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Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn Avenue

One spring day, my friend and I decided to make a day trip to Kansas City. Our two goals–The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and some delicious Kansas City barbecue. We set out in the morning from Joplin, Missouri, and we arrived in KC right in time for lunch. I’d never tried Gates Bar-B-Q, and my friend was game. It was on.

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn, Avenue

Gates has several locations in the Kansas City metro area. I’d never seen the 18th and Vine Jazz District, so we punched the location nearest to that area into Google Maps. We walked around the historic area, vowing to return when we could really explore and visit the jazz museum.  In the meantime, the murals were lovely.

Mural in the Jazz District of Kansas City

Street art is such a cool addition to any city.

Mural in the Jazz District of Kansas City

After walking around the area, we were ready to eat. After a short drive, we arrived at the Brooklyn Avenue location.

History of Gates Bar-B-Q

Like Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, Gates is one of those places that put Kansas City barbecue on the nation’s radar. When it was game day in Kansas City, barbecue was there to feed the crowds. At the time, Municipal Stadium was the place to see the action, baseball and football, and its location was at 22nd  and Brooklyn, blocks away from Gates Bar-B-Q.

This put the stadium near Gates and Arthur Bryant’s, both establishments known as the forefathers of Kansas City barbecue. These barbecue restaurants would serve up delicious fares during and after the games, luring hungry fans, black and white. As visiting teams and fans returned to their cities, accounts of mouthwatering meats spread, and Kansas City became known as a barbecue destination.

Gates is Born

How did this happen? In 1946, George and Arzilia Gattes purchased the Ol’ Kentuck, at 19th and Vine in the Jazz District. Originally, the place was a bar that served barbecue, but soon the barbecue became the main course. George learned the business from the pitmaster, Arthur Pinkard, at the Ol’ Kentuck who stayed on after the purchase. Incidentally, Pinkard was trained by Henry Perry who started what would eventually become Arthur Bryant’s.

Three years later, the restaurant, Gates Old Kentucky, moved to 22nd and Charollote, before returning to 19th and Vine in 1951. After a fire that same year, the restaurant moved again, this time to Brooklyn and 24th, two blocks from Municipal Stadium.

During this time, Ollie Gates, son of George and Arzilia, learned the family business. A second location opened in 1954, and in 1956, the business became known as Gates & Sons Bar-B-Q. Ollie eventually had his own place called O.G., and soon after, other family members tried their hand at running restaurants. In the early seventies, the locations became known as Gates Bar-B-Q, and two additional barbecue restaurants opened.

They say Kansas City is known for barbecue with sauce. In 1975, Gates Bar-B-Q sauce found its way to local stores for customers to buy. Years before, Ollie had perfected his tomato-based barbeque sauce that became a Gates signature. In the eighties, the sauce was sold nationally, and the family opened their own factory and distribution space.

Shop Gates Bar-B-Q Sauce

Interesting Facts Concerning Gates Bar-B-Q

Gates is known for greeting people as soon as they walk in the door with a “Hi, may I help you?” The story of the phrase comes from when Ollie was still working the front counter for his father. After George fixed a squeaky door, George was able to sneak up on Ollie who was not paying attention to who was entering the restaurant. Ollie said the phrase came about because he started saying it immediately after the door opened from then on.

Gates is also known for their “strutting man” logo. The image comes from Louis Armstrong and his song called “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue.” Actually, the music was written by his wife (later ex-wife), Lil Hardin. Years later, Don Raye wrote the lyrics. He is best known for the lyrics to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

Here is a performance of that song.

References:

“Gates History | Gates Bar-B-Q.” Gates Bar-B-Q, 8 Oct. 2019, gatesbbq.com/history/. Accessed 28 Apr. 2023.

Martin, Mackenzie. “Kansas City Barbecue Legends Ollie Gates and Arthur Bryant Inducted into Hall of Fame.” KCUR – Kansas City News and NPR, KCUR, 18 Sept. 2021, www.kcur.org/arts-life/2021-09-18/kansas-city-barbecue-legends-ollie-gates-and-arthur-bryant-inducted-into-hall-of-fame. Accessed 28 Apr. 2023.

Neville, Catherine. “The Kings of Kansas City Barbecue.” Feast Magazine, 25 Aug. 2017, www.feastmagazine.com/travel/kansas-city/article_df738fb4-8761-11e7-ac98-8323da185876.html. Accessed 28 Apr. 2023.

Gates Bar-B-Q: The Restaurant on Brooklyn Avenue

Again, we chose this location due to its proximity to 19th and Vine, but we also chose it because it was an older location that’s been around a while. Gates Bar-B-Q has four other locations in the Kansas City metro, and some of those are certainly more contemporary. I was interested in seeing someplace with more of a story, where the grease from smoked meat had permeated every pore of the place over the years. That’s what you get with this location.

They do offer seating outside, but on this cool spring day, no one seemed to be game.

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City

We arrived right after opening, so the place wasn’t very busy yet. Many people were grabbing to-go orders. It made sense since it was a weekday and lunchtime.

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn Avenue

I liked some of the details that gave the place character, like this standing coat rack by the table.

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn Avenue

Gates Bar-B-Q is a quick-service restaurant. You place your order at the beginning of the line, and by the time you reach the end, you’ll have your food. You can see it being prepared as you push your tray along.

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn Avenue

Gates Bar-B-Q: The Q

My friend and I both opted for the sliced brisket sandwich with fries. Absolutely delicious!

You may want to get the sauce on the side here. Some people say the house sauce has a bit of heat to it.

Gates Bar-B-Q sandwich

The marketing at Gates Bar-B-Q worked well on me.

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn Avenue

I couldn’t resist the individual cherry pie. Note that there is plastic wrap on the pie. This little pie was also delicious!

Gates Bar-B-Q Kansas City, Brooklyn Avenue

Gates Bar-B-Q: The Verdict

I’ll be honest, Gates is not my favorite barbecue in Kansas City, but it’s a solid choice.  If you give it a try, it just may be your favorite. Barbecue can have so many varieties and nuances that appeal to people’s preferences. There’s a reason Gates Bar-B-Q has been around for decades: it’s good stuff. To be a true Kansas City barbecue connoisseur, one definitely must give Gates a try. And I wouldn’t hesitate to have another meal at Gates Bar-B-Que. It’s definitely yummy!

Other great barbecue places to try in Kansas City (several locations within the metro area):

Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue

Jack Stack Barbecue

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

Q39

Gates Bar-B-Q
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11 Comments

  1. You and your barbecue! I enjoyed reading the history and fun facts about this place.

  2. Barbecue is one of my favorite foods so I really enjoyed reading about Gates Bar-B-Q! I have heard that Kansas City barbecue is hard to beat and I would love to experience for myself one of these days…..that cherry pie looked so good too!

  3. I’m pretty sure I would head directly for that adorable cherry pie! Gates Bar B Q looks exactly like what I would expect from an old fashioned BBQ joint.

  4. Kansas City really knows how to do barbecue! Greatly appreciate your honest review of Gates B-B-Q…looks amazingly good!

  5. I love learning about the history of places and how phrases come about. That charry pie at Gates Bar-B-Q looks amazing.

  6. The food looks amazing, specifically the burger and fries! I’m not sure what sliced brisket is, but I’m assuming it’s similar to pulled pork? Either way, it’s not what I needed to see at 5am when starving!

  7. I’m a huge BBQ fan and always make a point to try the local BBQ wherever I go! Gates Bar-B-Q looks absolutely delicious. My husband is a brisket fan, so I’m sure he would be all over that. I’m more of a pulled pork girl, but I’m sure they have that option. If I’m ever in the Kansas City area, I’ll have to make a point to eat at Gates Bar-B-Q.

  8. Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog Reply

    Gates Bar-B-Q sounds amazing! That pie would be the first thing eaten by our family! Everything else would be fair game after that! LOL.

  9. BBQ is one of my favorites! My cousin lives very close to Kansas City and we always go there when I visit her. I’ll have to tell her about Gates BBQ so we can try it next time!

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