As amiable 80-year-old Ollie Gates was quick to tell me, when his father started the family barbecue joint in Kansas City at the end of World War II, you wouldn’t have seen blacks and whites ordering food in the same line. “As late as 1960,” he assured me, seemingly amazed by the progress we’ve made together, “I couldn’t even sit in places I own restaurants now.”
Gates BBQ grew out of a former joint called Ol Kentuck. For a long time it was known as Gates and Son, in tribute to Ollie – who built the business upward and outward from its original single location. Now, since Ollie’s daughters work in the business along with his son, the family settles for Gates BBQ.
There’s a whole lot of different meats offered at Gates, as well as at other famous KC barbecue destinations like Arthur Bryant’s and the much newer Oklahoma Joe’s in a gas station across the state line in Kansas. But our favorite is always the pork ribs, shown here with not only French fries but slices of smoked brisket and smoked turkey.
Visiting the pit at Gates BBQ, and seeing this fellow pull out a slab of ribs for my camera, reminds me of my very first visit – back in the mid ’80s. I decided to take a slab home to New Orleans, in those innocent days before TSA. I did that with no major problem, except for all my fellow passengers complaining to the flight attendants that if I was going to “stink up the whole plane,” I’d better be ready to share the wealth. I made it home with my ribs intact.