For the final full day of the trip, we remained in Kansas City, taking advantage of the best the city has to offer in terms of both history and food.
Our first stop was the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which shares a building with the American Jazz Museum.
Nearly every available square foot of space in this museum was full of interesting photographs, memorabilia and valuable information.
One of the photos featured Octavius Catto, a 19th century civil rights hero and Philadelphian who was also an outstanding baseball player and one of the early proponents of Negro League baseball. Two of my former colleagues – Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin – wrote a critically acclaimed book on Catto: Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America (Temple University Press, 2010)
After leaving the Negro Leagues Museum, we moved on to our final major meal of the trip. I had finally had my fill of burgers and malts by this point and didn’t want to leave Kansas City without another taste of their barbecue.
While our earlier meal at Jack Stack’s was disappointing, this one exceeded expectations. Arthur Bryant’s is likely Kansas City’s most famous barbecue restaurant and one of the best-known in the country. It has been at its current location since 1949, but its roots go back even further than that. Arthur Bryant passed away in 1982, but his restaurant still thrives.
I had read various things about the quality of their barbecue in later years, mostly on the roadfood message boards. There were a number of reports indicating that it had gone downhill. But others claimed that trend had been reversed in recent years and that Bryant’s was again serving high-level barbecue. The second group were right.
While I had wanted to try a small amount of several types of smoked meat, that wasn’t an option at Arthur Bryant’s. They required a minimum purchase of a half-pound per meat or a half-rack of ribs. I hadn’t anticipated that and was on-the-spot with the counter-man waiting for my decision and a small line of people behind me. I went with the ribs – a half-rack from the short end. They were as good as any spare ribs I’ve ever eaten; juicy, perfectly smoky, and with a nicely-formed bark on top. The beans I had on the side were also great. They really know how to do barbecued baked beans in Kansas City.
We had one final stop of significance on this trip: the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The complex received its current name in 2004, but a portion of it first opened in 1926 and was called the Liberty Memorial.
This was unquestionably the greatest museum experience I’ve ever had. The sheer amount of stuff in there was staggering. The period posters alone would have been worth the visit.
There was also great art-work.
And weaponry of various kinds, as well as protective gear.
There was even a realistic look inside of one of the war’s ubiquitous bunkers.
And there were countless bits of information and profiles of some of the War’s great figures, famous and not-so-famous.
One could easily fill an entire day at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. There is also a National World War II Museum in New Orleans that we’d like to visit some day.
We took it easy that final night and flew home the next morning. It had been an extremely memorable vacation. As I indicated at the beginning of the first part of this report, that was the case most of all for what we did and saw, rather than what we ate; although I’ll always fondly remember my meal at Arthur Bryant’s and that coconut-cream pie at the Sommerset Hall Cafe.
While I had burgers and malts at four different places, none of them were in my personal pantheon of hamburgers, smashed or otherwise. Town Topic came closest. The double-cheeseburger I had at Carl’s Drive-In outside of St. Louis in 2011 still sets the standard.
I’ll get to that trip later. Thanks for reading.