Happy Monday, Kansas City: Texas finally likes our barbecue!
At least that’s the conclusion we’re drawing from this post filed by Texas Monthly barbecue critic Daniel Vaughn, who recently stopped by Kansas City on a road trip.
Vaughn was duly impressed by the Texas-inspired brisket at Harp, the same thick-cut slices of smoked beef we recently gushed about.
“The best brisket in Kansas City,” Vaughn calls it, and while we’re guessing he hasn’t tried the other great newish ‘cue spots here, he’s not wrong.
Say what you want about Vaughn — he has many admirers and some skeptics — but he’s a big-time BBQ brand, and his words carry weight. Not as much weight, he argues, as a new generation of pitmasters who are mastering the mysteries of Texas ‘cue.
“As a Texan, you’d expect to hear me shout that we’ve got the best barbecue in the country. It wouldn’t be a surprising boast, nor would anyone from Missouri put much stock in my words,” he writes in his analysis of Harp. “That’s why it’s been so satisfying to hear the claim repeated by folks elsewhere who are literally making their living as Texas barbecue evangelists.”
Vaughn is a longtime critic of KC ‘cue, having burnt us badly in a post about how our brisket tends to be “limp ribbons of lean beef, fresh from a deli slicer.” Vaughn went so far as to delegitimize Anthony Bourdain’s famous praise of Joe’s, writing that it was only because Bourdain had never eaten brisket in Austin. (Don’t be too offended, KC: Vaughn has also slagged New York City.)
Some could argue that the Yankee Vaughn — he happens to be from about 30 miles from where I’m from — doesn’t fully appreciate the African American barbecue tradition that gives us places like Arthur Bryant’s. Whereas the late great Jonathan Gold encountered unfamiliar cuisines and sought to better understand the world by asking “Why do they make this dish like this?” Vaughn tends to ask “Why is this not like Texas?”
But Vaughn’s praise carries a lot of weight, since the former blogger got hired on full-time at Texas Monthly in 2013. Formerly, the magazine’s editor had assembled a large posse of brilliant writers to travel around the state for a special BBQ issue. (If you haven’t, peep some of those vintage Texas Monthly BBQ issues — they’re works of staggering depth slathered in exquisite prose.)
“If a barbecue joint in KC started doing sliced brisket as well the good ones in Texas, it would immediately be the unquestioned best barbecue in Kansas City. Who’s gonna be first?” Vaughn wrote in 2014.
Well, Harp finally met Texas standards. But is Harp the best barbecue in Kansas City?
We’ve hit more than a dozen spots in the last week alone for our October barbecue issue, and will tell you then.