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Oklahoma Joe

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1 Oklahoma Joe on Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:41 am


OK here is the story about the guy who designed my smoker. Back in the 1980's, Joe Davidson had racked up a very impressive string of BBQ competition awards. One day he showed up at the Oklahoma State Fair with a dozen smokers that he designed and built. He left at the end of the day with all the smoker sold and came away with orders for over a hundred more. With that he founded the Oklahoma Joe Smoker company and became famous for his smokers. He made them for competition, for restaurants and for backyard guys like me.

In 1990, I think, couple in Kansas City decided they wanted to try their hand in competition smoking. They bought an Oklahoma Joe smoker and with some of their friends, formed a team called Slaughterhouse Five. They also became well know and won a lot of top awards. They got to know Joe and they became friends. Joe mentioned that he wanted to open a BBQ restaurant some day. Jeff and Joy Stehney both had experience at food service vendors and offered to go into business with him. They opened an Oklahoma Joe's restaurant in Oklahoma and a couple months later they opened one in Kansas City. Just a few months later Joe sold his smoker company and moved to Texas, leaving the Ok. restaurant without management. Jeff & Joy bought out his interest in the business and closed the OK restaurant. Joe had only been in the partnership for a few months.

This is speculation on my part but I think Joe thought his company would continue making smokers under the Char Broil name. He had made smokers for Brinkman in the past, but Char Broil closed down his company and sold off all the assets. The only thing they kept was the Oklahoma Joe name and put it on one of their cheap copies of one of his smokers.

Joe's brother had been manager at the company and after Char Broil laid off all the workers and closed the factory, he started his own company called Horizon and continued making the same smokers that Joe had made. My smoker is an Horizon.

The story continues when after 15 or 16 years, Joe returned to Oklahoma and open another restaurant and called it Oklahoma Joe's even though it had no connection with the ones in Kansas City which had grown to three and had become on of the best loved BBQ places in the city. IF you look at Joe's biography, though he seems to take credit for the success of the ones in KC and on top of that he started getting a bad reputation in Oklahoma. Not because of the food but because of some bad publicity he got over the way he managed it. At that point the Kansas City people decided to distance themselves from Joe. He had not had anything to do with the KC restaurants for around 17 years and his restaurants did not have the same menu or recipes. Now the famous restaurants in KC are called Joe's Kansas City Barbecue.

The Kansas City restaurants have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Denver Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, Vanity Fair, numerous airline magazines, local magazines, and The Kansas City Star.

Joe’s KC (before the name change) has also been featured on local and national television programs, including Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” and “No Reservations”, the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”, among many others.

In 2009, Anthony Bourdain named Oklahoma Joe’s as one of “Thirteen Places to Eat Before You Die” in an article for Men’s Health magazine.

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que has been the Zagat #1 Rated barbecue restaurant in Kansas City every year since 2004. Zagat also named Joe's famous sandwich, the Z-Man, the Best Sandwich in Kansas in its "50 States, 50 Sandwiches List". In 2013, The Daily Meal website and USA Today both named Oklahoma Joe’s Kansas City's ribs "America's Best Ribs".

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