The new barbecue joint in Lansing, Kansas, is nothing fancy. Low-N-Slow Midwest BBQ sits on Highway 73, in a little building that looks like it’s leaning. The menu is written on a white dry-erase board hung from the drop ceiling. The food comes from a small pit out in the driveway, next to a now-idle food cart. It’s all exactly how owner James Cox wanted it.
“I just wanted to be this hole in the wall,” he says. “Those are always the best places to eat—it’s a hole in the wall, not a chain. Not everything is immaculate with no rough edges anywhere.”
Cox is a former IT guy who’s lived in Lan-sing, south of Leavenworth, for most of his life. In December 2018, he opened a food truck. This spring, just before the pandemic, he lined up a lease at a local building that had been sitting vacant for awhile.
“I was running the trailer from the parking lot and got an even bigger following while I was working on the restaurant,” he says. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna open up, I’m gonna get my inspections, open May 1.’ Then Covid hit and it was like, ‘Uh, yeah, you’re not getting your inspections.’”
Cox eventually opened in late June, with a tiny kitchen “just maybe double the size of the trailer” and a few tables where you’ll often find Cox visiting with customers. “I want the customers to be like friends,” he says. “I really like going and sitting with certain customers and visiting with them.”
Cox’s menu fits the place. He cooks everything on a wood-burning offset smoker and keeps the menu simple. The sliced brisket and burnt ends were the stand-outs on our visit, the latter candied in the house’s only sauce, which balanced for universal appeal.
The most popular item is the fry basket—one of the meats served on a pile of french fries fresh out of the oil with a drizzle of sauce on top.
“When we did events with the trailer, we came up with the fry basket because it’s just, like, put a fork in and people go to town on it, especially at fairs and stuff,” Cox says. “People just love it.”
Next up, Cox hopes to add a porch so customers can sit outside—which will also allow him to visit with them while manning his pit.
“I’m a stick burner, so you’ve just gotta maintain the temperature and be consistent with how you’re doing,” he says. “I mean, it’s sweaty work sometimes, but it works as long as you’re consistent. It pays off in the end.”