Monday, June 21, 2010

Ham on Bun

Kansas City is tough on barbecue. Everyone has their own rankings, most feel that Oklahoma Joe's is the best (I'm definitely in that camp), but LC's, Arthur Bryant's, Jack Stack and Gates are almost always in that conversation. It seems lately, though, that Gates has started to get maligned a little.

The DLC recently wrote a review calling out Gates for consistency issues and that may well be an issue. But, for me, the ham on bun was one of the best sandwiches in KC 10 years ago and it's one of the best today. When I moved to Kansas City in 2001 I ate at 2 places nearly every single day; Minsky's (it was a block from my work) and Gates. Every one of those times I ate at Gates I got ham on bun. I don't recall ever eating the ribs or burnt ends or anything else, just ham on bun. I don't recall a time where I didn't eat every bite of the sandwich and nearly all of the fries. If you've ever eaten with me, you know that this is quite the compliment. I frequently leave half my food because I get tired of eating it or get grossed out by an odd texture in a bite or something like that. My last bite of a meal frequently gets spit into a napkin. This has never happened at Gates.

Last week I was sick and didn't eat a meal for three or four days. I eased back into eating with a Chipotle carnitas bowl, but I could only eat half of it. The next day I had a hunger for some Gates. I hadn't eaten a significant amount of food for 5 days, I couldn't think of any gross foods like Arby's or Buffalo Wild Wings or I would get nauseous and if anybody around me said the word "moist" I may have very well thrown up on the spot. But, I ate every bit of the ham on bun, even the part of the bun that was touching the pickles on the plate.

On The DLC's post about Gates, I left a comment comparing Gates to the last couple of years of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny had lost his fastball and his jokes all related to Zsa Zsa Gabor but we still watched it every night. One, we watched it because that's what we did, there was no alternative to Carson in those days. But, two, we watched it because there was at least one good laugh in every show. The Gates ham on bun is that one good laugh and is well worth checking out even if there are other alternatives. The rest of the menu might be lame Zsa Zsa Gabor jokes, but the ham on bun keeps Gates relevant for me.


The DLC said...

Never once have I ordered ham at a BBQ place. Is it really that remarkable? Do you eat it with sauce? Ham just seems too mundane or something, but I'll definitely try it at some point.

Bull E. Vard said...

Agreed on the ham thing, but I love ham and I was a little lost when I moved to KC because no bbq place has hot links, a Wichita barbecue staple. I started getting ham at Gates and Zarda because neither had a pulled pork option.

I use the hot sauce on ham on bun and it's good enough to inspire a blog post. I had one today after I wrote this and it was just as good as always.

JH said...

I don't generally order ham or turkey mostly because there is a good likelihood that both are outsourced. Do you guys know which places smoke their own turkey? I'd be interested...

Anyway, prior to OK Joe's opening, almost no one had pulled pork. Now, almost everyone has it. Thank you OK Joe's. Pulled pork is my favorite!

The DLC said...

JH I don't know of a really good turkey BBQ anywhere in town but I haven't had it at a lot of places. I think the problem is that most restaurants use processed deli turkey rather than the actual bird. Why they would do this is beyond me. Smoking a turkey is loads easier than doing brisket or ribs.

wofgtg said...

Anonymous said...

Here's what I hate about Gates -- their quality is inconsistent and their stupid rules make it feel like a high school lunch room.

Let's look at takeout. If you eat in, you can get gallons of sauce for free. But order takeout, and they give you this teensy container of sauce and try to dick you if the 2 oz of sauce for a beef and half aren't enough.

Their beans are good, if you like crapping pure liquid and burping for hours.

I'm a Big T's man myself. Oklahoma Joes and Bryants are nice if you want to stick to white people BBQ.