It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed food based around Kansas City’s most famous foodstuff – BBQ. Fortunately there’s over a hundred BBQ restaurants in Kansas City so there’s never going to be any shortage of places to review. It’s more a question of which. We have, therefore, decided to fill in a couple of gaps in our coverage of KC’s best known BBQ joints and went to Gates.
Originally opening at 19th and Vine in 1946, (happy 70th birthday) founded by George and Azelia Gates, there are now six Gates locations in the KC area. (The Independence location burned down last year but has been revamped and re-opened. We always go to the one at 3205 Main for the nostalgia factor as it’s the first BBQ joint we went to after moving to KC. Gates is famous for its ‘shouty’ staff, and so is not really a place for the indecisive or the shy and retiring. While it may come as a bit of a shock to the British reserve, the staff are actually always helpful, having been trained on location at what is lovingly known as ‘rib tech’.
Fortunately for procrastinating Englishmen like myself there’s a handy menu right as you walk in to help you choose. Obviously, I decided on the mixed plate because a) it meant I could try as many different things as possible in one sitting and b) I have no idea of scale and didn’t realize I would be buying enough food to feed me for three days. As a side note, avid Gates fan Tech9, named his tenth album The Gates Mixed Plate and often references Gates in his lyrics.
Unlike some of the more modern (read conceptual/hipster) BBQ places, Gates sits firmly in the traditional mold. It does ribs, it does meat by the pound, it does sandwiches and that’s pretty much it – although the 1221 Brooklyn location does a killer chili. You won’t find fish or game on the menu which is HERE. One quibble about the website – the menu doesn’t show prices which surprised me somewhat.
As said, even though we have been in KC for four years now, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the size of the mixed plate. I really should know better. The photo doesn’t do full justice to the mound of food that sat there, daring me to eat it all. Mocking me.
(I’ve got the meats. So much meats)
What’s that you say, meat? Challenge accepted. Well kinda. I managed to get half way through before having to loosen my pants and ask for the box. It did feed me for the entirety of the next day also. But anyway, what was it actually like? Well Gates is noticeably spicier than places like Jack Stack or Joe’s and some people may find this a little off putting. The meat itself is fine, there’s nothing wrong there and I could eat the sliced pork and beef all day, but I did find the short ribs a little disappointing in that the bone to rip ratio could have been a touch more generous. As for the sides, the sauces are stand out. If you find that their spicy BBQ isn’t as spicy as you like it, you can always pick up some potent extra hot sauce at the cutlery station. As for me, I plumped for the sweet and mild, if only because that’s exactly what I am *ahem*.
The fries and ketchup are pretty good but, I have to say, their bread is disappointing. American bread isn’t the best anyway, but this was flat, dry and crumbly, which was a shame. The Texas toast at Joe’s is far better. The down side – if there is one – of the portion size is that I’ve never managed to get to the desserts and so Yammer Pie is still an utter mystery to me. One of these days I will be able to get around to dessert but there is always so. much. meat. (In fact just looking at the photos again is making me hungry, damnit).
So, the $64,000 question, how does Gates stand up? Well, it’s hard to compare as the flavors are so very different. If you like spice/heat then Gates absolutely should be your go to BBQ spot, but if you prefer something a little more refined on the palate – or are a British wuss who only likes the blandest of the bland – perhaps Gates isn’t for you.
PHONE:  753 0828
LOCATION: 3205 Main
OPENING HOURS: Sun to Thurs 10:00 am to 12:00pm Fri & Sat: 10:00am to 1:am