Sisters attract long lines of barbeque fans in KCK

August 16, 2018 - 6:39 am

The subject of the continuing series on Kansas City's Morning News, Where There's Smoke, is two sisters who run a barbeque joint in a tiny building, a former taco stand, in KCK.

The red brick building stands of Kaw Drive, in an industrial district, in the parking lot of a shopping center. There is no sign that reads "Jones Barbeque," no fancy, stainless steel kitchen and barely any place for customers to sit.

Deborah Jones did not want a big restaurant.

"She had went through a sick spell and I thought she was finished," said Mary, Deborah's sister. "She called me one day, she said I got a building, and I'm not done, you in?"

"I said I'm on my way," Mary said.

Customers order their food, and receive it, through a small window. There is not much in the way of seating, but patrons do not seem to mind the inconvenience.

"They work with us," Mary said. "We even have customers who bring their own table and chairs and they put them at the gate of their truck."

For almost four decades the Jones sisters have been serving what they call old school barbeque. Deborah starts the fire every morning, whether it's sunny, raining or snowing. She tends the smoldering hickory and oak, making sure the embers burn just the way she wants.

"I don't need no thermometer, I can look at how the wood's burning and how many logs I got on there to determine how my food's being cooked," Deborah said. 

"My dad said never write down (recipes) and stuff like that, so I keep it all right here," said Deborah, pointing at her head.

The smoker sits within a chainlink fence. Deborah walks the short path between the smoker and the kitchen dozens of times a day, beginning before dawn. They're usually sold out by mid-afternoon.

The sisters say they still get a thrill out of seeing smiles on the customers' faces.

"My dad always said, make sure your customers are happy," Deborah said. "Without them, it wouldn't be you."

Kansas City's barbeque culture was founded by men, and the Jones sisters learned from some of them.

"I was young when I worked for Mr. Gates, in the summertime when I came home from college," Deborah said. "I don't know if he would remember me or not."

"My dad and Hezekiah were best friends, like brothers," Deborah said. "My dad worked with Hezekiah at his place on North 10th Street.

The sisters both worked at Hezekiah's with their dad before opening their own restaurant on Strawberry Hill. 

"My dad could make a fire so hot the hairs on your face would sizzle," Mary remembers.

Deborah and Mary, nicknamed "Little" and "Shorty" by a brother, were taught to work at a young age.

"(Our dad) taught us how to put up sheet rock, how to paint, how to work on a car," Mary said.

"You should know other skills, other trades, other things to do, because you just never know what may go to the left for you," Deborah said.

The ladies' dad also taught them how to make his secret sausage recipe, which they still sell today.

The sisters' place on Kaw is just big enough for the two of them, and their hungry customers. 

"We disagree every day, but at the end of the day, that's my sister and I wouldn't trade her for the world," Mary said.

"She always wants to direct me, tell me do this, do that," Deborah said. "We go through this every day, Tuesday through Saturday, but she's still my sister, so we deal with each other."

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