Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Kansas City is legendary for slow-smoked BBQ with roots going back to the early 1900's. Back then if you asked them to smoke some jackfruit, you would have gotten a funny look, a chuckle, and a head shake that would send you packing. You still will in most Kansas City BBQ joints, but the ones below know what it is and why you want it.
Growing up in Kansas City, I was immersed in BBQ culture. My Dad would take me out for BBQ often. BBQ was a family favorite, especially when out of town guests visited or at family gatherings - someone was BBQing or carry-out was ordered. I grew up eating BBQ for the protein, craving that sweet, salty, smoky flavor, and not worrying about the cholesterol or fat it was dripping.
Fast-forward about 25 years, and its been years since I've had my old favorites at all the local BBQ spots. As a family we started slowing down on the BBQ when my Dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol. His doctor prescribed him a medication, but also said it was partially due to diet, and that he should reduce red meat and other fatty cuts of meat. So, naturally we became a BBQ poultry family, which seemed like progress at the time.
I was trained as the grill master, which thinking back was quite the parenting strategy. My parents would buy wholesale bulk quantities of chicken and I would fill the grill about once or twice a week. We would switch up the cuts of chicken, the seasoning, or sauce to keep it interesting and every once in a while some fish or other meats would get rotated in.
Barbecue is delicious, but as with most good things in life, it has a few dirty secrets. BBQ wouldn't be BBQ without that smoky flavor. Turns out the exposure to smoke also forms heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are known carcinogens also found in cigarette smoke and car exhaust. These foodborne chemicals have the power to ”turn on” cancer genes in tissues they come in contact with along the GI tract.
The preparation of BBQ meats qualifies them as processed meats which are a Type 1A known carcinogen to humans. I'll never forget the moment a colon cancer patient of mine in the hospital said, "This looks like a menu for someone without any personality." as he looked at the hospital menu. Of course nobody really gets excited when they review a hospital menu, but he was especially dissatisfied. Unfortunately the food he liked, likely led him to his demise. Hospital menus aren’t an example of healthy nutrition, as they
continue to serve scientifically proven, known disease-promoting foods.
Vegan BBQ on the other hand, does not accumulate as many heterocyclic amines because HCAs are produced when saturated fat is combusted which doesn't happen so much when you're cooking plants. Another main benefit is that you don't feel like you have to go take a nap after eating vegan BBQ. That feeling is due to the metabolic effects of eating fatty foods. Incidentally, you also won't get the "meat sweats" from eating vegan meat replacements. Vegan BBQ is also cholesterol free, and due to it's plant-based nature, it has cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering fiber instead. Give it a try, you might just be pleasantly surprised!
The following restaurants are leading the Vegan BBQ game in Kansas City:
Char Bar - Smoked Jackfruit (menu item)
FUD - Smokestack (smoked tofu) (menu item)
Joe’s KC - Portobello Z-man (To Order Vegan: no cheese, no mayo, no onion ring) (menu item)
Kind Food KC - Jackpot Sandwich (BBQ Jackfruit and sweet potato) (menu item) - (restaurant is currently closed)
Littlest Bake Shop - Tofu Burnt Ends sandwich (menu item)
Mattie’s Foods - BBQ Chicken Sandwich (soy curls); Brisket Sandwich (marinated tofu) (menu items)
Poio Mexican BBQ - BBQ Jackfruit (menu item)
The Fix - Fried Chicken Sammy Carolina Style (chicken-fried soy curls) (menu item)
Tree Hugger Kitchen - KC BBQ Sammy (marinated jackfruit) (menu Item)
Vegan Crave Burgers & Bakery - BBQ Pulled Jackfruit (marinated jackfruit) (menu item)