birthday, this is exactly where we went.
This photo is borrowed from the Oklahoma Joe's website -- there was too much street traffic to get a good wide view of our own.
And yes, this is a working gas station -- you can fill up the car before or after eating some excellent 'cue!
I'd read on Tripadvisor that there were often long lines, but this was a Monday night so wasn't too bad. And we went early to avoid lines, just in case. There was still a good crowd, but the line moved pretty fast, and we had no problem finding a table. You get in line, look at the menu on this huge chalkboard, and order right from the guys who are preparing your feast. Easy peasy!
We had cheated and looked at the menu online beforehand, so we already knew what we wanted. I ordered the Open-Faced Lean and Mean, smoked turkey on Texas toast, topped with spicy slaw. Barry went for the Carolina Pork Sandwich ("pulled pork served on a toasted bun, topped with spicy cole slaw and our Bubba's sauce". It's always good to see North Carolina get a mention, because we all know NC is the actual 'cue capital of the world, right?! We also ordered a pint of BBQ beans to share.
Here's a close-up of Barry's sammich:
We got a Heineken (for me) and a Corona (for Barry) to accompany our 'cue fest, but of course, being in Kansas, these were the 3.2% version of these brews dictated by law here. This seems to be at least part of the reason that the majority of restaurants in KC are over the state line in Missouri, where the alcohol laws are less restrictive. But, there are no Oklahoma Joe's there.
The food was great! We should have gotten an extra order of spicy slaw on the side as there wasn't a whole lot on the sandwiches, but the meat was great, the pickles a nice touch, and the various sauces were hot and spicy. The beans were spicy too -- no additional saucing needed. Our mouths were on fire -- thus, the beer. Water just doesn't cut it with spicy foods, though we drank a large glass apiece of that too!
They sell a boatload of sauces in the gas station portion of the building, along with Oklahoma Joe's t-shirts, caps, and so forth. We have plenty of BBQ sauces in the fridge, though, so no need to spend much time browsing these.
Interestingly, Oklahoma Joe's doesn't serve a single dessert, though you can purchase various ice cream products to go in the gas station. But that got me thinking about ice cream! I'm sure if we'd ordered huge BBQ platters instead of just sandwiches, we wouldn't have been able to think about dessert, which is probably why they don't bother. But as it was, a birthday just doesn't seem complete without something sweet to close out the meal, so we pointed the car towards Sheridan's, another place we'd never tried.
We used to love the "Carolina Concretes" served by Goodberry's near our house when we lived in Cary, NC, so a concrete from Sheridan's seemed like it would fill the bill just fine, and it certainly did. Too bad it wasn't a warmer night, but that didn't stop us from enjoying it, just not outside.
Here's what I got, the Chocolate Voodoo Pothole. Woah. It was every bit as decadently delicious as it sounded. This was a true chocolate-lover's delight, seriously rich and creamy and very dense.
I guess in the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention the birthday breakfast Barry lovingly prepared before our bike ride. These pancakes with fruit, blackberry syrup, and granola on top were amazing!
I'm not sure we'll be able to top this birthday next year. It was an excellent one, and I surely felt like queen for a day, despite eating dinner in a gas station!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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