Thanks to one of my dealers in the Kansas City area who mentioned Johnny's Hickory House Bar-B-Que in passing during a conversation we had about barbecue caterers in the area, I had the pleasure of trying the place out on a recent visit to the arguable barbecue capital of the world. It's always great to find new barbecue places in and around Kansas City and I was eager to give Johnny's a try, considering I'd never heard of the place before.
The origins of Johnny's Bar-B-Que begins in 1977 in the southwest Kansas City suburb of Olathe when a young Johnny White opened his first restaurant. He ran it for five years before selling it. He decided to open a new location in a building on Broadmoor Ave. in Shawnee Mission (see map). That location is still going strong today. Johnny's Bar-B-Que also has a location back out in Olathe (see map).
It also turns out that Johnny's Bar-B-Que was featured on the Food Network program, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and host Guy Fieri visited the restaurant in early 2010 as part of his show on Kansas City barbecue restaurants. Here's the segment on Johnny's from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives -
Quite honestly, I didn't know that Fieri was there until I started doing research on Johnny's for Road Tips. Evidently, there is a big signed poster of Fieri and a "wall tag" that Fieri painted on the wall at Johnny's. I completely missed both on my visit there. But, then again, my wife says that I'm not a very observant person.
I programmed in my GPS to take me north to Shawnee Mission - which, in itself, it completely confusing to me as I hear people in K.C. refer to Shawnee, Mission or Shawnee Mission. But there is no reference to Shawnee Mission on my GPS which then made me have it search for Johnny's Bar-B-Que, which it immediately found. It turns out that Shawnee Mission is an area of towns on the Kansas side of the border mainly between Kansas City, KS and Overland Park. Mission is the name of the town that Johnny's is in. Johnny's is a little tough to find in that it's nestled back off Johnson Drive at Metcalf. I have driven by Johnny's Bar-B-Que for years without knowing it was even there. (Once again, back to what my wife says about being observant.)
The parking lot of Johnny's is behind the building off of Broadmoor. It was just past 7 p.m. when I got there and there weren't a lot of cars in the lot. Good, it wasn't packed, so getting a table would be easy. I went into the building and came upon the front counter area where hundreds of bottles of barbecue sauce from around the nation were on display along with some articles on Johnny's from over the years. The lady who was waiting tables told me I could sit anywhere I like and I took a seat in a booth in the corner just inside the dining room.
The dining area is brightly lit with a handful of televisions around the room. A large number of antique barn stars were on the walls. Booths bordered the dining room at Johnny's Bar-B-Que with a handful of four and six seater tables in the middle. The waitress gave me a menu and took my order for a beer.
The menu at Johnny's Bar-B-Que is not unlike many others around the Kansas City area. They feature burnt ends - when they're available. I'm not a big fan of burnt ends, but some people consider them a delicacy. Of course, they have have ribs, barbecued chicken, beef brisket, ham and pulled pork, all smoked in Johnny White's huge self-designed and homemade in-house smoke room. The sides at Johnny's include baked beans, mac and cheese wedges (whatever that is), cole slaw, onion rings and french fries - or you can get "frings" which is a half order of fries and a half order of onion rings.
I always like to get the combinations when I go to a barbecue joint, especially a new one for me. Johnny's offered a two-meat dinner where you had your choice between brisket, pulled pork, ham, sausage, turkey or chicken. But it didn't offer anything like a half or quarter slab of ribs in the combo. I really wanted to try some of the brisket and some of the ribs. Then I looked over and saw that you could "add a rib" to your meal for $2.99. I figured that I'd get the pulled pork and brisket, then get three pork ribs to go along with the meat. I ordered up a side of baked beans and a side of cole slaw.
When the waitress brought the food to the table, I knew I'd made a mistake in regard to the ribs. The pork ribs were huge! Plus the fact that the portions of the brisket and the pulled pork were generous, as well. Then, the sides were in pretty good sized serving cups, plus there were fries AND white bread slices served with the meal. The picture of the pork rib (above right) is after I'd taken a couple bites off the end of it. They were big, meaty, slathered with sauce and very good.
The brisket was lean, sliced thin and also very good. The pulled pork was OK - above average - but not as good as the ribs or brisket. The cole slaw, huh uh. I had a bite and it was pretty bland. Same with the fries. Nothing special there. The baked beans were very good, however. And even though they didn't really need it, I still added some barbecue sauce to them. I guess Johnny's has a couple three barbecue sauces, but only one was made available to me at the table. But that's OK - I was more than stuffed by the time I figured I could have asked for different sauces.
Overall, I'd have to say Johnny's Bar-B-Que was very good - a pleasant surprise to say the least. That was a lot of food for about $21 bucks plus a couple three beers. Next time I'll know not to order three ribs, but maybe only one. Still, there are dozens of barbecue places in the Kansas City area and I know I've only scraped the surface of the ones that are around. I found a couple others that were featured in the "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" show that I'll have to try on future visits. Hopefully, they will all be as good as Johnny's Bar-B-Que is.