While in Kansas City recently, I had just gotten back from a long trip out toward West Central Kansas and decided to try and find the newer of the two locations of Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue - the location on Strang Road in Olathe, KS (see map). Oklahoma Joe's has suddenly risen to the top of my "favorites" list of a long line of great barbecue places in the Kansas City area. (You can read my original post on Oklahoma Joe's here.)
The original Oklahoma Joe's is located in what is basically an old gas station in Kansas City, KS (below left). It is one of the more unique places I've been to for any type of restaurant. The barbecue I had on my first visit was absolutely fabulous - the brisket was out of this world and the ribs were very, very good. Each time I get back to K.C., I have to have at least one meal at Oklahoma Joe's.
I was staying out at my usual place in Overland Park, KS - the Hilton Garden Inn - and the Olathe Oklahoma Joe's is much closer to my hotel than the original one in Kansas City. The Oklahoma Joe's in Olathe (above right - picture courtesy of Kansas Travel.org) is located in a newer strip mall and has ample parking around the building. Even coming up on 8 p.m., I was having trouble finding a place to park because it was packed with people at that time. The one in Kansas City, Kansas (or KCK, as the locals refer to it) serves its last meal at 8:30 p.m through the week. The Olathe location closes at 9 p.m. for the late eating suburbanite crowd. (The KCK location is open until 9:30 on weekends and the Olathe location closes at 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Both locations are closed on Sunday.)
The inside of Oklahoma Joe's in Olathe (picture right courtesy of Kansas Travel.org) is vastly larger than the original location, but it doesn't have any of the rib joint ambiance that the KCK Oklahoma Joe's possesses. The menu in Olathe is nearly identical to the KCK location and the line to order at the counter was nearly 12 people deep when I walked in. It allowed me ample time to peruse the large blackboard menu on the wall to see what I really wanted to eat that evening.
Without getting into the detail that I did with my original post, I'll just say that I went with the Two Meat Dinner - pulled pork and brisket with a side of baked beans and Texas toast, with a couple bottles of Bud Light to help wash the dust out of my mouth from a long day of driving and to help cut into the zippy chipotle pepper taste of Oklahoma Joe's "Night of the Living Sauce" barbecue sauce.
While the surroundings at the Olathe location was more of a corporate chain restaurant, the food was probably as good as the original Oklahoma Joe's in KCK. The brisket was devastatingly delicious, tender and lean with a hint of a smoke taste. The pulled pork was equally tender, but sort of lacked a good smoky base to the meat. But putting a combination of the Oklahoma Joe's regular "Cowtown" sauce and the more spicy sauce together, the taste sensation with the pulled pork was not lost. And adding some of the "Night of the Living Sauce" to the baked beans helped flare up an already wonderful side dish.
Next door to the Oklahoma Joe's restaurant in Olathe is a barbecue store that sells smokers and grilles, sauces, rubs, wood chips and barbecue accessories. It's similar to the stuff you'd find at Smoke 'n' Fire in Overland Park, but much smaller in size and in selection than what Smoke 'n' Fire offers.
I've heard that the decor and ambiance of a restaurant can make the food taste better. I sort of like the old rib joint feel to the original Oklahoma Joe's in KCK compared to the slick, contemporary interior of their Olathe location. While it is comfortable with larger tables and a larger dining area than the original place, I think the KCK Oklahoma Joe's is just a notch better than the one in Olathe. That's not to say that I didn't like my meal at the Olathe Oklahoma Joe's, it was very, very good - still one of the best, if not THE best barbecue in Kansas City. But even though it's a little more of a haul from where I stay when I'm in the Kansas City location, I'd go back to the Oklahoma Joe's in KCK before I'd go to the one in Olathe.