Some say it began when an attractive teenage high school girl ordered a Dr. Pepper from a handsome teenage high school boy in a Kansas City, Kansas, barbecue joint. Their mutual attraction led to courtship, marriage and a decision to open a barbecue joint when they were in their early twenties and raising two babies. “Nobody thought it would work,” they said.
Two more children, five grandchildren, a business move from Olathe to Mission and more than forty years later, Johnny and Linda White closed their beloved Johnny’s Bar-B-Q to make room for other pursuits.
“We had a lot of fun doing this,” both agreed, but it was time for a change.
“He’s not done,” Linda says—so we can expect new barbecue-related initiatives from Johnny later on.
Johnny’s building is sold. It won’t reopen as another barbecue joint. We’ll have to go elsewhere to satisfy our craving for old school Kansas City-style slathered pork spare ribs with meaty rib tips and hickory smoked meat so tender that it falls off the bone. Likewise for enjoying a “beef on white” sandwich heaped with thin-sliced barbecued brisket and a slather of gently spiced red sauce. Maybe the greatest challenge will be finding that bombshell barbecue chicken that wowed Guy Fieri.
When word got out that Johnny’s was closing, customer traffic was intense. “People act like it’s the end of barbecue!” Johnny’s brother Brian remarked to me.
It wasn’t the end of barbecue, but for thousands of loyal customers, it was the end of their favorite barbecue joint and the end of a place filled with decades of
Johnny always wanted to own and operate a “barbecue joint.” Not a fancy white tablecloth establishment—just a joint with great barbecue. Johnny’s was more than a joint. Linda’s hand was evident throughout, with framed posters from national and local barbecue contests, trophies and other memorabilia, plus one of the world’s largest collections of barbecue sauces.
Johnny’s staff, a mix of extended family and local residents, represented a microcosm of the customer base. In an industry known for high staff turnover, Johnny’s workforce held steady.
Although Johnny’s Bar-B-Q in Mission is permanently closed, the good news is that we can satisfy our craving for a Johnny’s-style slab of ribs, beef on white, famous chicken or other Johnny’s favorites in Olathe, where Johnny and Linda’s son, Eric, has operated his own Johnny’s since 2004. Eric will keep his dad’s name on the Olathe pit.
Since barbecue passion is in his blood, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Johnny in Olathe occasionally, taking orders, visiting with customers and helping in the kitchen.
Did you know? Johnny’s famously used the teeth of a metal rake to regulate airflow to its smoker.