By Adam Strunk
Our search for good barbecue in Overland Park nearly ended before it had begun.
Stereotypes of Johnson County don’t inspire hope for a good rib joint.
Good barbecue is usually forged and served in a shack or a historic building or in a train caboose as you’ll find in Hillsdale, Kan.
Yet we had heard a place existed in Overland Park, so Joey and I set out to see if the tales were true.
We were up in the area for the Kansas Press Convention and as we left our hotel and made for Joey’s car, he let out a string of words normally reserved for Tuesday production night.
His tire was almost flat.
I—I will admit—advocated for calling the adventure off. I foresaw the future, with me stuck in some waiting room as Joey had his tire fixed.
Yet Joey dragged me along and insisted on finding a local business to change his tire.
He eventually settled for a chain to get the work done, as we were in Johnson County, where most local businesses have ceased to exist.
Upon seeing the tire, an employee of the chain, a dude with a goatee, told us of a federal regulation mandating he sell us a new tire.
Knowing that to be traditional B.S., we told him to just fix the leak, to which he obliged.
Joey was proud of identifying the B.S., up-selling attempt, so proud he let himself be up-sold on an oil change.
Goatee dude told us an hour.
We decided to make the best of our situation and walk to get something to eat. Upon searching his phone for a decent restaurant, we noticed our barbecue joint was only three quarters of a mile away.
So began our trek across the golden ghetto, dodging lawn clippings, landscaping crews, and the various Audis and Lexuses—Lexii?—that populate its streets.
You want a metaphor of this country’s growing wealth inequality? Spend time anywhere else in Kansas and then go to Overland Park. There’s a bank on every corner, three cars in every garage and a non-GMO, farm-raised, antibiotic, hormone-free chicken in ever pot—the kind of chicken we always ate on the farm but back when it was just rustic and not chic. It’s a whole other state.
As I was walking around, I started singing “Tiny Boxes” to myself, which then transitioned to some Woody Guthrie songs they don’t teach you in school.
Regardless, we finally approached our barbecue destination after passing a large piece of metal plates welded together and painted blue in some sort of geometric design.
The art installation was truly a study in impressionism and rather large tax bases.
The shiny new glass building of a barbecue restaurant rose before me. I was skeptical. It looked clean, not a hallmark of good barbecue.
But we noticed dollar beer cans on the menu, and upon dining and drinking were forced to admit that the place does make really good food, even if it is a chain. We found out that PB and J, the same group who owned YaYa’s decided to try a one-off barbecue joint, and the location represents what it came up with. I’d say worth a bit of a walk but not like a five-mile trek or anything.
Goatee dude was taking a while with the car, so we sat out on the restaurant’s patio and our happy little group of cans grew. With the nice weather, we were ready to admit Johnson County wasn’t all bad.
We made our walk back, found our tire filled, paid our bill and left.
Upon reaching the hotel, Joey looked at his tire and let out a string of words he only uses when his computer crashes.
The tire had gone flat on our drive.
A person from the chain came out and informed Joey that they had fixed the tire, and it must have hit something and went flat during the two-mile drive back.
Joey then tried to remove the tire to put on the spare and noticed the tire wouldn’t come off and had rusted on the wheel, meaning it had never been removed to begin with.
He never did go back to goatee dude to complain. He was scheduled to give a presentation at the convention and didn’t have time. He said he was sweating with rage.
I took his word for it as I was gone at this point up to the room to nap a glorious barbecue nap, look out over the rows of sprawl and to ruminate upon the superficial nature of the world.