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McRib is back, but real Kansas City barbecue calls more loudly

October 24, 2011|By Catharine Hamm | Los Angeles Times Travel editor
(Susan Pfannmuller / For…)

The McRib is coming back.

Some say yum. I say argh.

Call me a barbecue snob, but McDonald'sMcRib is to barbecue as Hannibal Lecter is to psychiatry. This piece of pork smeared with some abomination of sauce has achieved a cult following for reasons I can’t understand. Maybe it's because it appears, then disappears on the fast-food giant's menus.

Before I became a real barbecue aficionado, I tried the McRib — it’s been around since 1982 — and even then I thought it was wanting, to be kind about it.

If you want barbecue, save your money and fly to Kansas City — Kansas or Missouri. Both have fantastic barbecue. As an added bonus, Delta has a $186 round-trip fare for a Nov. 1-3 trip, not that I’d ever do anything like fly in just for barbecue.

Five meals, perhaps. You may recall a Los Angeles Times story on barbecue from a couple of years ago in which the author ate five barbecue meals in 36 hours.  She basically made a pig of herself, but she said it was all in the name of research. And so it was. I was that author, and that story drew more response than just about anything I’ve written in the last 35 years or so.

I mentioned the standbys — Jack Stack, Gates, Arthur Bryant's, Hayward's — and added a couple of that were new to me: Danny Edwards, Brobecks.  I couldn’t squeeze in Oklahoma Joe’s on that trip, but it ranks among my favorites, based on memory. Readers said I should have included it anyway.  There were kudos from readers for Rosedale (doesn’t make my list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good), BB’s Lawnside, LC’s and Smokestack.

Some readers said I was flat-out crazy — that the sweet, tomatoey  KC 'cue is nothing compared with Carolina ‘cue. In years past, I’ve tried Pierce’s Pitt near Williamsburg, Va., Ralph’s in Weldon, N.C. (what is Brunswick stew doing on the menu?) and  Big D's Bar-B-Que Barn in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Sorry, but KC still wins. I’ve eaten at the Rendezvous in Memphis, Tenn., where the ribs are rubbed with seasoning. Very nice, but not KC.

I am embarrassed to say that I’ve never had barbecue in Texas, but only because one of my pals in Austin is a past master at brisket and I always manage to wangle an invite. And then there’s always the temptation of Torchy’s Tacos, which said pal’s wife (also a pal) introduced me to, and I’ve thought seriously about  setting up my tent there just to live on the fried avocado taco. I’ll do better next time and get to Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas — I promise — and other places that you might suggest. (Email me at travel@latimes.com or leave a comment at the end of this post.)

But even without Sonny Bryan’s, I say just say no to McRib.

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