Skip to main content
  • Kansas City, famous for its style of barbecue: slow-smoked meat and tomato-molasses sauce
    View more

    The Finger-Lickin’ Finest of Kansas City, Missouri

  • Delicious barbecue in Independence, Missouri
    View more

    Independence, Missouri: A Small Town with Big Flavors

  • A couple enjoying classic milkshakes on Springfield's strech of Route 66
    View more

    All-American Barbecue in Springfield, Missouri

  • The Gateway Arch is the most iconic landmark in the St. Louis skyline
    View more

    Savory Meets Sweet in St. Louis, Missouri

  • Scenic view of the The Owensboro Bridge in Owensboro, Kentucky
    View more

    Mutton, Burgoo and More in Owensboro, Kentucky

  • Sipping spirits at Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge in Louisville, Kentucky
    View more

    Bourbon, Beer and Brisket in Louisville, Kentucky

Manning the pit during the International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky
View more

Barbecue and Brews from Missouri to Kentucky

  • Route distance:
    1144.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    5 days

On a quest for the best flavors in the Southeast

While Texas, the Carolinas and Tennessee may all claim to have the nation’s best barbecue, it’s hard to beat the smoky flavors and mouth-watering meats served in tasty spots in Missouri and Kentucky. You’ll likely have your first taste of mutton (sheep meat), and, if you’re lucky, perhaps a big snoot (pig snout) or two. Wash it all down with a cold brew and you’ll understand why the Midwest is a go-to destination for beers and barbecue.

01
Kansas City, famous for its style of barbecue: slow-smoked meat and tomato-molasses sauce
View more

The Finger-Lickin’ Finest of Kansas City, Missouri

You can practically smell the barbecue sauce as you fly into Kansas City International Airport, the starting point of this delicious trip. This metropolitan gem is known for its jazz, famous fountains and, of course, its barbecue. KC (short for Kansas City) has its own unique barbecue style, courtesy of Arthur Bryant, who almost a century ago introduced the sweet tomato- and molasses-based sauce that can be smothered atop pork ribs, smoked turkey, pulled pork and other meats. Try it at his flagship two-story brick restaurant, Arthur Bryant’s. Another essential stop is Gates Bar-B-Q, where folks have been enjoying smoked barbecue topped with an array of sauces for over 60 years. For a more upscale barbecue experience, visit one of three locations of Jack Stack Barbecue, where you can enjoy Denver-cut lamb ribs prepared in hickory-fired brick ovens. But save room in your stomach for your next stop, which takes barbecue to the next level.

More information
16 km
1 day by car
02
Delicious barbecue in Independence, Missouri
View more

Independence, Missouri: A Small Town with Big Flavors

It may only be 16 kilometers east of Kansas City, but the historic city of Independence is worth a lunch stop on your way to St. Louis. It’s absolutely packed with outstanding barbecue joints. Here you can linger over smoked meatloaf or southern pulled pork at A Little BBQ Joint, or the sweet corn nuggets, potato skins, beef ribs, pork spare ribs, bone-in chicken and burnt ends at KC Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, a popular Kansas City-area spot which has an outpost here. Over at Bandana’s Bar-B-Q they cook their pork, beef, chicken and ribs up to 14 hours over real wood smokers, with select hardwoods that create a signature smoked flavor. Your next destination, Springfield, promises even more deliciousness.

More information
273 km
3 hours by car
03
A couple enjoying classic milkshakes on Springfield's strech of Route 66
View more

All-American Barbecue in Springfield, Missouri

Here in the heartland, Springfield is the Queen City of the Ozarks, the Birthplace of Route 66, home to the massive flagship Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World – and a city that loves good barbecue. You might be tempted to write off Pappy’s Place, a tiny building with the simple promise of “Good Food” in the window. But this local favorite serves up tasty pulled pork, best washed down with a cold Budweiser. Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims has his own restaurant, Billy Sims Barbecue, where you can order platters inspired by American football nomenclature such as the Running Back rib dinner, the Triple 20 pulled pork or the Heisman sandwich. City Butcher and Barbecue has made a name for itself with a Texas-style barbecue menu. The brisket, burnt ends and pork belly have a near cult-like following. There’s also a pickle bar, and you can order charcuterie including hand-made sausages, pâté, duck pastrami and other delicacies. Get there early – it’s first come, first served and once the meat is gone, it’s gone! If you seek a variety of sauces and sides with your ‘cue, award-winning Whole Hog Café fits the bill with six different sauces (seven, if you count the Volcano Sauce available only at the counter) and its famous cheesy corn or potato salad. Your next stop, St. Louis, is a few hours away – plenty of time to get hungry again.

348 km
4 hours by car
04
The Gateway Arch is the most iconic landmark in the St. Louis skyline
View more

Savory Meets Sweet in St. Louis, Missouri

Known for its iconic Gateway Arch and Route 66 roots, St. Louis will surprise you with its breadth and depth of barbecue flavors. Your taste buds will be dazzled at places like Pappy’s Smokehouse, known throughout the USA for its dry-rubbed ribs, smoked for 14 hours over sweet apple and cherry wood. Lines run out the door with folks eager to try dishes like Pappy’s Frito Pie – Fritos corn chips topped with your choice of barbecued meat plus baked beans, cheddar cheese and onion. Sister store Bogart’s Smokehouse also offers a variety of delicious meats and sides with original sauces like the sweet and smoky Kansas City-style Sweet Maegan Ann. For great smoked meats and tasty sides with no frills, visit Adam’s Smokehouse, a sister restaurant to Pappy’s and Bogart’s. You can’t leave St. Louis without trying the city’s namesake dish, St. Louis-style ribs, which are pork spareribs trimmed into small rectangles. Get some of the best ones at Ms. Piggies’ Smokehouse, a laid-back, easy-order spot. Then get your palate ready to see how Kentucky puts its own spin on barbecue.

More information
330 km
3 hours by car
05
Scenic view of the The Owensboro Bridge in Owensboro, Kentucky
View more

Mutton, Burgoo and More in Owensboro, Kentucky

Known as the mutton capital of the world, the family-friendly, bluegrass music mecca of Owensboro is the place to try mutton served sliced or pulled, accompanied by a soupy meat stew known as “burgoo.” For a taste, stop in at Old Hickory Bar-B-Q, where they process their own meat and cut it into slices before letting it cook for anywhere from 18 to 22 hours. Order your mutton “off the pit” and don’t forget the homemade cobblers or banana pudding for dessert. Across town is Moonlite Bar-B-Que Inn, where the mutton is cooked in custom-designed smokers for up to 18 hours after the finest Kentucky tradition. Other delicious offerings include beef brisket and Boston butt. They’re open as early as 9 a.m., so perhaps stop here for an unconventional breakfast before setting off on your drive to Louisville.

More information
174 km
2 hours by car
06
Sipping spirits at Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge in Louisville, Kentucky
View more

Bourbon, Beer and Brisket in Louisville, Kentucky

When you enter Louisville, you’ll find that barbecue is not the only “B” in town: This festive home of the Kentucky Derby is also famous for its bourbon, beer and brisket. Combine all of them at places like Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant, where you can sip on one of the 160 available bourbons while enjoying bacon-wrapped gorgonzola stuffed dates or the famous Three Little Pigs sandwich, recognized as one of the best barbecue sandwiches in the country. For great beer and meats in a casual environment, stop in at the Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot, where ribs, sandwiches, sides and scrumptious flavors abound, and you can play mini-golf for free. Over at Momma's Mustard, Pickles & BBQ, Kansas City-style barbecue is on the menu, as is, of course, mustard and pickles made from the owner’s mother’s recipe. If you’re eager to depart from barbecue, head over to Hammerheads for chicken and waffles, duck fat fries, pork belly baked beans and smoked cheddar grit cakes. Some of the best locally brewed beer in Louisville can be found at the Bluegrass Brewing Company or Against the Grain, but make sure you leave plenty of time for it to digest before driving! Head out from Louisville International Airport. It’ll be a long time before you get hungry again!

Official Travel South Information

Sojern Image Pixel