“It may be cliche,” Tad Carpenter, the graphic designer and illustrator behind Kansas City’s Carpenter Collective says, “but there is a reason why so many people think of Bar-B-Q when they think of Kansas City.” He should know—in addition to calling this middle-American city home, Tad helped to found Made In The Middle, a celebration of the region’s rich cultural history. “Kansas City is repeatedly referred to as the ‘barbecue capital of the world,’ after all. KC is the home of over 100 barbecue restaurants and hosts the world’s largest BBQ competition, the American Royal. Heck, Kansas City can even trace its barbecue history back to the early 1900s when Henry Perry operated out of an old trolley barn in the legendary Jazz neighborhood around 18th & Vine and would serve slow-cooked ribs on old newspaper pages for 25 cents a slab.” Although narrowing down KC’s barbecue offerings to just 3 is a seemingly impossible task, Tad offered up his favorites along with the designs he made for them. Check them out below + shop Carpenter Collective on westelm.com!
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Multiple locations. Original gas station location: 3002 West 47th Avenue
My personal favorite ribs, fries and of course strawberry soda (No real Bar-B-Que meal is complete without strawberry soda. For real, get with it.). Not to minion, perhaps the most popular sandwich in all of Kansas City the Z-Man. What makes Joe’s so unique is obviously how amazing the food is, but also the overall experience. I personally only eat at the original location on Mission Road which is run out of the back of an old gas station. Nothing says Kansas City like Bar-B-Que and gasoline.
Jack Stack Barbecue
Is a very different experience but none the less amazing. Jack Stack might be one of the more refined experiences on the barbecue scene in Kansas City which really elevates t’s place in the KC barbecue scene. Just like the above two restaurants, this is a long time family owned institution (1974) and the burnt ends and wings are why I show up. So darn good. You would not think you would go to a BBQ joint for wings but these wings are like nothing I have ever had before.
Gates is an institution after being formed in 1946 by Arthur Pinkard (who was a cook for Perry) and George Gates. For me, I love the Gate’s sauce. It’s so sweet and just perfect. But what stands out more than anything is the experience of visiting a Gates restaurant. Every time you walking into any Gates location you are welcomed with a loud “Hi, May I Help You!?” before you can even shut the door. Hearing this greeting just feels like home.
Hailing from Kansas City, MO designer, illustrator and teacher Tad Carpenter loves the Mid-West and how it has shaped the way he makes and thinks. Tad has written and illustrated more than a dozen children’s books in the market today. Carpenter runs the design studio Carpenter Creative with a focus on bringing powerful messages to life through branding, packaging and illustrative based design. He also teaches graphic design at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Shop Carpenter Collective on westelm.com!