Jazz, fountains and barbecue have long been considered the Kansas City trifecta. So after jazz nights at Jardine’s and The Blue Room and fountain viewing on the Plaza, it was time for barbeque. On the recommendation of our seat-mates at the Royals game, we headed to Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.

I’ve never really eaten barbecue. Seriously. Until embarrassingly late in life (like, my early-20’s) I stubbornly decided that I didn’t like barbecue sauce (or Mexican food, fish, pesto sauce, turkey, soup, Asian food, sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, casseroles…it was ridiculous). Once I went to China I realized that I could either get over my fear of interesting food or starve to death. Turns out that noodle soup, cilantro and Peking duck are actually good. For the past six years since then I’ve been systematically trying all the food I’d rejected for years.

I was saving barbecue for Kansas City.

And a wise decision is was, because Jack Stack was fabulous. It was spicy, succulent, smoky, savory, saucy, yada, yada, yada. The desert was good too.

Now, I realize that I’ve just negated any possible credentials that would make me a food critic, but my mom thought it was good too. Of course she’s a dietitian that mostly eats salad toppings from her garden.

So here are some real credentials: Jack Stack was voted as the Most Popular Restaurant in Kansas City by the 2011 Zagat Survey. It’s been consistently rated as the highest BBQ in the country, also by Zagat. BBQ Blogger Kevin is a fan, as are the gals of Two Classy Chics product review blog. Check out their glowing review here.

See. It is good.

The same folks that sent my mom and me to Jack Stack also steered us away from Gates Bar-B-Q. Gates is one of those touristy must-go-to restaurants in Kansas City, akin to California’s In-N-Out Burger. So we went anyways. Besides it was ten o’clock at night and we were hungry.

Gates was okay. The food was pretty good, but it was the ambiance was not. The “hi, may I help you?” line that all employees are obviously mandated to say (seven hundred times, apparently) gets very annoying. The prescribed drawl that the fake greeting must be issued in is even more irritating.

So…if you are in need of some serious help, eat your barbecue at Gates. Otherwise, head to Jack Stack.