Dec 202007

It’s never a good sign when you walk into a BBQ restaurant and the first thing you see is a sign: “this is a non-smoking establishment.” I’ll say.


Zarda’s clearly does good business and even satisfies enough people to do a nice catering trade on the side. But for real, people, you know what the sliced meats reminded me of?


We’re talking really thinly-sliced meat. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself but it really takes the texture element out of eating BBQ. And like that other place, Zarda’s meat has very little smoke flavor. I have eaten both the pork and beef brisket, and was not impressed. The food is not poor quality, it’s just not great BBQ. The texture of a soft hoagie bun (blasphemy) and a pile of shaved meat is pleasant, but you might as well be eating a sandwich from Hy-Vee with barbecue sauce on it. Mediocre sauce.

Here is the key to enjoying your meal at Zarda: don’t order the sliced meats, rather opt for pulled pork or burnt ends. I ordered the pork on a whim one time and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent texture and quite a bit of hickory smoke flavor. So next time I went I ordered the burnt ends and they too were smoky though a little lacking in that definitive fatty, crunchy texture you want in burnt ends.

Burnt ends

Pulled pork

The fries are not good: cheap, frozen steak fries. Opt for the lightly battered potato wedges which are fine, but I don’t like to get fancy with fries. The beans are average but the fried pickle chips are pretty tasty (wish I had snapped a photo). Speaking of pickles, be sure to ask for a dill spear when you order; they don’t come automatically with your food.

The decor is woodsy in a fairly convincing manner, except for the light-up menu signs behind the counter which make it look a little like McDonald’s. At lunch, they get really busy, but the service is quick as hell, and I got my food in less than 5 minutes. The restaurant is frequented almost entirely by 40-ish polo-shirt-wearing JoCo types taking a break from whatever irresponsible bullshit they sell to participate in a KC tradition without having to interact with black people. I think my gut reaction to the clientele is largely what accounts for this particularly un-sunny review. They are what I used to call yuppies, but they’re really not. Yuppies were people who lived in cities, made a lot of money in cutthroat fashion, wore suspenders and drank good coffee. The new breed are people who live in suburbs or ex-urbs and live their lives as if there were no consequences. The world’s problems pale in comparison to their own financial and familial ups and downs. Thank God they are too self-absorbed to vote.

Whew. Sorry. It’s really not that bad.

Anyway, Zarda seems to have been around for a while, and is clearly well-liked. The prices are a little higher than normal. You will spend ten bucks on lunch easily–just another reason why it’s not going on the regular rotation, since there is better to be had elsewhere.

Read more:

Zarda Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon


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  5 Responses to “Zarda BBQ: 11931 W 87th St. (Lenexa)”

  1. Love the review. I couldn’t have said the part about JoCo douche bags better myself. You pretty much got everything correct that I can’t stand about them. Especially the no consequence lives.

    I always stick with Bryant’s. People try to tell me that good bbq isn’t about the sauce but that’s BS. In Kansas City the only thing matters is the sauce.

  2. The only thing that matters is the sauce… but that’s personal preference. I’m not crazy about Zarda original, but have you tried the bold or the classic? There is another sweet one, but it’s too sweet. Didn’t realize there were so many JoCo types eating there — always looks like hard working construction types when I’m there. Bryant’s is so fatty, and not in a good tasting way.

  3. I’ll beg to disagree about the smokiness of the meat, at least at the Blue Springs location. A sliced pork sandwich to go was so smoky, I was belching hickory until tomorrow. Also, love the fries, ala Gates, Haywards. And I find Zarda’s original sauce far more interesting than the dark, sweet “quasi-KC Masterpiece” sauce that Oklahoma Joes and so many others proffer. The original sauce is similar to Rosedale’s, which is redder, thinner, and pleasantly spicy. And if you ask for the spicy sauce, you’ll get plenty of heat for the asking.

  4. Wow–I disagree whole heartedly with the original review. Granted, I grew up eating at Zarda since it opened. But, I’ve eaten all over the KC BBQ landscape. While I am a huge fan of Bryants, Zarda has the finest sausage sandwich in the country. I have eaten BBQ from all parts of the US. I have had Zarda catered, I’ve brough clients in from out of state, and I have had no regrets. The Sausage Sandwich is tops and I liked it sliced thin and piled high!

    While I love the sausage sandwich, I truly understand that BBQ is the most personal food in America. It is so regional and so specific. Everyone has a different favorite no matter if your blue collar, white collar of no collar. And while the reviewers on this page may disagree with me, I think it is safe to assume we all think the Kansas City BBQ is by far the best in the country. Whether it is Zarda, Bryants, Haywards, Gates, LCs, Smokin Joes, etc. consider ourselves lucky.

  5. I have eaten at Zarda for over 20 years and its the BEST IN KC. Its slow hickory smoked, moist and delicious. I dont know about all the yuppy crap but your head is REALLY UP YOUR ASS. I will never again read anything written by you as you are truly ignorant and apparently think only bar-b-ques owned by Black folks are any good. I think they are ALL GOOD. Good luck with being an IDIOT.