Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Those Who Ignore History ..."

I thought I had done something terribly wrong to my body. I’m talking medically wrong.

“Are you okay?” I asked my brother. I was laughing hard and with quite a bit of discomfort; I actually had to back off and stand still for a second. As Stuart and I crossed the street at 18th and Vine, we knew we were in for a treat. We had arrived at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and it was something we'd looked forward to seeing since Stuart arrived for his Kansas City visit. Both or us are huge baseball fans, so this was sure to be a treat. The second treat of the afternoon, as a matter of fact, the first being a prior stop at yet another of the city’s premiere barbecue spots. More on the baseball museum in a bit. First, a short blurb about LC’s Barbecue (<----this link takes you to "Roadfood.com" - a great place to get the lowdown on interesting places to eat).

"Oh, My God"
– That’s all I can say now and pretty much all I could say at the time. The fact is, Kansas City barbecue is something special. And my first few bbq indulgences here have taken me to one of the city’s very best barbecue restaurants – Gates Barbecue. (Note: I recently had the honor of interviewing Mr. Ollie Gates, himself. I'll be posting a portion of that interview soon). I’ve already visited Gates about 3 or 4 times, first with the Connecticut crew and then with my friend, Heather. The food is top-notch and the sauce? It's pretty much the best I've ever tasted; I use it on all kinds of things now and you can buy it in most grocery stores here - (or check out this section of the Gate's website). Still, on this day, it was all about another of KC’s finest. It was all about a place called LC’s.

When asked “What’s the best barbecue place in the city?” a number of folks at work kept placing the name, "LC’s," high up on their lists, usually within the top three slots. They grouped LC's along with two other local, lesser known favorites (lesser known to rookies like me) - Oklahoma Joe’s and Rosedale – I’m sure I’ll be writing about these places somewhere down the road. Arthur Bryant’s, (you have to see this Bryant's video clip - it reminds me of Katz's), and Gates are the city's mainstays, as are the Jack Stack and Smokestack restaurants. But a visit to LC’s – less flamboyant and in no way fancy - simply means good eatin'.

So, here’s what happened.

To me, the concepts "fancy" and "barbecue" are not a natural mix. And when you enter LC's, your reason, the only reason for being there hits your nostrils immediately. The fact is, you smell the bbq as soon as the car door opens. The place is small, there's a TV is in the corner, animal heads on the wall – I'm posting a couple of pics from the Roadfood site so you can get a sense of the place. Here's how one reviewer summed it up - check out his links with the photos : "L.C. has a couple of stores, but the original on Blue Parkway is my favorite. Dinky little store, you're right in the cook's lap when you order. The sandwiches are HUGE. Fries are as good as Bryant's, but again. bring a defibrillator. Beans are very good, too. (-George Blowfish)

Shock & Awe - I had heard about the burnt ends – saw a few orders flying by me – and that’s why we made the trip, so ... we each, of course, ordered a burnt end sandwich. Share? What does that mean? Sandwich? Ha!!! They put a piece of white bread on the plate, smother it - and I mean smother it – with a humongous pile of burnt ends, (the more well done ends of the meat), put sauce on it – then top the stack with another slice of bread. You'd be a fool to try to pick it up. The fact is, it's impossible to pick it up. The white bread's sole reason for being there is to soak up the sauce. An order of beans? I’d heard they were great, so we got an order of those. The fries looked good, so we got an order of those, too.

“Okay," my brother smiled. "We need a vegetable - something healthy.”

Cole slaw?

Two guys. Lots of food. A TV on in the corner.

It was perfect.

Mmmm, Mmmm - Okay. I’m pausing here - doing my best to reminisce about that special moment when we each picked up our initial burnt end and placed the crispy morsels in our mouths.

“Oh, my God," I smiled as I reached up to high-fist my brother.

And that was that. The beans? There were pieces pork in there, too. And when you spooned a helping onto the plate and they mixed in with the burnt ends … wow!! Tremendous.

I'm pretty sure I’ve ever had so much food in one sitting in my entire life. And that's not necessarily something I'm all that proud of.

Which now brings us back to the “medically wrong" concept.

"I’m not sure I’m okay. " Sheer post-eating pleasure, mixed together with a little fear and a dose of …. “Feel this,” making my brother poke my stomach. “Standing room only” in there - that's what we were each hauling into the baseball museum as we bought our tickets.

Treat #2 - Any true baseball fan would appreciate the place. You really get a better sense of what the modern game is all about after spending time in this particular museum, reading the descriptions and looking at the photographs. The exhibit is packed with history and, if it hadn't been for the post-LC’s effect, we would have enjoyed our time there even more. One example: They offer a short 15 minute film about the Negro Baseball Leagues when you first walk in so, of course, we wanted to check it out. Immediately, we made our way to the very back of the screening room so we could prop up our freshly fed bodies against the wall; we didn't want to tumble over. Listen, looking back, the whole thing was actually pretty funny. And the unfortunate thing is, other than the sound of James Earl Jones' voice in the background, I can’t tell you a hell of a lot about that movie, the reason being, we both conked out within two minutes of the film’s start. Clearly, a burnt-end-induced siesta.

I'm not going to try to describe the museum here. The place deserves it's own entry and I'm sure I'll be heading back there very soon. On the way out, we visited the gift shop and ended up meeting a nice man, Bob, the museum's head of marketing. As baseball fans often do, the three of us bonded, and we told Bob how the museum visit was the perfect salve for healing our wounds. Stu and I were still reeling from our bout with "PCS" ("post collapse syndrome" - a common condition, most recently suffered by New York Mets' fans).

Back out into the fresh air, a short walk to the car - my body bounced back fairly quickly. A great day, no doubt. Tremendous food and a first-rate education about our favorite sport. I love history - learning about new things. And I certainly learned something important that day. No, it wasn't anything about Satchel Paige (that's his familiar smile above), Jackie Robinson or Cool Papa Bell. What I learned is this one extremely important lesson:

One burnt end sandwich is enough.

For three meals!

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