Gates Bar-B-Q

Today we’re heading over to a Kansas City tradition called Gates Bar-B-Q with this doodlewash of the classic “Beef On Bun.” I realized I never attempted to sketch food before so I figured I would give it a shot. Also, because I was really craving this barbecue sauce as it’s one of my favorites.

Kansas City is known for barbecue and as a child we always went to Bryant’s (sketched here), but as an adult I prefer Gates. Actually, I rarely ever go because as you can see it’s not the healthiest lunch option, and Philippe typically forbids it, but it’s extremely delicious!

Gates opened its doors in 1946 and much of their success came from their excellent sauce. As the demand for the sauce grew and grew, they couldn’t keep up with it so they switched to automated production. When I was a kid in the mid 70’s, it became available for the first time in local grocery stores.

Today, it’s a tourist destination, and the second you walk in you’re met with a nearly shouted “Hi, may I help you!!?” In text, this sounds sweet, but in reality it’s often terrifying and sounds more like it means, “You best know what the hell you want right now!” So, I’ve quickly learned to just shout back, “one beef on bun with fries!” and have been too scared to ever try anything else.

When I was growing up, my dad’s best friend was Ananais, and he lived closer to Bryant’s so that’s why we always ended up there. We all preferred Gate’s sauce, but the meat was better at Bryant’s and it was the closer joint to grab a quick bite. I would always introduce him as my Uncle Ananais, which would elicit several strange looks from friends since he was African American and I was well… just really super White.

But he was the best uncle a kid could have, because any time I wanted a little extra cash, I would wait until he came over and ask my dad in front of him. My dad would always say no, and then Ananais would start in with, “Johnny, now why you gotta tell the boy no” and the wallet would come right out! He was a magician that man, and I loved him.

My dad’s other friend was of a similar complexion and the three of them would often go fishing together. Not sure they ever worried or thought about political correctness back then. That was something everyone started worrying about much later. They were just really good friends. Friends, who instead, referred to themselves as the Oreo Fishing Company.

Sadly, nobody from the Oreo Fishing Company is still alive today, but I often think of them. Especially when I’m having a bite of the favored barbecue sauce. I like to imagine they’re still out there somewhere, fishing poles in hand, and my uncle from another brother is still being politically incorrect and always telling my dad what to do. Life is suddenly simple like it was back then, with the best sauce in town, friends you can count on, and your one beef on bun.

Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

59 replies on “Gates Bar-B-Q

  1. I looooove that story about your dad and his friends and I’m so sorry that none of them are alive to re-live some old fun memories with you. And darn, it! You have made me hungry for BBQ! We’re not allowed to have it often either (geez, hubby and Philippe are a pair, aren’t they? Always trying to make us eat more healthfully).😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that your dad had great friends and I love your doodle wash. If you ever come to Austin, Texas I love Elgin Barbeque and I have heard Franklins is good. You will have to get in line by 9am for Franklins.

    Anyway I enjoyed your story!!


      1. It is. We are heading over to the grandpa bbq location today but don’t know if we will have time. 😢batesburg leesville near Columbia SC. Sis has a meeting.

        Liked by 1 person

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