On a visit to Kansas City just before the end of 2011, I was in the Westport area of Kansas City looking up the new location for Vinyl Renaissance, a record store/audio dealer in the greater Kansas City area. The owner of Vinyl Renaissance had invited me to stop by his new store on West 39th St. and I made my way there during the middle part of the day. As I was going down W. 39th, just inside the Missouri/Kansas border, I happened to look over and see a place called KC Smoke Burgers. After my visit to Vinyl Renaissance, I decided to back down the street and have lunch at this burger place. (see map)
KC Smoke Burgers opened in December of 2010 in what was the former Jerusalem Cafe, a Middle Eastern restaurant that was once one of three locations around Kansas City. Owner Farid Azzeh decided that there were too many similar restaurants in the immediate area and came up with a concept of a smoked burger restaurant. After remodeling the restaurant into a burger place, KC Smoke Burgers was born.
They grill the burgers first, then they put them in an enclosed pot with wood chips on the bottom, the burger on a little grill and a pot top over the burger. Leaving it in the smoke pot for a short time closing out the cooking process gives the burger a hearty smoked taste. (Photo courtesy of the Arnot family.)
It was just after the noon rush and a number of professionals, quite possibly from the Kansas University Medical Center which is just two blocks away across State Line Road, were finishing up their lunch. (KC Smoke Burgers' web site is geographically challenged. They say they are located in Kansas and not Missouri.) A booth in the corner was open and a waitress took me over there. She asked me if I wanted anything to drink. "We have Pepsi products," she said.
I asked if they had Boulevard Beer, which is a pretty stupid question because nearly every bar/restaurant/barbecue joint/burger joint in Kansas City has Boulevard Beer. She said, "We don't serve alcohol here."
Whaaaaaat? A burger joint with no beer? A red flag popped up in my head. What kind of place was this? I just got a glass of water instead.
The inside of KC Smoke Burgers wasn't all that big. It featured a high ceiling with an arched wood beam across the length of the restaurant. Tables and booths were throughout the place offering seating to about 40 to 50 people at a time. Above the front door was a plaster mural of some of the buildings along the Plaza, one of the municipal icons of Kansas City. There's an outdoor seating area that was shut down for the winter.
On the concrete brick walls was a bunch of graffiti. Interestingly, it appeared that most of the graffiti was done by people with similar penmanship. Graffiti reached from the floor to the ceiling. It was sort of interesting and strangely weird in a sort of forced way of decorating.
The menu at KC Smoke Burgers features a number of basic burgers, as well as a handful of specialty burgers. They have a lamb burger with ground lean lamb meat and topped with a garlic cucumber sauce. They also had a gyro burger that featured a 50/50 mix of ground lamb and beef, mixed with Greek spices and topped with Greek Tzatiki sauce. They also had a Kansas City variation of the Twin Cities "Jucy (Juicy) Lucy" stuffed cheeseburger.
Their basic burgers featured a Danger Zone Fire smoke burger topped with jalapenos and chopped habaneros, as well as pepper jack cheese. They also have a Bacon cheese smoke burger, as well as a Challenge burger - something that evidently very spicy.
In addition to burgers, KC Smoke Burgers has all beef hot dogs (including Chicago-style hot dogs and chili dogs), Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, a gyros sandwich (old habits from a former Mediterranean restaurant are hard to die), and something called a grilled chicken gyros sandwich.
I decided to go with the Bacon cheeseburger and you get your choice of one of six different types of cheese. I took pepper jack cheese and I asked if I could get mushrooms along with the burger. It cost 50 cents more, but I didn't care.
It takes awhile to get a cooked burger at KC Smoke Burger. I'm sure between the grilling, then the smoking process it's going to take awhile. I was hoping that they didn't overcook it. When the girl brought out my burger and took it off the smoke pot and placed it on the lower part of the bun, I could tell from the hardness of the meat that it was overcooked. But the the presentation was nice including the branded "KCSB" in the top of the bun.
Even though I wasn't looking to get fries, they came with the burger. The smoky smell from the smoke pot was still in the air as I doctored up my burger with pickle slices, lettuce, a tomato slice and sliced onions that came with the meal.
The bacon was thin and pretty pedestrian when it comes to bacon. The burger was definitely overcooked and not very flavorful. Actually, about the only thing I could taste was the smoke flavor. And I really couldn't taste the mushrooms - I had to stop once just to pull the toppings off and look to see if they had actually put the mushrooms on the burger. They had, but they were grilled down to almost nothing.
I had a few fries and they were cool, limp, mushy and basically lifeless. I ate what I could of the burger and left the fries on the plate. When the waitress came over to take my plate and leave my bill she asked how it was. "Good," I said, knowingly lying. It wasn't.
I can't give KC Smoke Burgers any type of glowing recommendation. I can't give it even a glimmer of a recommendation. The burger was overcooked, it was too much of a smoky taste to it. The fries were bad. It just wasn't a good dining experience. You may want to try it if you get to Kansas City to see if you like it. But I certainly won't go back.