Y’all Come Back
Arthur Bryant’s serves great barbecue with a heaping side of hospitality
“The one word I hear over and over is ‘authentic,’” says Jerry Rauschelbach, managing partner of the restaurant. “Kansas City has more barbecue restaurants, per capita, than any other city in the country, but when people come to town, they are told to go to Arthur Bryant’s.”
This authenticity has drawn many famous, and presidential, patrons to town over the years: Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra and Anthony Bourdain, to name a few. Rauschelbach proudly states that they wait in line just like everyone else.
Neither the food nor the restaurant itself has changed much since 1958. The restaurant still piles high three quarters of a pound of meat per sandwich, charges just over $10, uses Bryant’s original pit, and serves up some of the best hospitality in the Midwest.
Rauschelbach is proud of the family business. His dad has owned Arthur Bryant’s since 1983. Having worked at the restaurant since college, he loves sharing its storied history with guests. In his own words, he serves as “director of operations, general manager, dishwasher and publicist.”
The Rauschelbachs have made minimal changes to Arthur Bryant’s over the years. “The same tables, walls and ceiling are here. Guests understand they are getting an experience that transcends time. Customers would kill me if I ever upgraded the interior,” jokes Rauschelbach.
“The building is 100 years old, so the pit is very small. No rotisserie can be used; one has to constantly rotate meat by hand and pitch fork,” explains Rauschelbach. “Raw product goes on at 6 p.m. and isn’t ready until 10 a.m. [the next day]. Mr. Bryant used to live at the restaurant, and his old bedroom is now used for private parties.”
Famed journalist Calvin Trillin once wrote in Playboy magazine, “…the single best restaurant in the world is Arthur Bryant’s.” And Rauschelbach says “I would never call us ‘the best,’ what keeps us in the game is that we try to be as consistent as possible and never try to be something we’re not. Vegans, can’t help you. Small portions, can’t help you. Most mornings I’m here by 5 a.m. to get product on the pit or smoker. Never rush a good thing.”