Sorry, Josh Hawley, you’re wrong about the best BBQ ribs in KC. These are the greatest

Editor’s note: Welcome back to our series Let’s Dish, Kansas City, showcasing some of our favorite restaurant meals.

As editor of the Opinion team at The Star I sometimes disagree with Sen. Josh Hawley.

This is one time I have to say that he is plain wrong. LC’s Bar-B-Q, not Jack Stack Barbecue, has the best ribs in Kansas City.

We learned in a Let’s Dish installment a couple months ago that Hawley prefers Jack Stack’s, and yes, those baby backs are delicious. I get them whenever I eat there, with a side of baked beans. So, I have no beef with Jack Stack, but I prefer LC’s long-end ribs ($14). Their sides? All are great, but I love the baked beans or spicy green beans.

A saucy plate of tender, smoky long-end ribs at LC’s Bar-B-Q on Kansas City’s East Side: the best.
A saucy plate of tender, smoky long-end ribs at LC’s Bar-B-Q on Kansas City’s East Side: the best.

I’m a bit of a connoisseur of ribs. It’s the only item I eat when I get barbecue. First, let me school you in rib anatomy.

I called Nelson Gaydos, outreach specialist of the American Association of Meat Processors, North America’s largest meat trade organization located in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and he described the cuts on the animal. Most of us are carnivores — right? — so we don’t need to be squeamish.

Nearest the top of the slab are the baby backs, with spareribs just below, often cut and divided between the long and short end. Baby backs are a shorter cut that some say are meatier, though I disagree — it depends on how much meat the butcher leaves on. Gaydos said sometimes people don’t know which they are eating. “It can be kind of confusing depending on where you are in the country, with terms used by person to person or butcher to butcher.”

Baby back ribs do seem to be familiar with many diners. Gaydos said it has to do with marketing. “Remember the Chili’s commercial with the song? It’s marketed well. The name is catchy,” he said.

Gaydos mentioned that he’s eaten KC barbecue, and that he’s more of a beef brisket, burnt ends kind of guy. I made him promise to eat ribs at LC’s the next time he’s in town.

Tausha Hammett, owner of LC’s Bar-B-Q and granddaughter of founder L.C. Richardson, sauces up a burnt end sandwich.
Tausha Hammett, owner of LC’s Bar-B-Q and granddaughter of founder L.C. Richardson, sauces up a burnt end sandwich.

Dirty little secret

I’ve eaten a lot of barbecue in KC. I lived here for 10 years two decades ago. Now that I’m back, I realized I had a dirty secret. I had NEVER eaten at LC’s.

Which is strange, because I literally lived up the hill from the little BBQ shack at 5800 Blue Parkway, just off the curiously named Sni-A-Bar Road. I could have walked there. I passed it every day going back and forth to work at The Star. I don’t know how I missed eating there.

So one of the first things I did when I got back this summer was eat ribs at LC’s. My husband and a good friend joined me – they got tender brisket and amazingly juicy turkey slices — but when I bit down into that rib meat I was transported to the South Side of Chicago, my daddy’s kitchen and the ribs he served.

It was the smoke, of course. Just the right amount imparts not only that amazing flavor, but makes the meat tender in a way that is different from those cooked on a grill or in the oven. Daddy passed in 2007 and I have never tasted ribs like that again, until now.

LC’s Bar-B-Q owner Tausha Hammett sprays down the smoking pit. It’s the smoke that contributes to the meat’s texture and flavor.
LC’s Bar-B-Q owner Tausha Hammett sprays down the smoking pit. It’s the smoke that contributes to the meat’s texture and flavor.

LC’s legacy in ribs

I spoke to Tausha Hammett, owner/trustee for LC’s and the granddaughter of LC Richardson, the restaurant’s owner and namesake, who died in February 2021 at the age of 86. I wanted to know what she thought about her ribs.

“That’s a tough question,” she said. “I love the fact that we have a mixed plate. I like to have options.”

But come on, I pushed, and she divulged the secret.

Ribs, spicy green beans, baked beans and white bread at LC’s Bar-B-Q, where memories of founder L.C. Richardson are front and center.
Ribs, spicy green beans, baked beans and white bread at LC’s Bar-B-Q, where memories of founder L.C. Richardson are front and center.

“We use spareribs. I think they cook better (than baby backs). My grandfather was very specific to his ribs, including size. He didn’t deviate from what worked for him and so we don’t deviate. They are so tender they fall off the bone.”

She also talked about that smoke. “We use hickory. People come from all over the world for that aroma.”

LC’s ribs are served with a generous amount of sauce, although you can ask them to go easy. But why would you do that? The sauce is as important to the dish as the rub or the seasoning, I say. Gates Bar-B-Q is known for a spicy sauce, while Jack Stack is sweeter. To my taste, LC’s is in the wonderful center.

LC’s Bar-B-Q, 5800 Blue Parkway, sits on a thoroughfare at the bottom of a hill in Kansas City’s East Side.
LC’s Bar-B-Q, 5800 Blue Parkway, sits on a thoroughfare at the bottom of a hill in Kansas City’s East Side.

As I said, I’m all about the ribs, but apparently most people order the Mixed Plate, which gives you ribs, your choice of another meat (not beef) and a side for $24.99.

I told Hammett about my daddy’s ribs, and I asked her why she thought food brings up such strong memories.

“I think people’s hearts (go) through their bellies,” she said.

For me, certainly, it’s a belly full of long-end ribs from LC’s.