The search for quintessential Kansas City-style barbecue led the Williams-Sonoma team and the Voltaggio brothers to Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri. This second stop on our Fire Smoke & Flavor tour is another family business that evolved between generations.
When he was 11 years old, Danny Edwards started working for his pit master father, Jake Edwards, who ran a barbecue business in Kansas City during the Depression. “By the time I was 17, I was cooking, carving and learning how to work the pit,” says Edwards. “And by the time I was 25, I had my own barbecue place in Kansas City called Little Jake’s. Fast forward another 30 years, and here we are at Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ.”
Edwards’ first barbecue joint, Little Jake’s, was a small restaurant, seating only 18 people with a fast turnover. Now, with Danny Edwards BLVD BBQ, he’s relocated from downtown to a larger, sit-down space that he says is “a lot nicer.” When Edwards made the transition, he also changed from traditional smoking pits to a hickory pit, which uses a combination of gas and hickory smoke to maintain the heat.
As for the food, Edwards offers a little bit of everything: brisket, ribs, chicken, pork and those famous Kansas City burnt ends. “The burnt ends go back on the pit and get re-smoked after I take the points off,” says Edwards. “I trim them, season them up again, and then I cut them into bite-size pieces.”
In Kansas City, a sweet, spicy, ketchup-based sauce is served on top of all the meat. “Kansas City barbecue has a tomato-based sauce and a smoky product,” explains Edwards. “Our sauce is not too hot and it’s not too mild; we try to make everyone happy.”
Edwards’ sauce includes ketchup, brown sugar, white sugar, chili powder, mustard, red peppers and plenty of spice. “There’s a great big sack that says, ‘Danny Edwards BBQ Spice,’ and we put it in there every time so we don’t have to measure,” he says.
The restaurant also uses a rib rub, but Edwards insists the cooking style is what really sets his food apart. “The flavor in our barbecue comes from the time it takes to smoke the product, which is all night long, around 13 to 16 hours,” he says. “All that rub sits on the product the day before. Just taking a lot of love and a lot of patience with our product is where our flavor comes from.”
The customers trickling in before lunchtime are proof that he’s doing something right. “At 11 o’clock it happens whether you’re ready or not,” Edwards laughs. “You better be ready. They’re going to come.”